The Enduring Point of Pointless Corp.
Pointless Corp. is the innovation lab at Viget, where we step away from client work to make fun and useful things for everyone
“Neither pointless, nor a corporation” is how we describe Pointless Corp. here at Viget. We founded Viget – an actual company – in 1999 during the original dot com bubble to build web products for clients. Serving clients has always been our purpose or … point, if you will. Over the decades, we’ve done just that, completing thousands of projects for hundreds of clients. Never forgetting that we exist to serve our clients has been key in our longevity.
About a decade in, we felt the urge to build and launch our own projects. Pointless Corp. became the internal brand we adopted to remind ourselves that these projects can be fun and useful but don’t replace the primary point of Viget. A line from Harry Nilsson’s The Point! referencing the Pointless Man serves as inspiration: “a point in every direction is the same as no point at all.” We wanted the freedom to experiment in every direction.
So we did. Ideas and teams formed fairly randomly, and Pointless Projects began to fill the gaps between our client work. Projects like HeyCraig (2009), which sent you an email alert based on your Craigslist search (before Craigslist shut us down and added the feature). Or Tincan’d (2011), a simple video call platform before Zoom or Google Meet. Or BabyBookie, the baby due date office pool app over 500,000 people have used since launch in 2012.
These projects allow our teams to work without the input (including, ahem, revenue) of clients, so we’re more free to experiment, wear different hats, and learn … a lot. We apply what we learn back into our client work. Along the way, we get to know each other better, scratch our entrepreneurial itches, and hopefully put some fun and/or useful things out in the world for others to enjoy.
For many years, we organized an annual optional Pointless Weekend. We’d kick off hackathon-style on a Thursday evening and wrap on a Saturday evening with a functional product out in the wild, as I described back in 2012. It’s always been an intense, enjoyable, but rather exhausting 48 hours. Photos from 2011, 2014, and 2016 bring back some great memories.
A couple of years ago, we shifted the schedule to start on Wednesday and wrap on Friday. This made participation easier, allowing parents and others with weekend commitments to join. It also allowed projects to wrap up just in time for our Friday staff meeting. We awkwardly called it “Pointless Week” even though it was still only two days.
New for 2023: Pointless Palooza
Two things I like: alliteration and lollapalooza (specifically circa 1992, but that’s a story for another day). So Pointless Palooza was an obvious choice for what to call our little two day adventure. In addition to a new name, we’re trying a few other changes this year:
Pointless Executives. Nothing injects new energy like new leadership. We handed over the Pointless reins to two trusty execs: Andrew (day job: developer) is our Pointless CEO and Aimee (day job: project manager) is our Pointless COO. They’ve done a phenomenal job setting a vision, planning, and leading the activities. Their enthusiasm helped inspire more than half the company to participate with a record number of projects and great results.
Pitching & Team Formation. Previously, project ideas were “pitched” with a single slide and a tight 1-2 minute segment at a staff meeting. These were fun and lighthearted, but didn’t always capture the full vision, and teams often formed and morphed during the kickoff night. This year, project ideas were shared more gradually via collaboration in Slack and Notion. Project teams formed with more structure in advance, and team members had some time before the kickoff to marinate on the idea and get excited to build.
Even More Remote Friendly. There’s something magical about kickoff-pizza, launch day donuts, and in-person collaboration. But there’s something even more magical about collaborating with dozens of teammates around the country (especially when it’s supplemented by sweet swag boxes and Divvy credits for remote treats). Hybrid teams work. We still had fun in-office connections, but most of our Pointless Projects this year are being worked on with distributed teams, much like our client work.
Some things haven’t changed from prior years. Team members are still swapping roles – PMs writing code, designers running projects, the list goes on – which means steep and rapid learning curves. We’re still trying out new technologies and approaches to our work, which means unexpected blockers and great insights to share. New connections are being formed, especially since more than half of this year’s participants are in their first year at Viget and experiencing their first Pointless event. Forming authentic co-worker connections isn’t easy, and our culture is stronger today than it was at the start of the week.
So what projects will launch? I won’t steal their thunder, but we just wrapped the presentation portion of six Pointless Project teams at our weekly staff meeting and it was the most we’ve laughed, cheered, and been inspired in a long time. I expect articles will be written and shared in the days and weeks ahead outlining the thrills (and mishaps) of the teams this year.
Pointless Corp. is more than an annual palooza. We work on projects throughout the year in the gaps between client work, weaving the teamwork, learning, and teaching values of Viget into all that we do.
If this is the kind of work and culture you might enjoy, learn more about our culture and job openings – perhaps you’ll be able to join next year’s Pointless Palooza. After all, inspiring people to join us is unapologetically part of the point.