For a moment, one of the hottest companies in sports media was a Silicon Valley startup named after something looking like a cat-sized kangaroo.
Founded in 1995 by beloved Australian sailor John Bertrand, who became the first non-American to win The America’s Cup with a dramatic comeback in 1983, as well as data scientist Al Ramadan and former IBM executive Dick Williams, Quokka promised to deliver “Total Sports Immersion” via a nascent internet.
At first, sailing competitors updated fans with regular e-mail messages and photos paired with GPS coordinates. Viewers could even participate in a virtual version of the race based on global weather data.
From there, Quokka expanded to cover adventure sports and motor racing, pushing early browsers to their limits with live leaderboards, visitor forums, and blurry video clips. By 2000, the company had grown from three founders to nearly 500 employees, with ambitions to become the next ESPN. A deal with NBC led to unprecedented Olympics coverage. The NCAA, NBA, NFL, MLB—they all started calling.
Then the bubble burst.
In a matter of 18 months, Quokka went from close to a $1 billion market cap to bankruptcy, making lasting statements about the value of data and online experiences in sports even as it disappeared. Says Michael Gough, who was Quokka’s first CCO and is now the VP of Product Design at Uber: “It’s kind of a wonderful story of naive optimism.”
The following quotes have been edited for clarity.
Al Ramadan (Quokka Co-Founder and CEO): The story of Quokka begins during the America’s Cup sailing race in 1995. I spent 18 months managing the technology for John Bertrand’s team. During the prep races, sponsors were able to come aboard our support boat to watch. They’d spend the first 15 minutes at the front of the boat, watching [these] 12-story buildings fly by. Then, sure enough, every single time, 15 minutes after the start of the race, even though they had the best vantage point for watching, I’d turn around and see a sea of faces staring at [my] computer screens. It was something that stuck with me. Data, in some cases, was more important than the raw visual.
In the summer of 1995, Ramadan attended Stanford University’s Executive Program for Growing Companies. He sat in a lecture as Netscape’s IPO set off the dot-com era, with stocks rising from $28 to $75 on the first day of trading that August. Soon after, he, Bertrand and Williams founded Quokka.
Ramadan: The name of the company when we started was Sports Interactive. But when we met some venture capitalists, they said, “I don’t think so, mate. That sounds way too pedestrian.” At the time the big brand was Yahoo. We had a whole design session around name ideas, but we hated everything. Then one of the guys in the room threw out Quokka. I thought it was brilliant: It was catchy, and something Australian.
Bertrand and Ramadan leveraged their sailing connections to get the rights to create an official website for the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Sailing Race, a 30,000-mile, nine month long regatta. They also exchanged part of the company for a lease in the heart of San Francisco’s booming SoMa district.
Ramadan: We got the whole bottom floor of a former textile distribution factory.
Michael Gough (CCO): They invested a little bit of money in creating an environment that was pretty cool—this exposed brick building with large steel beams, and these really cool wood desk setups with sail cloths as the partitions. And it wasn’t just sail cloth, it was the latest, newest, coolest sailing cloth with all these fibers embedded in it, just the right color, slightly yellow. It had a great tech vibe to it, and Al, the CEO, sat right in the middle.
Josh Draper (Senior Designer): It was as if we were all on an adventure together as we were covering these adventures.
Kevin Maney (Former USA Today tech columnist): I was curious what they were doing, and I remember Al greeting me with this huge gash on his arm. Then he introduced me to an executive who had his arm in a sling. I was like, What the hell happened to you guys? They said they were all extreme sports nuts and had gotten beat up in a mountain biking accident. It was a cast of characters, a crazy bunch of people.
[Quokka] was very seat-of-your-pants. They had all this money and were hiring like crazy. The whole company was founded around covering this one event.
I showed up and was the first designer they hired. I didn’t know anything about the internet or sailing. I knew as much design and coding as I was able to teach myself. I remember John Bertrand, this great sailor, sitting with me and explaining the fundamentals of sailing on some napkins. I had no idea who he was. He was just a very nice, well-spoken Australian man to me.
Gough: John was a hero of mine. When he won the America’s Cup away from America, I read everything you could on the subject. I remember the first time I met him, my first comment was as lame as you could imagine. I was just like: “You are John Bertrand. What the f— are you doing here?”
Over the nine-month competition, 1.8 million unique visitors from 177 countries reportedly checked out whitbread.org, which offered everything from a GPS-based race viewer to a CompuServe sponsored online forum and a race shop. The project generated nearly $10 million in sponsorship revenue, which was split between Quokka and race organizers. That laid the foundation for more ambitious events as the founders set their sights on going public.
