Banner Blue Software

I bootstrapped Banner Blue Software in 1984 and sold it to Broderbund Software in 1995, where I stayed until late 1996. Through 1996, Banner Blue sold approximately two million copies of software, generating $78,000,000 in revenue, primarily from Family Tree Maker® (for locating and organizing information about one’s ancestors) and Org Plus® (for making corporate organization charts). After several changes of ownership, these two business lines are still going strong.

I described my business philosophy and what I had learned from the experience of founding Banner Blue in a talk to the Software Forum and in the book, Bootstrap: Lessons Learned Building a Successful Company from Scratch.

Banner Blue Software Summary 1984-1986

Year Net Sales Sales Growth Profit Before Tax1 People2 New Programs Total Releases3
1984 $0 1
1985 $92,820 23.8% 1 Org 4
1986 $884,829 853.3% 38.5% 5 6
1987 $1,814,917 105.1% 36.9% 8 7
1988 $2,044,275 12.6% 32.5% 10 Org Plus Advanced 14
1989 $2,757,579 34.9% 21.0% 16 Family Tree Maker 10
1990 $3,410,661 23.7% 18.6% 19 Org Plus for Macintosh, Data
Exchange Utility4,
Laser Fonts Disk
1991 $4,660,481 36.6% 23.2% 25 Org Plus for Windows, Banner Blue
Movie Guide, Family Ties5
1992 $5,674,820 21.8% 27.9% 35 Brochure Maker, Uncle Sam’s Budget
1993 $7,113,215 25.3% 30.4% 42 Family Tree Maker for Windows,
Microsoft Organization Chart, Biography Maker, Direct Elect6, Exercise in Hard Choices7
1994 $10,929,533 53.7% 30.1% 55 Family Tree Maker Deluxe,
Microsoft Organization Chart for Macintosh, Family Ties for Windows5
1995 $17,281,949 58.1% 28.3% 80 World Family Tree 38
1996 $23,357,376 35.2% NA NA Family Tree Maker Deluxe Ensemble,
Family Tree Maker Online, Eureka!8

1      As a percentage of net sales.
2      This count of full-time employees represents an average number for the year. It includes temporary employees, full-time contractors, and summer hires.
3      Total product releases include new programs, upgrades, rolling releases, and Family Archive CDs during the year.
4      Accessory program for Family Tree Maker.
5      This program was manufactured for sale by another company.
6      A version of Brochure Maker designed for candidates for political office.
7      A special version of Uncle Sam’s Budget Balancer for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
8      A special version of Uncle Sam’s Budget Balancer for the state of California’s budget.

In addition to the awards listed below, Banner Blue products received dozens of outstanding product reviews.  Org Plus and Family Tree Maker also had regular and long-running appearances on a variety of industry best-seller lists.  I have included awards for part of 1997 because they resulted from work for which I was responsible before leaving the company.

Banner Blue Software Product Awards

Date Product Award
January 1987 Org Plus PC Magazine, “Best of ’86”
November 1987 Org Plus PC Magazine, nominated for “Technical Excellence Award”
January 1988 Org Plus PC Magazine, “Best of ’87”
December 1991 Org Plus PC Magazine, “Editors’ Choice Award”
March 1993 Uncle Sam’s Budget Balancer Software Publishers Association, “Codie” finalist for “Best Educational Tool Program”
August 1994 Family Tree Maker “100 Top Products of the Year Editors’ Choice Award”
August 1995 Family Tree Maker IndelibleNews! Guide to CD-ROMs, “IN!-ovation award”
February 1996 Family Tree Maker Computer Life, “The Best of Everything Award”
June 1996 Family Tree Maker Computer Life, “First Annual The Best of the Best of
Everything Award” (Top 20 Software Programs for 1996)
June 1996 Family Tree Maker Family PC, “Top 25 for 1996”
February 1997 Family Tree Maker Online PC Magazine, “Top 100 Web Site”
March 1997 Family Tree Maker Deluxe Edition II Software Publishers Association, “Codie” winner for “Best Home Productivity Software Program”
June 1997 Family Tree Maker Home PC, “Top 100 Programs”
July 1997 Family Tree Maker Family PC, “Top 50 Products”
September 1997 Family Tree Maker PC Magazine, “Top 100 CD-ROMs”