The room with no walls and no ceiling
What is the room? The room is a place where ideas are born. Yet the room has no walls and no ceiling. The room is open to anyone. The room is where we create.
That was our company vision. The company that we started on the initiative of my longtime friend Linus Feldt back in 1999. Linus was – and is – a highly successful CEO of a multimedia production house, Bajoum. He put that all on the line, i quit my job as an Art Director at Grey, and Daniel Lundqvist who is now a Ph.D in psychology put his doctorate on hold to create something new. Oscar, who had studied industrial design at Chalmers started out with the group and was later replaced by Johan Ahlqvist, computer engineer and my BFF.
This was at the very height of the dot-com era. New companies were springing up like mushrooms and nothing seemed more natural than starting up a new company and asking one of the many venture capitalist firms for a couple hundred million to get things started. And more often than not, you got it.
This was the trailer of our first and main product, Mnemo. Mnemo is a system of mnemonic techniques used in combination to overlearn any set of data, i.e. learn large amounts of data and never forget them. In our prototype, the user learned every flag, capital and country name in the world.
We, however, wanted to do something new and bold. Instead of, as was the norm, coming up with an idea, getting the funds to start a company, and then start producing, we wanted to create a fully functional prototype of our product and only then ask for financing. The reason for this was that we felt the idea had such potential, we wanted to own most of it ourselves. So for a year and a half, we labored, tirelessly, out of our own pocket. And as we were finished, all of our money gone, our patience with the project and each other worn thin, it was 2001 and the bubble had burst. Goodbye, dot-com era. Hello, recession. The doorway of our room was boarded shut forever.
But ah, the memories….
– Me and Daniel felt from the beginning that what the Room needed was a plan. So, unbeknownst to our colleagues, we went ahead and drafted the Room World Domination Plan. The main tool of the WDP was, of course, the Flag Of The Room. We commissioned a flag, 2 by three meters, bearing our proud Room logo.
This was then left in a brown paper package for our colleagues to find, with instructions translated by babelfish into German. I was pleased but hardly surprised that there turned out to be an actual word in the German language for Word Domination Plan. Weldtherrshaftplan. Figures.
– Somewhere in a cellar or store room lies a bundle of metal and wood that is actually a very expensive, and ugly, table. One of the first things we decided when we founded the Room was that we absolutely needed a table that had five sides. The reason for this, if i remember it correctly, was that we were four and the fifth place was reserved for someone who’s mind we would figuratively blow. In the end, we got our table, and it was way ugly. Also, this being the nineties, we had even uglier, ginormous CRT monitors on the table.
– Whenever the Room needed to travel somewhere, we did so in Linus’s canary yellow Ford Ka. The Ford Ka is an automobile perfectly suited to travel in comfort and safety, given that you are the size of a barbie doll. None of the members of the room were less than 190 centimeters in height, and Daniel is well over 2 metres tall.
– We at least had our priorities straight, after having designed our custom table, we immediately set about designing our custom Quake skins – featuring ourselves – for an hour a day of quake. When i planned to buy a new apartment, i modeled the apartment as a Counter-strike map, so i could let my GF see what our future home would look like. She was a point and click kind of girl, so she instinctively clicked when she wanted to go somewhere, inadvertently firing a gun. “-Is that our kitchen? *POW* Oh.”
– Having fun at the workplace was a priority. I found that playing is the best boost for creativity there is. One project that we came up with was nothing short of genius – we were going to make a hamster go faster, farther and higher than hamsterkind had ever gone before.
Such was the dream of HASA – the Hamster Space Agency. We were going to film the grueling, often fatal training regimen of the intrepid hamstronauts up until the mighty Chronos I mission. We actually had a rocket for this. But sadly, the recession got in the way.
Overall, the Room days were an invaluable experience for me. We never reached our goal, but i still consider the experience an epic win. I learned so much during that time, for me it was a life-changing experience.