September 30, 1996
What would you consider your most serious mistake running Wolfram Research?
Part of our market is selling to universities—maybe 25% of our revenues. When Mathematica first came out, academics were used to the idea that any software they cared about was free—at least to them.
I thought there was a serious market for Mathematica in the academic market. We had to dig in our heels and say this is going to cost you real money. People got very upset about that. To this day, people keep saying: “You guys charge too much and are so difficult for universities to work with”.
It might have been smarter for us to start off with the lower price we ended up with, rather than digging our heels in so firmly.
It was hard to know. We were creating a new kind of market for software. We didn’t know the rules, and they didn’t know the rules either.
I was worried that if we started with lower prices we would have some downward spiral where it would end up at zero.