Carol Pogash (Editor): In the beginning, the Whitbread officials didn’t want us to use the material the skippers were sending us. I had to say, If we don’t get to use it, I quit. I figured what am I going to do if we don’t have any material? But they said OK, and afterwards, the officials were very pleased because Quokka had publicized the race’s daily dramas.
Rodenbeck: We revolutionized the way people told stories on the internet, and the audience was just perfect—a globally connected group of rich sailors who had internet connections. They’d never seen anything in close-to-real-time from the boats. The most exciting thing you could do was show up somewhere and watch boats go by. They had never seen this before.
Quokka returned to yacht racing with coverage of the 1998-99 Around Alone competition, a 200-day, 27,000-mile solo yachting race.
Josh Ulm (Creative Architect): Around Alone was tricky. You imagine, if your mast breaks—which happens—you’ve just got to figure it out. The email diaries Eric got back during the Whitbread were like, I’m exhausted, the team is broken. The diary entries during Around Alone were, I don’t know if I can do this. I’m running out of food. I’m having problems with my compass. I’m not sure where I am right now. It was more of a survival challenge than it was a race.
One competitor, a 50-year-old Russian military veteran named Viktor Yzykov injured his elbow early in the race and slowly lost function in his arm due to a potentially deadly infection. Three days after emailing the on-call doctor, he was forced to self-operate, guided only by emails from the doc in Boston, which only came in when the sun was strong enough to power his communication system. “Blood was all over the cabin floor,” one of his emails on aroundalone.com read. “The hand was white, cold and rubberlike. . . . I have been losing control. Getting out of power. Will finish later. Bye.”
Gough: We got more audience [for that] than we did for anything else.
Ulm: The process was super manual. We’d get the emails, read them, and a lot of times it would be a couple of lines and maybe a crappy photo. We’d have to be like, How do I turn this into something that’s interesting? That’s where design comes in. We’d take a single photo and animate it. Maybe we’ve got words that just say, I’m exhausted. Well we can move the photo a little bit so it looks like it’s bouncing, put some words fading in and out. With barely any assets we’d have to turn these things into basically movies.
By early 1999, Quokka had secured a total of $37 million in funding from partners, including Intel. Its backers were “like a who’s who of big money,” market analyst Tom Taulli said at the time.
It was also expanding its scope beyond sailing, using data visualization and narrative design to woo new clients, like the International Olympic Committee and Moto GP. Ramadan compared the company to ESPN, calling it “The Wide World of Sports of digital media,” and its next marquee event would take the company to new, treacherous heights.
Draper: For a while I worked on First Ascent, which was an expedition through China to Pakistan’s Karakoram range and this peak called Hidden Peak, which had never been summited from the Chinese side.
Ammon Haggerty (Senior Designer and Developer): Josh was working these really interesting channels to get all this information that these days you can just get off the web for free. But back then we had to wire tons of money to sketchy organizations in Europe to get data about a space that was an active war zone.
Lisa Strausfeld (VP Quokka Labs): The problem with data visualization at that time was there was almost no data available. There was one public data source, the CIA’s World Factbook.
Draper: I was dating a Swedish woman at the time. It was a shot in the dark, but before I went to visit her family there, I reached out to tech firms in Umeå in Northern Sweden. I was able to make contact with a very interesting group of programmers called “Teknikhuset,” who worked to develop a tool to do a visualization of the topography the athletes were navigating. We used Russian topography maps that were really amazing and satellite photos that were georeferenced together.
Haggerty: They were basically decommissioned Russian spy maps.
Draper: This was before Google Earth. This was the late ’90s and the middle of nowhere, but we got this incredible 3D model of the terrain.
Haggerty: Leading up to the launch of that project, I remember realizing I hadn’t left the office in two weeks. Somehow I’d come up with this idea that if I wasn’t following the normal cycle of the day I could get more work in, so I was working like 20 hours straight, then sleeping for six, then working for 22. I was in this pretty intense mental space. No one was asking us to do that. Everyone was just excited and inspired and passionate about it.
I think we spent like $20 million on that event. And I think it was watched by a couple thousand people. It was basically $20 million for a proof of concept.
That was the one that showed me the world wasn’t ready for broadband experiences. The experiences that we were pushing took four to five minutes to load with a dial-up connection. For us it took 20 seconds, which nowadays would be totally unacceptable. We had lots of disclaimers like, Hey, this is a rich experience. You have to wait. We thought that would be enough for people.
