I made reference a few times last year to some big things being in the works but that it was hush hush.
Our company, called CarSpot.com since 1995, was acquired by AutoTrader.com, the biggest player in the online automotive space with an overwhelming market share. CarSpot was picked up for our innovative online, mobile, and desktop solutions to pervasive data aquisition, aggregation, and distribution problems. To AutoTrader, having a small satellite office that is much more agile than a multi-billion dollar entity was an attractive proposition. Let's face it, some large companies couldn't change the font of a paragraph burried in an obscure section of their website without a 50 person team of project managers, business analysts, marketing, managers, designers, and developers. Here at CarSpot, though, an impressive amount of functionality was written and supported by basically four technical people.
CarSpot traditionally was very casual. Developers have always been trusted to get their work done, a simple practice that's practically unheard of out there. People came and went as they pleased, a lot of beer was purchased on the company credit cards. There was no internet monitoring, we played a game of Quake III at work sometimes, almost any link you might get from a friend marked "NSFW" was really just fine at CarSpot. We had power and freedom and we did some good work; we were encouraged to goof off on things that might turn into good things for the company. What we didn't have was tons of money to buy all the servers we should have had for redundancy and there were sometimes some tools it obviously made sense to have that we just couldn't buy. I had been consulting with CarSpot for years, but when I joined full time in August of 2006 I was the only spouse/kids/mortgage employee in the shop; benefits weren't all that family friendly.
In the post-purchase world, the former owner is still the President of this division. We have all the upside of a large company like HR, benefits, money, and infrastructure, and AutoTrader is making sure we keep our culture. We are considered the "R&D Division" and are expected to keep AutoTrader.com ahead of the technology adoption curve. With a mix of more traditional projects and products with lists of enhancements for sales and "mess with this to see what works and what could be better" type mandates this is shaping up to be an ideal place for geeks to work. Hopefully the two employees I've added to my group this year are enjoying themselves.
For the longest time, we were forbidden from publicly mentioning this pending an "Official corporate communication strategy". This never happened, so its high time I made a public announcement to the geek community.