Mr. Richards started his career in the technology field around 1989, later focusing web and web-based database publication in 1991. Peter formed the technological future path of a privately owned corporation, The Banana Pages, as CIO. Prior to web-based endeavors, at the age of 16, Peter ran a successful dial-up Computer B.B.S. (Bulletin Board System) which consisted of over 120 active users. Peter taught himself the programming language of the BBS and developed online gaming systems, multi-user tools as well as interactivity with the pre-cursor to the Net, FIDO net. The BBS was later fully connected to the Internet to provide a gateway for the users to pass information to the myriad of emerging systems throughout the world. As time went on, the BBS yielded to the much superior web-based graphics and the Internet revolution had begun circa 1994. This system was later adopted by Banana Pages into a gateway for a customer service front-end as well as an advertiser artwork and technical support back end.
Before his accomplishments on the Internet, Peter had a long and rich history in the Yellow Pages business. From his start in the company as a book delivery driver for the Neighborhood Telephone Directories (predecessor to NTD Publishing and the Banana Pages) at 16, to his eventual position of CIO and Chief Software Developer/Technology Facilitator, Peter was no stranger to long hours and a “work until it’s done” attitude. When Peter finished school, he joined the Neighborhood Telephone Directories and took on the task of computerizing the production process. The business was going through immense change at the time, leading to a growth rate of over 500% per year when many of Peter’s projects were put into production. At the time some 16 directories were being produced by hand with manual camera work and layout. All artwork and directory publishing was transformed into an electronic format and was completely paginated and produced on a PC. This task being completed on a PC was a coup in this time period, as PC publication was an after-thought in a MAC centered publication world. Peter quickly realized that PC's were less costly, and could do the same work. "We managed to get 3 PCs, 2 printers and a scanner for the same price as ONE Mac. It just made good business sense." One and a half years later all production was converted to 4-color books from a standard black and white format used in the industry. Peter designed and implemented the infrastructure to take all color in house, completely under budget, in time to beat the USWest Dex Color book to the street.
During this time of change, Mr. Richards took on all aspects of technology at Banana Pages. The pc role out included several more workstations for graphics production and eventually 14-20 pcs included in an Ethernet network for administration. He lead the graphics department consisting of 3 artists and one copy production personnel to eventually produce over 34 books in Western Washington. In a small company, wearing many hats, Peter would also manage the help desk for 75 employees including outside sales staff, all programming duties for graphics and financial/sales departments, telemarketing and small systems development and integration for the PICK OS which ran the central system database for the company. Eventually, the PICK was integrated into our first online offering through a pc gateway. Peter would also accomplish all networking, infrastructure (including billing and sales management tools), software and management decisions relating to I.T. He was directly responsible for many cost saving and product improving features such as zip+4 in a phone directory, free local directory assistance with an automated agent, as well as an HP PCL Macro Manager allowing billings to be converted to a nice looking laser output instead of a dot matrix output. (he wrote all code and interface to the mainframe for this task), and integration with the company's web products. He also hand built every pc put into production in the company including the servers for the production department. Even the PICK OS mini-computer which took over for the IBM AIX system that ran PICK until the conversion. The new system had a 10 fold increase in speed for 1/8th the cost.
In 1990 Peter had taken a management position at the company, and began research and development on other technologies aside from his day to day duties. During this time, Mr. Richards had designed Fax-O-Max (a dial on demand menu system linked to ads in the books), Cutting edge color ad production technology and in house proofing, as well as features in the directories. For three years in a row, Peter had earned awards for Best New Product and Best Use of Technology from the YPPA Board (Yellow Pages Publishers Association) and Best Ad Design from ADP (the Association of Directory Publishers). Because of the company’s role in the neighborhood with businesses, much of the time spent outside of work was spent on volunteering for community events and services. Peter would spend much of his “free time” helping the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce computerize their systems, design and setup a web site (wschamber.com) for them and manage databases. He also designed and created the web site for the local theater group, ArtsWest at ArtsWest.com. Another local he designed and still hosts to this day is the West Seattle Summer Festival’s HiYu.com website. (he is still involved with them today) Other websites he designed at the time were the ADP.org website for the ADP organization, and a site for Bank of America which implemented a search engine for 2,500 of their ATM machines at the time. Mr. Richards also designed a directory services site for the #800 service provided by the now defunct company, TFC. A precursor to the 5 digit txt services we see today.