Pogash: The experiences always worked really well on the computers Quokka had, but not so much when you went home and tried to view them. That was a problem. [Rodenbeck] and I sat close to one another, and he was the idealist who thought, Let’s do the best job we possibly can in telling this story visually. I thought, That’s great, but how many people will be able to access it?
Haggerty: We were so focused on pushing the vision and pushing technology, we lost sight of the ability for most people to actually tune into what we were doing. We were pushing streaming video and these really rich, very complex experiences, and people were still just getting used to reading text and viewing images on the web.
Ramadan: I was also on the board of Macromedia [the graphics and software company behind Flash and Dreamweaver]. They were trying to create a rich internet that wasn’t just static web pages. Those two companies, Quokka and Macromedia, had a big impact on the dynamic nature of the web.
Macromedia worked with Netscape to create the plugin model to allow for more video and audio, and Macromedia recruited Quokka as a content provider partner to show what was possible. Quokka was always yelling for more advanced tools for the web.
Strausfeld: At the time the web was not an entertainment medium; it was an information and work-related medium. Information wasn’t entertaining at that time. Making graphs and motion entertainment was a radical idea.
Less than 40 percent of homes had internet access at the time and fewer than 20 percent of people went online on a daily basis. But Quokka figured the country would catch up as viewing capabilities became increasingly diverse based on the browser and computer. Some could only view a thumb-sized video for 15 seconds while others could access fullscreen experiences. Based on user data, Quokka realized that most of its fans checked the site during the workday, when they had better tech at hand.
Quokka’s First Ascent work was featured on the packaging for the 1999 version of Flash, and diehards were writing in to show support. “Quokka, you’ve truly set a new standard for how things will be done in the next millennium,” one said. Meanwhile, the Olympics—hosted in Ramadan’s home country—would provide the company’s biggest break yet.
Rodenbeck: The vision was always to do the Sydney Olympics with NBC and go on to be a global phenomenon.
Gary Zenkel (NBC Olympics SVP, Business Development and Marketing, now NBC Olympics President): I want to get some credit for finding them, but I probably didn’t.
Ramadan: We were working with the Olympic Committee as well as NBC. They said, “We shoot 3,400 hours of video, and only 200 goes to primetime. What happens to the other 3,200?” Well those were often sports we were interested in at the time, so we said, “Why don’t we bring that ‘to air’ in this new medium?” We also could cross-promote with NBC. So we formed NQV, NBC/Quokka Ventures.
Zenkel: We formed a partnership that was rooted in the Olympics but thinking, Who knows, maybe there is a way we could really become integrated with each other and move forward together with the digital evolution. As a sports media company we saw the potential to deliver coverage online, even if we were not even close to truly appreciating what a factor it might become.
Later, NBC earned the right to appoint a representative to the startup’s board and agreed to invest up to $140 million in the company while splitting ownership of Golf.com
Zenkel: We bought in, and we believed in them… because they really had a vision.
Ramadan: A lot of the TV guys didn’t want to talk to us. They didn’t want the internet in any way to disrupt their beautiful TV world. But there were some visionaries, like Dick Ebersol and David Michaels and others at NBC. They saw it, and they understood this was an alternative channel. It was not going to cannibalize their audience. It was actually going to expand it.
Gough: There was an Olympics meeting where every major sport’s producer pitched their part of the story. Our turn came up, and I and Al presented our vision, which was live coverage in real time, that there would be fanatics who wanted to get fencing results at 3 a.m. That has since played out, but at first many of the people in the room laughed at us and said no freaking way.
Zenkel: Parts of that vision—it’s where we are today.
Gough: That night everyone got dinner and afterwards, Dick Ebersol pulled me aside. He said, You know, your vision is correct, but my job is to make sure it doesn’t happen until I retire. As I learned more about the industry and the billions of dollars that flow through it, I understood that you just don’t mess with the cash. The big money is in advertising and the way to get that money is being the official video rights provider.
He helped us understand that there was a natural order to things and he was right. Businesses have rules and there are a lot of people who make their livings playing within those rules.
Quokka spent close to $30 million operating nbcolympics.com, expecting to lose money but hoping to declare itself a major player. The site included 20,000 pages and 27,000 images with real-time results, athlete profiles, injury diagrams, virtual venue tours, and more. By that point, internet capability had expanded to allow for low-quality streaming as well. The site would also feature what were referred to internally as QBABIs, or Quokka’s big-ass background images, which sometimes featured motion and were often pixelated.
