Sometimes during some agile training or in the middle of a frenzied quiz, the question comes up – why is your company called Ask Tony?
Let’s take you back to 1999.
I was working for a magazine publisher called Redwood in their brand new digital media team. Whilst we waited for the dial-up modem to connect to the internet, whenever anyone had a problem they used to ask our superstar developer Anthony Green* to help. Asking Tony became an every day phrase, sometimes several times an hour.
So the initial idea for askTony was born. We would extend the service so anyone in the world who had a problem could type it in to a web form, and instead of a search engine coming back with results, Tony would supply the answer via email. asktony.com was duly registered and the site set up.
The service proved quite popular and by early 2000 we were getting 3,000 calls for Tony’s help a day. And a little bit of press interest. So we took the idea to various venture capitalists to try and make millions.
Timing was unfortunate. Just as we were getting some interest, the dotcom bubble burst. As it proved, the idea was sound, and a few years later several companies emerged with almost exactly the same model.
The key ingredient we were missing was premium rate text messaging which hadn’t been invented in 2000 and became a thing a couple of years too late for us. Any Questions Answered is still around today.
Meanwhile at Redwood I had taken over as their pub quiz host. So when I left that firm shortly after all this, over the next few months a few ex-colleagues asked me to run quiz nights for their companies.
Word of mouth spread so AskTony turned from being a human search service into a quiz night business. At every quiz the quiz host would be called Tony.
In 2001 I remember at a quiz night having a conversation with a university friend of mine who was soon to set up a website offering money saving tips. Martin Lewis went on to sell his site for over £70 million and is now a much-loved and respected national broadcaster, and fearless campaigner for a number of great causes.
And as agile started gaining traction in the late 2000s, the company expanded to offer agile consultancy which was an extension of my day job.
And here we are today.
In the middle of lockdown our virtual quiz nights are proving incredibly popular. Interactive, fun, and family-friendly
Footnote 1 *Tony has since gone on to have a stellar career at the BBC.
Footnote 2: you would think reading the above that 2000 was a year of regret. But the opposite is the case. In September of that year I met the novelist Karen Hill whilst working at ITN and 20 happy years later, 3 children, a dog called Kenilworth and 2 cats named Harry and Meghan, it has all worked out incredibly well.