In 1992, at age 22, he was named CIO of Banana Pages, and the world was changing, and as a co-owner in Banana Pages, he saw early signs of opportunities rising for the yellow pages information on the the Fido net and what would eventually become the Web. When The Banana Pages held its yearly planning meeting in 1995 Peter had mentioned the integration the company’s directory products online. A month later we were approached by a small company bidding $40k to put a rudimentary version of the books online. Advising the company not to proceed with the bid, Peter took the challenge to produce an online directory on his own for the company. He literally locked himself in his office for 2 days, without an prior knowledge of TCP/IP, the internet, CGI, or web services at that point, and he developed a working prototype using company data to populate the demo. Within 2 weeks, he had a working model online, and had contracted to have a T-1 installed at the location to build out the data center and what would become the EBP (or electronic Banana Pages). Within four months, the company had dedicated 2-3 sales staff and turned the venture profitable. All integration with the existing PICK OS, PC systems, build of new servers, router setup, domain procurement, and design was facilitated by Peter. Later that year, Mr. Richards would receive a glowing review in a Microsoft Journal, titled “How it’s Done!” covering aspects of the online yellow pages product and how he integrated mapping systems from Mapquest.com into the site. This product became the first REAL and TRUE Yellow Pages System online designed and implemented by a directory publisher.
At 25, Peter became the "grandfather" of Online Yellow Pages. Even RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies, ie: USWest) were copying the model!
Along with the Yellow Pages product, Peter had also created an online classified ad system for Banana Pages. It was free, and developed long before Craigslist. Because it was free, early in the race, and widely promoted through the printed directories, we had over 2,000 new ads a week posted on the site. Due to limitations in technology at the time, the ability to upload graphics was very difficult. Peter developed a system that allowed users to email to a special box at Banana Pages attaching their ad graphic to the email and their ad id in the subject line. The daemon would check the email, get the id and decode the image from the mime encoded email, then store it in the database attached to that ad. The ability to post free ads, and actually have the images online put the classified system way ahead of the rest and actually derailed the Seattle Times and PI’s plans for a “for fee” ad system at the time. The company wanted to own that traffic at the time, and we did. (Check the “WayBack Machine” for images of the site during this time period)
Eventually, EBP became its own entity, YPI.net (Yellow Pages on the Internet, Inc.). This umbrella company became the parent company which hosted the online Yellow Pages products for two other independent publishers in Georgia and Utah. The plan was to grow well beyond this, and host all independents and beat USWest to the line. Before we could get traction, InfoSpace.com approached YPI for a buyout. This coincided with the sales of Banana Pages to a Canadian firm as the owners of Banana Pages (the principals of YPI) could see the end of the print directory was near. So, in 1996, Banana Pages was sold, and Peter and his brother John went to work for InfoSpace along with the sale of YPI at the time.
Upon the sale of YPI, and the transition to InfoSpace.com, in late 1995, Peter joined InfoSpace as a developer of customer integration tools for the Yellow Pages companies which would be joining the InfoSpace network now, instead of the YPI network for Yellow Pages services online. He was the 10th employee through the door at InfoSpace at the time. This position lasted for about 1 month as Naveen saw a need to focus more on the advertising sales and implementation of the existing 3,500 cobranded sites in the network (a short synopsis on cobranding. InfoSpace used their technology and engines to run the database generated sites, and would change the look and feel of the output to match the customer’s site so you felt like you were still on the web site of ATT, NetScape, AOL or other customers).
So, in early 1996, Peter began setting up the Ad Department in InfoSpace’s headquarters in Redmond. At the time, it was just Peter, one project manager, two sales staff based in New York, and one in San Francisco. We also were given access to the chief Software Engineer, Jean Remy Facq, who designed and created the web server that InfoSpace used, and consisted of proprietary scripting language, CGI interface and a custom build ad server. This was yet another language Peter would have to quickly learn to succeed.
The learning curve was steep as the language would change weekly depending on the feature set that was roled out in the latest build Jean Remy would design. Peter and the web masters were kept constantly on their toes to keep up with the design.
