In Seattle, you are never far from grunge or Microsoft. Susan Lammers, 39-year-old president of Headbone Interactive, was a Microsoft executive before starting the company in 1994. She and her husband just bought the house once owned by Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain.
While Lammers' day-to-day activities have little to do with Nirvana, Microsoft comes up frequently. Headbone, however, in a downtown warehouse with sweeping views of Puget Sound, is a creative environment far away from Microsoft's suburban Redmond, Wash. campus; evidence that in 1993 Lammers began to think about the Web differently than Bill Gates.
"To really be successful in new media, I felt you had to start from scratch and develop original characters and stories," she says. "There was value to owning those and being able to utilize them in all kinds of media: CD-ROM or online."
Headbone's cast of characters live on the Web and on CD-ROMs. They are also starting to appear in traditional media. The personalities include Iz, a female rock musician; Elroy, a detective; and Auggie the robot, all of whom reside at www.headbone.com, incorporated into stories and games. Elroy has his own detective series called P.I. Iz and Auggie need to earn $5,000 to save the ozone layer in the game Rags to Riches. Use Your Headbone, a kids' activities page, is in newspaper syndication.
Lammers and her staff of 40 are creatively, not technically focused, but Headbone is also an example of the art-science mesh. "These kids grow up in the backyards of Nintendo, Microsoft, Adobe, grunge and Nirvana and all that stuff," says Lammers of her staff. "They look at the computer like a pencil."
Lammers started Headbone after eight years at Microsoft. She had joined Microsoft in 1985 producing CD-ROMs, following a job publishing gardening software and books for San Francisco-based Ortho Books.
As the industry gravitated away from CD-ROMs and toward interactive media, so did Lammers' work at Microsoft. She ended up working as a director of multimedia publishing at Continuum. The unit eventually became Corbis, Gates' bank of images that is also a multimedia company.
Lammers sees no competition with her old boss, given Headbone's creative focus. "If we were a technology company and were working on operating systems, I'd be nervous," she says.