In 2000 I was sent from DIA to a NATO exercise in Brussels. During the preceding few months, the wonderful 300-person IC-focused company I worked for had been bought by a 20,000-person IT services firm that was then acquired by a 30,000-person global technology giant. Each week another pillar was knocked out of the supportive, high-performance culture that I had loved until there was little left. When I had a window of free time before the exercise started, I took the train up to Amsterdam for the day, and spent most of the ride musing about why large organizations tended to suck the life force out of effective teams, and thinking what it would be like to found a company focused on working together to help the customer accomplish their mission.
While in Amsterdam, I visited the Van Gogh Museum to see more of my favorite painter’s work. One of Vincent’s major pieces there is The Yellow House, which I had not known much about before. It’s a painting of the place where he lived in Arles, France and where he worked to establish an artists’ colony. His vision was that talented, dedicated artists could work closely together, feeding off each other’s energy and creativity, and helping all become better at their craft. I stared at the painting for a while, and then said to myself, “You know, that would be a great name for a company.” And here we are today.