As InfoSpace grew, so did the needs of employees to take on several roles inhouse. Along with my ad system duties, I was also tasked with PC support, Server build outs, and PC spec for purchase by MicroSupply, Inc. Peter would hand spec the pc or notebooks required to the needs of the employee. This process continued until we got to the location at NE 90th in Redmond, and an employee load of about 75.
In 1997, Peter was given a choice to continue desktop support and hardware management at InfoSpace, or build out the Ad Team. Mr. Richards decided to forgo the desktop support, but kept a close hand on build out of the servers which ran company operations. He also designed the server system for the Active Shopper product, which included an enormous SQL server including a fiber back channel disk sub system and several dedicated servers with heavy iron for running the search and scraping engines. Active Shopper was completely designed and implemented in ASP classic and Visual Basic 5.0. Unheard of at the time as both were deemed not robust enough to accomplish the feat and the amount of data that needed to be search. Active Shopper was, by design, an internet search engine for shopping deals, and would scrape gigabytes of data each day to procure the latest deals. Then it would return results to clients who were searching online within seconds. While Peter did not design the software which ran the system, he did design the hardware, and the implementation of advertising in the Active Shopper sub system of InfoSpace.com. As it ran on ASP Classic, it could not run the ads in the proprietary language affectionately called “bracketland” by the web crew. So, an integration path needed to be developed bridging “bracketland” to asp classic.
Eventually, all of Peter’s energy was focused towards Ad Systems integration and the management over the entire network. Peter would be the liaison between the Program Managers who juggled customers, and the Chief Software Engineer, as well as the web team. He developed many clever fixes for getting the InfoSpace ads onto new devices which seemed to role out daily, including kiosks, web browser ad-ons and helpers and most notably one of the first implementations of mobile advertising in the old system of using “decks” of web information on pre-smart phone web connected devices.
By 1999, as the company was in the height of success and purchasing Go2Net.com, Peter’s Ad Systems department had a light crew of only six personnel. Peter managed a team of four Ad Masters (responsible for inserting advertisements of all sizes and formats into the web-sites, making sure ads only show on the cobrands they are targeted for, and then balancing the ad delivery to make sure even distribution takes place) and an assistant to Mr. Richards.
The sales staff had grown in New York, San Francisco and now the UK as well. During a company meeting at this time, the talk was always about the “new” thing coming around the corner. Which was 3g cell service, and the internet everywhere. The reality was that with the 3,500 cobrands, and customers such as AOL, Netscape, Time, Wall Street Journal, ATT, Microsoft and other fortune 500 companies, our little ad department actually controlled 85% of the company’s revenue in a business worth roughly $20 Billion at the time. Most of the revenue was still from ad sales.
When Peter left InfoSpace.com in early 2001, he stepped into a new, but familiar role, as CTO of Stardust Technologies, Inc. (A company which produced a security taggant for tracing products from manufacture to end user). This product was so amazing and the company so promising as a startup, the opportunity could not be missed.
Mr. Richards was back in a familiar role, wearing many hats as he setup of the office, procured the infrastructure from phone systems to pcs, to servers and copying machines.
Most of all, he was back developing software again. This time, a CRM system that would take the place of Salesforce.com and was used for in house sales leads and contact follow up. The system is still alive today in a different form for a venture Mr. Richards has been working on since he left the directory business many years prior. Eventually, this C system would also be melded into the chain of custody database for our taggant as it left manufacture and went to the client to be embedded in their product. (a further explanation of this process and how the taggant works can be provided if desired, but is not really needed for this context)
Alas, the time at Stardust was short, as Peter’s wife became pregnant with twins about 6 months after starting at the company. As Peter’s family was already large, with 4 boys, when he found out twins were on the way, he could not help but make the decision to take time off and help raise the children. In hind sight, this had been part of the family plan all along when the children were younger, he wanted to be involved.
While the past several years have been fun and exciting the children are developed enough that it is time to get back in the real mix.
Volunteered Time and Projects:Peter volunteers for many community services, events, boards and coaching positions. Active in coaching for Thunderbird Little League, he also continues to coach and fill a board seat for Newport Knights Jr. Football. Peter was also brought onto the Touchdown Club board for the Newport High School football boosters this year and tasked with completing a 24 page full color souvenir book in only 3 weeks! Peter has coached High School Volleyball at Seattle Lutheran in West Seattle (highest ranking was 10th in state), as well as a club team out of Newport for one season. He still actively helps out with Newport Knights Volleyball and continues to play and coach on adult teams.
