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The Modern Mother Of All Demos

On December 9, 1968, Douglas Engelbart gave what was later known as "The Mother of All Demos." In the space of 90 minutes, he and his colleagues demoed emerging computer technologies like video conferencing, revision control, the computer mouse, and real-time editing.

It showcased what the internet could be, and how personal computing could change the world for the better. A "wow" moment well worth watching.

In early January 2015 - 6 years ago this week - I recall a similar "wow" moment. The demo in question was just 30 seconds long, yet the impact it had on me was just as great.

The demo sets the right context for the problem Kit identified, and the super smart solution to that problem. A small business owner - time poor and computerless - creates a marketing campaign on her phone. Along the way, she reads a lightwight sales and marketing activity report. All within 30 seconds. The Modern Mother Of All Demos.

Kit showcased the the best of emerging technologies. Shortcodes and SMS were powered by (then pretty new) Twilio, and Kit was focused primarily on Shopify store owners. Much of the ad buying automation was powered by new Facebook Ads products like custom audiences, conversion tracking and objective-based optimisation.

Arguably, though, the most innovative thing about Kit was the least innovative thing about it. One often overlooked aspect of buying B2B software is the time cost of switching from other solutions, and the time cost of training people how to use it.

Kit didn't have that problem. It leaned heavily on an existing interface - SMS - that most people use every single day. And it was proactive, not reactive. Kit know what you should probably do next - it just asked for your permission to follow through with it.

"Conversational commerce" was a term yet to be coined, but this was so much more than that - it was conversational business operations for small business.

I've already written about Michael Perry's next startup, Maple. If it's in any way as helpful as Kit was for tens of thousands of small businesses, we're in for a treat.