A look back at where we were then and where we are now

Rustici hit a pretty major milestone this week — we’re 20 years old! For a tech company, you could argue that makes us closer to a centenarian, but in our eyes age is just a number. Sure, the fact that the things we decided to build back in 2002 are still relevant today is pretty amazing, but how we tackle 20 year old problems has changed over the years. The one constant that does remain the same — the way we approach work and how we operate. While we may be 100 years old in some eyes (or 140 years old in dog years), we still act like we’re 10 or younger in many ways.

So let’s play a game of “Then and Now” to see what’s changed (or hasn’t) over the last two decades.

Warning: This post contains nostalgia. It may feel a bit indulgent as I look back on where we were ‘then’, relying on some tribal knowledge and ancient blog posts to piece together the Rustici days before I joined in 2011 for the ‘then’ sections.


How we work

Then: When Mike and Tim founded Rustici in 2002, they set out to create a company where they wanted to work; a place filled with smart, hard working, fun people, built on trust that lets people make decisions and have lives outside of work. And wear what they want. Yes, Tim’s desire to wear shorts and a t-shirt every day may be one of the main reasons Rustici came into existence.

Games of choice: Ping Pong and Disc Golf

Now: The same rings true today. We don’t count days off or monitor where and when you’re working. We trust that you’re getting things done. We fret if we feel like we’re letting people down, but aren’t afraid to ask for help when we need it. We have lives outside of work that sometimes run into ‘normal working hours’ and share our schedules so people know when to find us. And you’re still more likely to find us wearing t-shirts than anything else.

Games of choice: Pong, Crokinole, Magic, Wingspan, Slack trivia, Wordle

Where we work

Then: The ‘office’ (originally Mike’s spare bedroom) moved to increasingly larger office spaces in Franklin, TN, to make room for more people and the pong table. Nearly everyone lived in the Middle TN area and worked in the office, most days of the week.

Now: Like many companies saw in 2020, we found that working remotely is best for some and shifted to a hybrid / remote office set up. We’re still based in Franklin, TN, and have a beautiful space, complete with the pong table, that many people work from as many days a week as they choose. But we also have folks occupying every timezone in the US.

What we do

Then: Freelance web development, primarily focused on providing software services to the Nashville market or whatever work Mike could get his hands on. The business strategy was “wander until you find a niche.” Mike and Tim quickly realized that handling the minutiae of the SCORM standard was something that people would prefer to offload and, voila, a niche was found.

Now: eLearning standards and learning technologies have come a long way since 2002, and Rustici has been involved every step of the way. We were instrumental in the development of xAPI and have helped progress that further with our work on cmi5. Our core products have evolved to support more standards than just SCORM and other common content types that are used in online training. With the introduction of Content Controller in 2015 and the continuing evolution of SCORM Cloud, we’ve increased our focus to helping learning technologies just work well together. We’ll always be standards geeks at heart, but we continue to evolve and adapt to industry needs.

The way we do it

Then: Mike and Tim embraced an ethos early on of ‘ask us anything’ to offer insightful and delightful help to anyone that came asking, whether they were a paying customer or not. We provided free resources to help people navigate SCORM and a free testing tool for troubleshooting.

Now: We continue to back up our offer to ask us anything and offer help to anyone that needs help navigating SCORM, xAPI and other eLearning challenges, whether you’re a customer or not. We’re open to telling you if and how we can help and to let you know if we can’t. That follows into our sales approach. We now have a sales team (it’s no longer Tim) and their job is to suss out your problem and if we can help. They’ll also be quick to let you know when we aren’t on the right path. We don’t follow the traditional sales model so there aren’t any quotas or commissions they’re chasing. Simply put — if we can help and you want us to, we will.

Along the way…

20 years is a long time, and we’ve had a few notable moments as a company worth calling out.

  • We spun up and spun off Watershed, who are now a sister company.
  • We joined the LTG family.
  • We welcomed JCA Solutions.

We’ve had some changes in leadership when we fired Mike and let Tim take the reins solo, who passed it along to TJ, who then handed things over to me.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve stayed true to the following ideas that are timeless and that guide what we do today and drive what we do next

  • Find your niche, embrace it, and be really good at it.
  • Treat others as you want to be treated and operate with transparency and empathy.
  • Make room for fun and space to have a life outside of work.
  • Listen, be open to change, and willing to adapt. Technology changes and so does the world around us, whether we like it or not.

In typical Rustici fashion, we plan to celebrate our 20th birthday with all of the necessities — Saugy dogs, SATCO, jousting, a dunk tank and Cold Stone. We might be 20, but we try really hard not to act like it.

Tammy knew what SCORM was several years before joining Rustici Software, and she’s not even a standards geek. She’s the Managing Director and leads our company with a passionate commitment to caring for our people and customers. She’s also an Iron(wo)Man many times over.