Before the games, creative agency Storyworks put together an ad that would introduce millions of viewers to Quokka.
Haggerty: We were all geeking out on, like, How do we visualize these things that are invisible to most people? How do you visualize the difference between the fastest runner in the world and how fast you can run as a mere mortal?
Gough: We were working with the IOC talking about how data was going to be valuable, and we got access to Michael Johnson. We measured everything from his heart rate to his respiration rate at the trials in Sacramento. He won the 200m, but he was one of the slowest off the line. He didn’t accelerate as well as some of the others. He didn’t even have the best top speed. He wasn’t the best in any performance indicator that we saw, but he won by quite a distance. What we figured out was that he slowed down the least.
We ended up having him for a huge party here in San Francisco, and he got up on stage. He called me out as his coach because I taught him he’s the best at not slowing down.
Michael Shaun Conaway (CEO, Storyworks): We were a production and branding agency, but we ended up doing TV work for Quokka too because they had an agency but the agency had no f—— idea what to make of Quokka. They just couldn’t get their head around data as part of the entertainment experience. It was just not even possible for them to imagine that.
I got back from vacation and Quokka said, Hey, we’re going to launch NBCOlympics.com in two weeks, and we’ve got Michael Johnson for an ad. Can you film him on Thursday? My partner said, Yeah. what’s the concept?
We don’t have one, they said. So we did the creative work, storyboarded, hired a crew to film for a morning in Arlington, Texas, and I recorded him in the locker room for the voiceover.
Conaway: My feeling was, Yeah, we did a TV commercial in two weeks, and it was awesome. We were kicking ass and taking names. After Quokka I started doing commercials for HP and Microsoft. It was just a total f—— lark. It was ridiculous how fast we were able to gain credibility and shock the market.
Pascal Wattiaux (SVP, Technology): I was in Sydney for the Opening Ceremony, but then I flew back to San Francisco to be with the team there. Because of the time difference, the night shift was covering events live, and the day shift was focused on what now people would call second-screen experiences, to go with the NBC show.
I was working the night shift, which was between two in the afternoon and six in the morning. We wanted to be at least in the top three to publish results, and we were publishing the results Quokka-style, with pictures and all of that, so it was very intense. For big events like the 100m, we published 10m-by-10m analysis. It was nonstop.
Ramadan: It was the No. 1 viewed website back then. (Nielsen/NetRatings gave the site “a Gold medal” for generating more than 60 million page views during the Games with an average visit time of 50 minutes.)
Zenkel: One component of nbcolympics.com was something called Athlete’s Voice. I don’t think there was much in the way of social media at that point. This was a bit of a precursor to all of that, taking athletes’ comments and audio and surfacing it outside of your typical coverage of an event.
Rodenbeck: We were in conflict with our editorial team. They were old-school, thinking that people mainly wanted to read stories, which people did. But they were also hungry for a different kind of storytelling and engagement with multimedia. We would battle over what would go on the front page of the website. It was a generational conflict, but it was also about the very nature of the medium.
The NBC partnership opened doors to the mainstream sports world, but with more established, legacy clients, even more philosophical conflicts emerged.
Alvaro Saralegui (Quokka COO, later CEO): The NCAA came calling, the NBA, we were having conversations with the NFL. What we were doing was mountain climbing and motorcycles, but we had ambitions that we could go beyond these more esoteric sports and find new ways to bring life to a typical mainstream sports broadcast.
Gough: In our dream, we’d own the data, and companies like NBC and CBS and ESPN would own the video, and we would augment their broadcast with our data. Everything would stream to your TV, and you would just turn on and off the layers you wanted to see, like turning the dial.
I was in Auckland, New Zealand, watching the America’s Cup when Al said, There is a boat coming out to get you. A boat comes and grabs me, jets me to this rock jetty where someone else has already packed my bags. I got on a plane to go to Daytona to meet with the France family to talk about NASCAR rights. That’s the way it was going.
I went to Geneva and presented to all the owners in the UEFA Champions League and had some really great ideas for how we’d do football.
We would start by talking to them about what we thought digital rights were going to be worth, and then we’d paint them a picture of what their future could be like with more data and access to different kinds of customer experiences outside of just the broadcast. In return we were hoping to acquire the digital rights to cover those events. By and large, nobody knew what digital rights were. We were all making it up as we went along.
