Mint was founded in the summer of 2004 by Andy Bell (who elderly people in his hometown Corfe Castle still believe "invented the internet") and Noam Sohachevsky (later dubbed "one of the best designers to come out of Basingstoke in the 90s").
Having spent four years working at RDF Media, one day Andy and Noam were walking on the road to Hammersmith when they were hit by a blinding light. It later transpired that this was a discarded metal box of Curiously Strong Mints reflecting the headlights of the No. 9 bus.
That night Andy and Noam both had the same dream: they were watching TV and having meaningful interactions on their computers. They were not taking part in telephone votes and they were not playing an interactive CD-ROM. Excited, they decided the next day to break out from TV and do something different: They decided to set up Mint Digital. (It was almost Spearmint Associates or Flat 57.)
Doing something different is all well and good but with no credibility, like most frontiersmen, Andy and Noam's immediate concern was staying alive. The early Mints were simple folk. They set about making websites, or anything else, for anybody who was prepared to take a chance. This "we will do anything" rhetoric is often overlooked in business books but it led to some early success. In its first year, Mint worked for, amongst others, qualitative advertising researchers and capital allowance specialists.
Times were good. For a while, it seemed like the only thing that could halt Mint's relentless commercial progress was one of Noam's housemates ironing a blouse. (Mint used the ironing board as a desk in those days, an early example of the ingenuity and agility that would serve them well.)
High on this early success, the Mints ran into their first disaster.
A mix-up involving a sandwich resulted in the loss of a £20,000 project. At the time, this was more than five month's turnover.
But feedback is the breakfast of champions. Since that day, there is no record of Mint making a sandwich-related mistake again...
In the long winter of 2005/06, Mint moved into its first proper office. Andy had walked past Westminster Business Square many times. Like all entrepreneurs he dared to dream. Seduced by the smooth contours of the former Marmite factory, the vibrancy of the yellow window frames and the plethora of cafeterias in the area, Andy was determined to get a unit at one of Vauxhall's most prestigious business addresses. When his offer of just over £800/month was accepted, Andy felt that he had made it big. Together with Noam, they blew nearly £40 on a vegetarian meal with tap water at the Bonnington Cafe.
That inspired a thought.
Wouldn't it be great to create TV shows that allow web users to get involved in the creative process? YouTube and Wikipedia suggested ways this might be possible.
Incredibly, one business angel (a genuine business angel, if ever there was one) gave Mint some money to turn that half-baked dream into reality.
And that was enough for Tim Morgan and Cameron Price to leave the pre-credit crunch safety and high-rolling status of city jobs for the choppy seas of a web start-up.
With this new outlook, Mint created its first mass-participation projects. It launched the social casting site Islandoo. The Independent, with laudable understatement, called Islandoo "a internet phenomenon to rival the social networking site MySpace".
Since then Mint has had ups and downs. The biggest down related to a capacity issue caused by an "up" (the site being popular far beyond expectation). A national newspaper made space on its front page to say the project was "a great idea ruined by incompetent execution". Alas, the idea was the client's, the execution was Mint's.
Talking about this dark episode, CEO Cameron Price said "We operate in a harsh technical environment. This project exposed a number of weaknesses in our way of doing business. Our approach has evolved as a result of experiences like that."
Since then, Mint has been joined by a number of truly outstanding individuals. We can't mention them all (for security reasons). The team includes: Thomas Pomfret and Colin Miller (collaboratively the wonky techno pioneers Bass Invaders), Adam Rogers (a man who burst through the Channel 4 Bursary scheme), Phil Nash (never mix rugby and code), Sophie Fisher (she is the law), Utku Can (tyrannical creative director), Dean Strelau (his Mum makes Mint Digital t-shirts), John Corrigan (The Taskmaster), Christopher Wilson (previously The Taskmaster), Kejia Zhu (founder of Stickygram), David Biggs (Brighton's finest), Matt Alvarez (his "I don't like it" is the final word), Paul Fedory (has seen every TV show ever made ever), Sandeep Gill (breaker of windows), Shoshi Roberts (check the hairdo) and many more.
We have now decamped from Vauxhall to leafy Clerkenwell’s Exmouth Market, home to a myriad lunch options - including Mint favourites “The Cake Lady” and “The Sandwich Man”. Our new office features open-sourced desks, a plastic-curtained meeting room affectionately termed “The Abattoir” and enough room for after hours beer-fueled bicycle races.
The most important part of the Mint story has been our clients. We’ve grown together in our understanding of social media and digital products.Thanks to the people at Zodiak Media, BBC, Channel 4, ABC Family, Ogilvy, Thumbplay, Sony Ericsson, Benetton and everyone else who has put their faith in Mint. We hope that we have repaid your confidence.