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The return of Sparky

by Greg Robertson on August 24th, 2012

A long time ago I co-founded a software company called IRIS. Our flagship product was an MLS access app called “Lightning“, we later added (after acquiring J.Williams) a CMA app called Lightning CMA Plus.(Pardon me for calling software applications “apps”, that’s what I’ve been calling them for 20 years).

During that time Microsoft introduced what they termed “Office Assistants“. Many of you may remember “Clippy“. These “assistants” could give you a tutorial of your app or appear when you asked for help.

All of us at IRIS thought these little characters were the bees-knees and Windows had a way where you could customize the characters for your own apps. We did this with Lightning but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted our own character (because that’s how I roll). So I called Microsoft.

Microsoft referred me to David Christianson. An animator who worked on many of the Office Assistant characters. We got to talking and we came of of a little Lightning bolt character. I’m not sure who picked the name, maybe we had a company vote, but we dubbed him “Sparky“. Sparky always held a special place in anyone’s heart who worked at IRIS during that time.

Long story short we sold IRIS, the assets transferred to one company after another. We had a rough year after selling IRIS (that’s another post, but I’ll give you a hint, the year was 1999). Sometimes around the office I would see written on white boards the words “Free Sparky”.

The “Lightning” assets now belong to RED -Real Estate Digital. So I called up John Hensley, now one of the owners of RED, and asked if it would be possible for Dan and I to reacquire the trademark and image and begin using Sparky with our new company. John was very gracious and agreed.

I wanted a new drawing of Sparky made, something to celebrate his return, so I Googled David Christianson (Sparky’s animator), I didn’t find him, but I did get in touch with his daughter, and she put me in touch with him. Turns out David is still animating and agreed to the commission.

Cloud CMA just topped 40,000 active users. I have many people to thank, many of those people read this blog. So let me take this moment to thank all of you who supported Dan and I. And special thank you to Lauren Hansen of IRES who did a site license for Cloud CMA before it was ever released, thanks Lauren! After saying this I can’t think of a better time to bring Sparky back!

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to announce, Sparky Lives!


  1. James permalink

    Ah, the good old days of Microsoft Agents, I remember using Microsoft Agent Scripting Helper to make Santa or Clippy remind me of Outlook events.

  2. Geoff Weinhold permalink

    Sparky returns!

  3. Sharon permalink

    The good ole IRIS days. Fantastic news…. Sparky rocks!!!

  4. I used the Merlin MS agent… oh the good ol’ days. 😉 Congrats on 40K active guys!

  5. Stu Siegel permalink

    Long live Sparky!!!

  6. Bryan Ehrenfreund permalink

    And I thought Sparky’s only claim to fame was as ASU’s mascot. Hmm was your ASU alum brother-in-law part of the office vote? LOL

  7. To Greg and Dan — as true entrepreneurs, you know firsthand how some “talk the talk” while you two walk it. So I also echo what others have said in welcoming Sparky home. After what seemed like a due diligence eternity, we have brought Cloud CMA to the market @ MRIS. I will make sure we continue to leverage our marketing and education assets behind this product to help it gain adoption. I certainly have high expectations, like you do, for success. Best wishes for another 20 years of innovation and “sparkin'” things up in our industry. John

  8. Great story Greg and congrats on the growth of the “app”. Long live Sparky!

  9. Greg Robertson permalink

    Thanks everyone for your kind words!

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