The door marked “Authorised Personnel Only”

Mike Lynch, one of the founders of Autonomy, tells a story of the early days of the software corporation.  Back in the 90s, the fledgling business was operating out of a single room in Cambridge, and Lynch was concerned that potential clients might be put off by their visible smallness.  So he put a sign on the door of the broom cupboard marked “Authorised Personnel Only”, and told visitors they couldn’t go past that door “for security reasons”.

‘I like to think they imagined thousands of computer scientists coding frantically, tapping away at machines behind the door, rather than the reality of an old mop and a bottle of detergent,’ says Lynch.

Was he deliberately misleading? Yes, certainly.  Was he actually untruthful?  Not necessarily: it was his right to determine who was and was not allowed in that broom cupboard.  The ploy was both harmless and a masterful example of shaping reality, and it helped give those early clients just enough confidence to turn a tiny start-up into one of Britain’s greatest tech success stories.


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