Mr. Richards has volunteered much of his time helping the Kiwanis of West Seattle (a service group) realize many of their technological needs, as well as producing printed promotional materials. He created signs, banners, and other flyers for print and online distribution. He had originally produced the Kiwanis Website but they have since taken over the production of the site to bring it in house.
As mentioned previously, Peter has been actively volunteering time for HiYu in West Seattle by designing and hosting the web site, producing several years of the souvenir booklets ( a 32 page 2 color book commemorating the years events) , taking photos, and helping out as needed.
Due to Mr. Richards large family, and many boys who are athletically inclined, he has devoted much of his time to volunteering for Thunderbird Little League. Several years ago, Peter had designed a baseball management website which included a data driven system for publishing the leagues news, events, rosters, game schedules and providing a team web site for each team in the league to upload photos, provide tools for the coaches to design line ups, record pitch counts, send emails to teams, etc. It also gave the team volunteers a place to assign snack, etc. In the second year, it also provided the registration functionality for sign up with secure payment. These days, I merely coach, and have been coaching baseball for 13 years, and softball for 2 now.
The Newport Jr. Knights involvement continues on, and so does the hosting and design of the web site. Tools for management of the league, design of certificates, coaches business cards, online badge printing for field access, and rosters and photo galleries with much more is available. (All hosted from my own home, on servers I specked and built on a 50 Mb line I have running into my garage server farm. The farm as plexi glass walls and its own cooling system with a security cage.)
In 2007, Peter’s son was approached by a Tyee Middle School teacher, James Burke, to take part in a cultural exchange program that would prove to be very different from any Peter had seen like this before. When James explain the scope of the project and what the end goals were, we both came to the decision that this would be a good fit for my skills. The Jamaica project was to have a four year span at the Sheffield All Ages School in Negril, Jamaica. Peter helped plan and support many of the hardware decisions on the inaugural trip in 2007. During his time on this project, Peter has been to Jamaica twice over the four year span (the second in 2009), and helped lay out the plan for the pc lab at the newly built school. He pointed out the questions needed to get the Jamaican school district and government to invest in the program to ensure adequate power and resources for the climate risks the area provides for a PC (temperature and humidity). To this day, Peter still consults with Mr. Burke and several aspects of the technology and which hardware would work best in Negril. Most recently, recommending Mr. Burke introduce Kodu Game lab (a Microsoft product) to the children in Negril. This took place after Peter had learned of the project at Microsoft, through a contact, and his own son was learning the platform. Eventually, James introduced the Kodu system to his Tyee tech class, and the Microsoft contact donated several Kodu controllers and video cards to the hardware lab to get the system up as fast as possible. (Kodu is a 3d real time game design environment which allows anyone to build 3d games and environments with point and click ease, and zero program code by linking blocks of executing code together which are represented by icons. WYSIWYG game design really)
Mr. Richards is also highly involved in scouting, and is a member of Troop 438 with his 4 sons. 2 of whom are Eagle Scouts, and one is still at Newport High School here in Bellevue. Peter is the web master, and has designed a fully interactive web site for the troop to use which allows for photo sharing, secure access to directories, instructions, forms, scout history, scout rank and assignment, and a centralized place for the scout master to disseminate information. The site allows for mass emailing by the board, and has helped the once small troop grow to one of the largest in the area as of late. Peter has helped BSATROOP438.com get a page one ranking on google, and promote the good deads done by the scouts in their eagle project accomplishments.
Currently, Peter owns his own business, NextPages, LLC, and a web-design firm, RichWEB, LLC. NextPages is the umbrella company for community portal web sites he has been developing and honing skills on for several years. NextPages, LLC CRM is the customer management web app Peter designed to keep track of the businesses in the community sites. RichWEB is a small side effort to formalize a lot of the web design he has been doing for friends and customers who were looking for a professional solution but didn’t want to get stuck in a quagmire of online design-yourself sites. Peter also developed an online timesheets program he uses to keep track of billing time on IT work he does for small companies. The app is entirely web-based with email billings, and tracking of details. All information, including capture copies of the checks is done online for tax reporting. Customers may log in at any time and see a full reporting of their history and expenditures over the life of business.
www.richwebllc.com - this site