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Ten years of Nemein

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 2 March 2011.
Planet PHP

Today it is ten years since my company, Nemein, started operating. Our team had been doing the internal Midgard-based information systems at Stonesoft, but as parts of that company were being sold, our team would've been split up. So instead we started our own business with Henri Hovi and Johannes Hentunen, with the idea that our Midgard expertise would be useful to a wider market.

The best laid plans

The initial plans were made at a Starbucks on New York's JFK airport while waiting for a flight to Atlanta, but their realisation had to wait until I finished my military service on the latter half of 2000. When I got rid of the bazookas and uniforms, we registered the company, wrote some business plans and started looking for seed money to get our business started. We were quite young then, and it was interesting to run around Helsinki talking to investors.

How did these plans look like? Our initial idea was to get into the fashionable SaaS (or ASP, as it was known then) business by building collaboration tools on top of Midgard. The first product was a document store intended for the construction industry. With this system all plans and other documents related to a building project could be easily stored and accessed. This is how we described ourselves:

Nemein Solutions is the leading provider of Open Source Midgard software for mobile collaboration and information management.

But as plans go, this had to soon change due to the IT bubble being burst. To quote von Moltke:

No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength

In spring 2001 IT bubble burst, and we suddenly found ourselves sitting in the office with all our projects being abruptly frozen. Around the same time our seed investor got embroiled in some large-scale customs lawsuit, and so not much help was to be expected from them. This meant we couldn't continue with our original plans, and instead had to start generating cash flow, quickly. Luckily Midgard was (and is!) a quite capable web framework, and so we had the option of going into the CMS business.

Nadmin Studio

Midgard's user interfaces back then were not very appealing, and so our first task was to go shopping for the CMS UI. There were two good options available: Nadmin Studio from Hong Kong Linux Center, a web based CMS and small business networking tool running on top of Midgard, and a Windows-based Midgard editing tool from DataFlow. As we were much more of a Linux shop, we went with Nadmin. It was quite a cool system, a customized Red Hat Linux install that set up not only Midgard and the web user interface, but also things like LDAP and IMAP servers talking directly with the Midgard database. And it had a quite nice WYSIWYG editor for people writing content on the web pages. We quickly became their reseller for Finland. Yes, back then you could get Midgard in a box (and even CD):

Having settled the tool question the next issue was finding clients. We took a list of hundred largest companies in Finland and basically called each of them, proposing a demo. We also approached several "new media companies" in order to see if they wanted a technical partner. Around these times our CEO Petri Kuusela also figured that we'd be a lot more convincing consultants in sweaters instead of Hugo Boss suits, and so the look of the company changed.

Through these efforts we were able to get some of our first and longest-term customers, including this one:

HELSINKI, Jun 12th 2001 -- Nemein Solutions helps Everscreen Mediateam, a Finnish multimedia company implement the Content Manager product to power Motiva's web services. Everscreen's and Nemein's cooperation provides Motiva with up-to-date and easy to use web sites.

Around this time we moved from the small four-desk office in central Helsinki to a much bigger place in Haukilahti, Espoo. My ti

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