This week we celebrate our eighth year online with some reflections on the past and musings on the future. (We also have some birthday gifts and party favors for you!) Oddly, the earliest days of the Fool were characterized by a total lack of expectation that we would become a business.
We started the Fool just as a family and friends newsletter (funny to think things came full circle with the launch of our Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter just a few months ago), and, even when we debuted as an online service on AOL in 1994 (keyword: FOOL, of course), we thought we were just two guys working independently, two brothers who thought of themselves as writers and investors, trying to help people make better decisions about their money.
The idea that today we would have 100 employees spread between the U.S. and the U.K., coupled with some of the best media partners in the world (welcome to our newest, NPR!), would've completely shocked us. Even better: A 'Web' site serving several million members?! Wow! By the way, we would have asked back then, "What's the 'Web'?" (It hadn't yet come into prominence.) If you're feeling nostalgic, take a look at what our website looked like back in 1996.
When we started The Motley Fool our mission was not to make money. We just wanted to help people make better decisions. We remain faithful to that mission of advocacy for the individual investor. How urgent that seems today in a financial world in desperate need of reform.
It's now that we must hearken back to our Shakespearean roots, back to Act II, Scene 7 of Shakespeare's As You Like It, in fact -- the very scene whence we drew our company name. There, you'll come across a great quotation that has perhaps never seemed more apropos than it does today:
Invest me in my motley; give me leave to speak my mind, and I will through and through cleanse the foul body of the infected world, if they will patiently receive my medicine.
In our earliest days, we loved the quotation for that first felicitous phrase -- "invest me in my motley" -- since it was one of many puns we could have fun with, and it was in fact used by an excellent magazine, The Economist, as the title for a kind article on The Motley Fool. The rest of the quotation above, though we quoted it often, always seemed a bit harsh.
Not today. Today, we see centuries later how true the Bard's words ring when applied to our financial world. We Fools today continue to work together with you, as well as greats like former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, Vanguard's Jack Bogle, and others in an ongoing effort to reform our financial world and fashion a new one that will provide individuals more transparency, literacy, and confidence for decades to come.
We were asked the other day by a long-time Fool what we're proudest of. Simple: We're proudest of our company's collective effort to help millions of people improve their financial decisions, and we're pleased to be doing this independent of Wall Street. We built our company ourselves, out of our own dreams. From the get-go, we hired brilliant friends with whom we work today, and had our lives touched by so many wonderful and intelligent people across the nation from whom we've learned so much -- you, our members.
Our members have contributed more to The Motley Fool than just about any membership of any membership-based organization we know of. We feature your calls on our NPR show; we've proffered your great business suggestions and encouragement as we get out and shake hands across America; and -- for perhaps the ultimate proof -- just look at our rich and diverse Fool Community discussion boards.
What amazing and intelligent expressions of Foolish wisdom and advice reside there, across every aspect of money and life. And what friends we have made. We have built and rebuilt those boards over the years with our own money and technology, attracting a growing worldwide base of motley individuals united by their zest for life, their insistence on improving their and their family's quality of life, and their intellectual curiosity and ardor.
Top all this off with our unconventionally chosen name, along with its accompanying Fool's caps that provide us merriment and remind us never to take things so darned seriously, and you have a good look at the state of the Fool today on its online birthday.
To you, dear reader, we pledge our aid, our ear, our passion, and our insistence on relentless improvement. We celebrate you on this day.
We and our company are truly at your service.
David and Tom Gardner
(P.S. Don't forget to check out the party favors!)