Ulm: We started to move away from the really emotional, narrative stuff and doing more stats and news updates, because it was easier to scale. We wanted to make you feel like you are there. But if you want to feel like you’re at a football game, you should go to a football game vs. trying to watch a football game online.
As designers, we all had this opportunity to really explore and test the web, and then we figured out we could leverage that ability for lots of industries and went off and did that, and Quokka went off to compete with the ESPNs of the world.
Ultimately, Quokka never had a chance to complete the transition as the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and 2001 threw the company into turmoil not long after it had reached its financial zenith.
Haggerty: The idea of an IPO was not on the top of our minds until two months before we filed. It was one of these moments where you are like, I am potentially in a position to make a bunch of money from this. We were also in a period of hyper-growth, where I felt like I didn’t know half the people at the company. So there was simultaneous excitement about what was going on, but there was also a real change to the culture and to the connection and energy of what we were doing. All of the sudden there was a lot of fragmentation.
Rodenbeck: I left around that time. For me, Quokka was always about having easy access to the CEO. Al would always pop by the office at the end of the day and say, Got a smoke, big E? And we’d hang on the back porch. But it got too bureaucratic.
Saralegui: There was so much money pouring in, it was a land grab to get as much as you can as fast as you can. What speed is responsible and what size of investment is an irresponsible one—that’s a question I don’t think people asked.
Draper: Broadcast.com had just been bought for $5 billion. We were all watching the share price of Yahoo! go through the roof. You were on that wave as it was happening, and you heard stories of somebody offering to buy us for $500 million, and we said no and you were like, Hmmm, that’s interesting.
Ramadan: We had been approached by News Corp and James Murdoch before our IPO. It was the third time we’d discussed a potential deal at the board level. (Electronic Arts had tried earlier.) Nothing was on paper but James was offering about $250 million. We felt we were worth more than that at the time.
Quokka IPO’d for $600 million in the summer of 1999.
Saralegui: You scratch your head at the amount of money being spent. We had a team working on mobile almost full-time when the connectivity of mobile streaming was just not really there.
Gough: The team from Palm would come and say, We have this device. Here’s what it does. What can you do with it? We had people coming with next generation set-top boxes that may never ship, What can you do with that?
Saralegui: We didn’t know how fast the technology was going to move, and a technologist was running the company. Engineers and developers would come up with ideas and he’s like, Go for it. We didn’t know whether NBC was going to buy us or, given the way things were growing, if NBC was thinking, Is Quokka going to buy us?
Haggerty: Once we went public, I think it was probably within a week or two of going public that we started to see some pretty major impacts of the dot-com implosion. Everyone understood our lack of ability to exercise our options right away. This feeling of depression washed over everyone watching the stock price plummet while we couldn’t do anything about it. Everyone was watching friends’ companies start to falter in sync. About three months after that is when I quit. I had some money saved up, and I decided I just wanted to spend six months travelling the world to try to recover from three years at Quokka.
Unlike other web companies, Quokka’s stock was relatively flat early on, with its market cap rising past $800 million late in 1999 before beginning a descent that could not be reversed by a couple surges around the 2000 Olympics.
Strausfeld: It was a viable business. It was generating enough revenue, and it still could be a business. The mission was clear. The talent was there. In my mind the dot-com boom expectations interrupted what was really happening and derailed the real opportunity.
Conaway: Honestly I think Quokka could have easily gone on and defined a deeper, more interactive experience of sport had they not gone IPO. But they signed up to that world when they took the kind of VC they took. I don’t think they could have stopped it if they wanted to. When it collapsed, it was just startling how fast it all came apart.
Ramadan: In the end it came down to [how] the perceived value of advertising on the internet in 2000 just fell out of the sky.
Saralegui: A lot of these internet companies had no revenue. In ’99 we had $48 million in revenue. The 2000 Olympics by themselves grossed $13 million. It was real revenue. The problem was I saw the $13 million from Sydney, and I looked into Q4, and there was nothing. It fell off the face of the Earth. I called NBC, and I asked them, How does your Q4 look? They said it’s a disaster. If they were having a disaster that meant we had a real issue.
Ramadan: Our projection for 2000 was $50 million, and at Q3 we’d overachieved. We had something like $40 million. We only needed $10 million to hit our number, but then every single major sponsor called us and wanted to have lunch. We’d sit down and they’d say, We’re not going to continue with our sponsorship. We’re really sorry. You can take us to court if you want, but you’re not going to have enough money to do that. That happened across the board. I think our Q4 revenue was $2 million against a projection of $18M. When it’s a drop from 18 to two, there is no place to go.
