Building a better way to surf.
Some high school kids dream of starting up a company someday, and then there are those few who don’t bother to wait. Nathan Perkins, who’s still expected at school every morning, and his brother Benjamin Rodefer run Berkeley-based GoBox Software, which offers an alternative to the Web browser route. Benjamin talks about software development, Internet utilities, and working his schedule around soccer practices.
How did GoBox get started?
My brother and I had been talking through several software and Internet business ideas since he was about 12 years old. In the spring of 2001, when he was 15, he showed me a few small software utilities he called “mini-apps” that allowed the user to retrieve information from the Internet without first opening a browser. That intrigued me, having a simple desktop utility that could retrieve information in a quicker and easier fashion. The more I though about it, the greater the potential I saw.
What did you think you could do with these applications?
I thought, what if we combine these “mini-apps” and develop additional search capabilities? The goal became to create a single desktop access point for all information needs; not just online resources, but indeed for any internal, local, or global database.
What does the company have in the works now?
Something I am particularly excited about are Network GoBoxes, where corporate, educational, and public networks have us come in and do a custom GoBox for their network. We integrate with their networks, allowing single point access for their users to key internal network databases as well as several online target choices, such as phones, maps, search, etc.
We are getting a great amount of interest from schools for this. We are finding that they want us to do a GoBox for their administration, staff and teachers, and then a separate GoBox for the students. There really just seems to be endless possibilities for the technology. I couldn’t be more excited about this company and its future.
What were some of the challenges you encountered when developing your software?
Well, the key challenge early on was that Nathan was in school until 4 o’clock every day and then often had soccer practice and homework. Because he did all the programming himself, wrote all of the code, the early going was slow. I would be lucky to have a few hours a week of his time. Another challenge we are still facing relates to Microsoft’s newer operating systems. I want to have a search “My Computer” option on the GoBox, but we can’t accomplish that for the newer OS without Microsoft’s assistance. I want the GoBox to be the single source for all information.
How else has it been to work on this as brothers?
For me it has been a great pleasure. Our middle brother Jesse died tragically just before Christmas 2001. Working on GoBox has allowed Nathan and I to develop a stronger relationship. There is 23-year difference in our ages and so this is the first time we have been able to really approach something in life as equals, as a team.
Nathan is an amazing young man. Perfect score on the Math SAT. Perfect score on the advanced placement exam for computer science, without ever having taken a computer science course. Most importantly, he is a great person. I am constantly learning from him and am proud to have him as a brother.
What do you like best about what GoBox does?
What excites me the most is how people respond to it. We get so many kind e-mails, with people thanking us and telling us how much they love their GoBox.
What’s so important to me, and I know it is to Nathan as well, is the opportunity to make people’s lives a little bit simpler. We’ve created a tool that helps people. It’s that simple, and that is wonderful.
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