November 16, 2007

OK, now I get it — the guys at Ab Initio have something to spin or hide

According to the comments on this blog post, Ab Initio has been throwing analysts out of their trade show booths and being otherwise rude for at least two years, and probably a long longer. That goes beyond marketing strategy or quirkiness. It means Ab Initio has some secrets it desperately doesn’t want to have found out, or at least that it wants to conceal unless there are Ab Initio salespeople present to spin the prospects’ response to the news.

Probably, these are just failings or limitations of the product. Wilder speculation includes intellectual property violations and the like, but in most cases the reason that people don’t want to be evaluated is simply that they think an evaluation would wind up including negative aspects.

Or maybe it’s ownership and funding. When a company doesn’t even reveal management’s names, you know they’re taking secrecy to extremes. Again, I refer to the example of Thunderstone, an outfit that once had very good search technology and an impressive customer base, but now barely shows up in the market’s awareness.


17 Responses to “OK, now I get it — the guys at Ab Initio have something to spin or hide”

  1. Jaune Tom on November 16th, 2007 5:20 pm

    According to ZoomInfo, the General Manager of
    Ab Initio appears to be one Alan Parker. The
    company is British owned/headquartered, which
    may explain the unusual management structure
    and general fogginess about its operations.



  2. Curt Monash on November 17th, 2007 12:00 am

    Thanks! Hmm. All I’m getting for Mr. Parker is Managing Director, Europe.

    Wikipedia says Ab Initio was founded by Thinking Machines’ founding CEO Sheryl Handler. Well, that fits. Thinking Machines is a company that radically overpromised world-changing technology, and wound up collapsing into bankruptcy.

    One take on Handler, from

    While the company was sinking, she focused her attention on putting out a cookbook with recipes from the company’s now-infamous cafeteria. Increasingly paranoid, she had a video camera aimed at her personal parking spot and, by some accounts, made people take meetings with her in her parked car. She hired a bodyguard, telling her colleagues that she had received death threats.

    Some members of Thinking Machines’ board suddenly seemed to realize that the person who had been running the company all those years had no business skills.

    Wikipedia further says that Torrent — later bought by Ascential — was formed by TMI folks, just as Ab Initio was.

  3. Jaune Tom IV on November 17th, 2007 2:57 am

    Check this:


  4. Jaune Tom IV on November 17th, 2007 3:31 am

    Information on Sheryl Handler may be foud here:
    Information on Ab Initio may be found here:
    The corporate registration may be found here:

    Mme Handler is listed as President, CEO, Treasurer and Director. Clifford
    Lasser is listed as Secretary and Director. James L. Burke is listed as CFO.

    No equity information is provided. Speak about closely held! Mme Handler is
    clearly bent on outdoing Howard Hughes! 😉

    Quick search on LinkedIn reveals 100+ employees, however some records may
    be stale. 5 people are listed as directors, 15 as managers, no one as VP.



  5. Jaune Tom IV on November 17th, 2007 3:43 am

    Ab Initio’s 2006 Annual Report shows 8,900,679
    shares issued and outstanding against a total
    of 24,000,000 authorized shares, par value of



  6. Kris Tuttle on November 17th, 2007 6:19 am

    I remember spending a few hours talking to Thunderstone in hushed tones over the phone where they assured me they were the best in the business. At the time I believe they were in fact running search on eBay so there was something to it.

    But to get investors and customers you have to have a clear story that you can share at least to a limited and qualified audience. I know longer waste time working with companies that don’t talk.

    This company sounds like one we will never hear about again despite their catchy name… 😉

  7. Curt Monash on November 17th, 2007 6:21 am

    Hi again, Jaune,

    Your tinyurl looks a lot like the link I put in the main post.

    What’s your source for an Ab Initio annual report? I’m under the impression they’re not publicly held or making filings.



  8. Curt Monash on November 17th, 2007 6:23 am

    Yep, Kris — you got the point of my Thunderstone analogy perfectly. 🙂

    And Thunderstone isn’t nearly as bad as Ab Initio. They actually have execs with disclosed names who sometimes talk to outsiders or are even — gasp — quoted in the media. They put out press releases and all that.

    Ab Initio is in a whole different league of paranoid weirdness.


  9. Jaune Tom IV on November 17th, 2007 11:03 am

    Ab Initio’s annual report is viewable at, courtesy of the
    Commonwealth of Massachussetts 😉



  10. Curt Monash on November 17th, 2007 11:42 am

    Ahh. Just saw your comment in moderation (that happens when there are multiple URLs).

    Good call on LinkedIn. I have about 100 people in my network w/ current jobs at Ab Initio, vs. 177 at Netezza or 254 at MySQL. Since I’d expect better coverage at the latter two than the former, that suggests Ab Initio is decently sized.


  11. Jaune Tom IV on November 17th, 2007 11:58 am

    But we cannot tell if AI’s employee roll is
    growing or shrinking — and rumors I heard
    suggest the latter 😉

    Also, the absence of any VP titles from any
    search results (LinkedIn, ZoomInfo) raises
    questions about the company’s organizational
    structure 😉

    Is Mme Handler really handling everything
    herself? 😉 😉



  12. Spartacus on February 1st, 2008 2:11 pm

    Maybe she will start a new trend for companies appointing an ‘Eccentric Founder’.
    Personally, I feel that ‘Crap Manager’ would be more appropriate…

  13. Raju on July 22nd, 2008 1:54 pm

    I infact worked on Abinitio some time back, not sure on the other earlier comments in this blog. But one thing is for sure, the product really performs great even with massive loads. At the same time I did not work on Informatica or any other BIG ETL tools. Having said that, the place I worked had done extensive POC before going for Abinitio. The POC included big guys like Informatica,Data Stage etc etc. And the outcome was, Abinitio was clearly the best. Unfortunately I do not have any information beyond this to substantiate.

    And ofcourse all this comes with a HUGE price tag 😉

    My 2 cents

  14. Partial overview of Ab Initio Software | DBMS2 -- DataBase Management System Services on February 25th, 2009 1:51 pm

    […] Initio is an absurdly secretive company, as per a couple of prior posts and the comment threads on same. But yesterday at TDWI I actually found civil people staffing […]

  15. BigIron on August 22nd, 2013 4:24 pm

    Lots of hate towards AI. Why do they need to disclose anything? If you dont agree, move on

  16. Curt Monash on August 22nd, 2013 4:42 pm

    Because they want people to commit substantial resources to buying and using their software.

  17. Anshul on March 17th, 2016 9:39 am

    I think they are trying to build an AI (Artificial Intelligence) with the help of US Military.

    AI = Ab Initio = Artificial Intelligence

    There’s a high possibility that Ab Initio is just a mask to their research on Artificial Intelligence.
    After going through this article on Inc., My mind was boggled up. I am an Ab Initio developer (not an Ab Initio employee.)

    From what I have heard is that the firm constitutes of PhD. holders and highly skilled resources. Even, I am curious about Ab Initio’s background given that a lot of people’s lives are at stake. Although, I believe that the company is there to stay for long since it’s modus operandi is quite secretive.

    Also, it is notable that the majority of it’s clients are high profile companies primarily because of high costs but could also be because of some other behind the door motive.

    It could very well be a conspiracy theory.

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