Gough: I remember layoffs and the sudden tension that wasn’t there before. I remember Al stepping down and [Saralegui] coming in. That was a huge change in the tone of the place. It wasn’t like people were pessimistic, but when you compare the new attitude to the insanely rampant optimism, it looked like depression.
In the spring of 2001, Quokka went bankrupt.
Ramadan: I’d moved to America in 1995. I was learning on the job and didn’t really have a big network of friends and mentors [outside] my business. It was a challenging time. I had been the young kid with the hottest company in Silicon Valley, to gone in 2001. That’s pretty freaking devastating. I didn’t really make money on Quokka. You could argue I lost money.
And it was challenging on a personal level: Did I f— up? The feeling of letting people down, this whole group of people who invested seven years in that project. The thing that haunted me the most was the feeling of letting down some of the great sports bodies and the Olympic movement in particular. These were people who were banking their hopes and aspirations on us as a digital media company.
Gough: I was flat broke. Unfortunately I was part of the leadership team so I was frozen out of selling any stock. I went from about $8 million on paper to zero.
Wattiaux: As a foreigner, I started to get some letters from the government saying, If by any chance you are here with a startup and you are stopping, we remind you that you cannot stay.
Gough: In general the people who were there have done quite well, although with varied stories. One guy who I won’t name, he went from Quokka to being one of the top designers for a Bay Area porn site.
Haggerty: Jason Fried was on my team. He went on to start Basecamp. There were three to four other designers I worked with over the years who all went on to become design leaders in the tech world. I’m pretty sure if you ask any of them, they’d say Quokka was really where they found the inspiration and drive to do what they’ve done.
Draper: I moved to Sweden with that girlfriend.
Several Quokka leaders, including Gough, Ramadan and Ulm, went on to work at Adobe, which acquired Macromedia in 2005. Ulm is now Wells Fargo’s SVP for Innovation Design while Ramadan advises startups at all stages.
Strausfeld became a partner at Pentagram. Wattiaux has worked for the London and Paris Olympic organizing committees. Pogash writes for The New York Times. Haggerty, Saralegui and Rodenbeck all went on to start their own companies (Saralegui also consults for the NFL). At the 2017 National Design Awards, Gough presented Rodenbeck with a National Design Award, as Rodenbeck’s company was credited with popularizing the art of data visualization.
Draper: I never really talked to Al or John about Quokka shutting down. In a way that was like—it was their shot in the end. They were major executives afterwards, but I don’t think they ever did anything quite like it again. There’s bittersweetness in making it as far as we did.
Maney: It was an enormous experience for Al. It drilled into him that you have to not just have the right product and the right idea, but also it has to be the right time and the right concept for the time.
Gough: It’s still emotional. It usually works like this. You see something on TV or on the internet and you go, We did that 20 years ago. For whatever reason, the traditional model still holds from a monetary perspective. It may be that the Dick Ebersols of the world are still holding on. They won.
“Two years ago, we were trying to understand what it would be like when convergence [of TV and the Internet] would happen,” Gough said before the 2002 Olympics. “But now, it’s about informational content for the medium…. One could argue [the Olympics online] is taking steps backward every two years.” MSNBC.com would cover the ’02 Games in Salt Lake with 70 people compared to Quokka’s 300.
Conaway: What Quokka was doing was giving users a better experience of sports. The reason it collapsed was because it wasn’t focused on how to make more money on sports. In a way, we lost the internet culture wars in 2001, and the money guys swept in. Look at the internet today. It’s a dreary, drab, boring place compared to what we were designing.
Ulm: Quokka showed that the internet can be emotional and engaging. It can be immersive. Quokka was one of the properties that said, Don’t just come on here to buy your dog food. Come on here to connect and learn and have relationships with people.
Ramadan: We’ve got a Facebook page for Quokka alumni that’s still going 20 years later. People talk about the times of their lives and that sort of thing.
Gough: We’ve never lost our enthusiasm for what we were doing. And if Al had made the call, I would’ve followed. Quokka alumni ask every year, Is this the year? I’m ready, do you want to do this again?
Ramadan: Michael and I, when we got together 10 years ago or so, we looked at each other and went, Should we take another run at this now, now that we’ve got all this s—? We were talking seriously for a little while. But no. Ah, this is a dumb idea, we decided, such a dumb idea.