Editor’s note: Allan Maurer, a cofounder of Local Tech Wire which now is WRAL TechWire, is a legend in the North Carolina entrepreneurial community, having written about startups and entrepreneurs for more than two decades. Allan currently is recovering from illness. TechWire has reached out to numerous contacts and friends about Allan’s health and asked them to provide comments about their relationship with him over the years. Among the first to respond – but with a “story,” not a comment – was Scot Wingo, the current CEO of fast-growing RTP startup Get Spiffy. Allan has written a number of “Tech Legends” stories for TechWire. Today, we turn the tables on him.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – I’ve been in the RTP startup ecosystem since 1995 (that’s 26 years for those that are counting). The best part of our ecosystem is our people. One of my favorite people in our ecosystem is the reporter Allan Maurer.
My first and most memorable in-person interaction with Allan was 1999, at the height of the internet bubble, I had started a company called AuctionRover and our office was a bit crazy. Let me expand on that a second. We had 5-6 people from our engineering team literally living in the office and I brought my dog to work AND my ever expanding life-size Star Wars collection was spread everywhere. Allan was working on a cover story for the publication he was at and wanted to pitch AuctionRover to his editors. He came with a photographer as well and we were super nervous.
What would this fancy business reporter think about the chaos that was AuctionRover? On top of this, I had zero experience talking to reporters other than hearing some horror stories that they were mostly out to ‘get you.’
Enter Allan, he was wearing what I would call a ‘classic/vintage’ reporters hat – kind of like what you would imagine Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen wearing. I knew this wasn’t going to be a standard interview when he saw the pinball machine in the office and asked: “Is that an original trilogy, Data East pinball machine with the rotating R2-D2 head where you blow up the Death Star?” As a Star Wars fan, you run into a lot of fellow fans. Some have a solid, maybe 2-3 level deep knowledge of Star Wars. Allan, as it turns out, has about a 10-level deep knowledge of Star Wars. Once I realized he was a fellow ‘very deep’ Star Wars fan, I took him to see the rest of my collection. We looked at our watches and an hour had passed (our interview was scheduled for an hour -oops) and Allan said, “Oh Geez, we should talk about your business too!’. We did that part of the interview and then it was time to do a potential photo shoot.
We had carefully staged the most professional corner of the office for this exciting opportunity. Allan looked at that and then pivoted to a corner with star wars stuff, my dog and a big startupy mess and said, “Let’s do it there”. and we did.
A couple weeks later, Allan called me and said, “Hey good news, you got the cover”. I was both excited and terrified. My only memory of the interview was that we had spent 90 of our time on Star Wars and we took the picture in the worst spot ever.
A stunning gift
Then a couple months later, one of the folks that sat near the door said: “Scot that reporter guy is here to see you”? Huh? I went to the door and there was Allan, still in his reporter hat, of course. He came in and gave me 10 copies of the magazine. The cover came out great and he so completely nailed our business. I was amazed not only that he understood the nuances of what we were building, but he also did it with a ‘pluckiness’ that only Allan can do.
He captured the wackiness of our office, the culture, and how that tied into what we were building plus weaved it into the story in a way that was completely positive and complimentary vs. a knock on us. Trust me, it would have been very very easy to write a “these crazy kids are pretending to be adults and building some kind of search thing for auction sites that don’t even have anyone really using them yet, plus they have a dog and star wars toys.” But, nope, he didn’t go there.
I was still scanning the article in disbelief at it’s awesomeness when he said, “Oh, hey I know you are a star wars fans and wanted to give these to you as I don’t need them anymore.” He then gave me a stack of 30-40 vintage, gently read Marvel Star Wars comic books. I was stunned. I know there are rules around giving reporters gifts, but what do you do when a reporter gives you something? I fell back on my southern up-bringing and thanked Allan profusely.
What a day – my first cover story AND a stack of vintage comics.
Stories and vibes
That’s Allan to a tee – anything he wrote about any startup would pick out only the positive. Over the years, I’ve probably had 20-30 more interactions with Allan and each one I’ve come away amazed by not only Allan’s positivity, but something fascinating about his background. Conversations that would start with lines like: “Oh I wrote a sci-fi short story about cloning…” or “yeah I wrote a chapter about magic for this book,” or “Hey have you heard of the triangle startup X that is doing Y” or “Well you know I worked for OMNI magazine and have actually thought a lot about colonizing the moon.” With lead-ins like that, I’m always excited to run into Allan and hear another cool story about his past adventures married with some positive vibes about the Triangle startup system.
That’s my Allan story and why he holds a special place in my personal entrepreneurial journey and over on my bookshelf here at Spiffy I keep a copy of that magazine with that cover story and it sits right on those Star Wars comics that I take out and flip through every so often. I’m sure hundreds of times.
Final note: While we can’t tell you details about Allan’s health or location, we would be glad to forward on to him your thoughts and messages. Please send to TechWire Editor Rick Smith at [email protected]