School of Computing welcomes back alumnus and IMDb founder: Colin Needham
The School of Computing was delighted to recently welcome back alumnus Colin Needham, founder and CEO of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website, to deliver a guest lecture to staff and students.
Film fan Colin, studied Computer Science at Leeds and graduated in 1988. He started IMDb as a hobby in 1990. Today IMDb is the most popular entertainment website in the world and an integral part of the film industry.
As a teenager Colin created a computer games software business and started to build his personal database of movie information. After Leeds, he began working as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard in Bristol, but continued his movie database, combining it with similar data collected on the internet in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Colin’s IMDb first went online in 1990 and he coordinated IMDb as a world-wide volunteer effort until 1996, when the volunteers became shareholders. IMDb became a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com in April 1998. Colin continues to serve as CEO of IMDb, working from an office in Bristol with IMDb staff in countries across the world. His role is to oversee future strategy and make sure his creation stays true to its roots.
We caught up with Colin after his guest lecture and asked him a few questions about his time in the School of Computing at Leeds.
Why did you choose to study at Leeds?
First and foremost, the Computer Science course had a very good reputation and I was also impressed with the professionalism of the staff that I met on the open day. I thought the department was well resourced and the University generally offered a great blend of being a campus University but also being close to the heart of the city, which was perfect for my social life!
What do you remember being the best aspect of your course and what were the highlights of your time at Leeds?
I remember I felt well prepared for a career in industry as a result of the course. I learnt so much on my course, I made great friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole University experience. For me it was the perfect blend of everything.
Outside of your studies, what else did you get involved with whilst you were at Leeds?
I loved the range of cinemas available in the Leeds area but I was very focused on getting a good degree and it worked!
You’ve obviously been very successful, but what have been the most difficult challenges in your career?
One of the most difficult times, was back in the early days when we launched IMDb as a commercial operation in what at the time was an unproven business area i.e. the internet. It was an intense period, months of hard work across 18 hour days, 7 day work weeks, working with people remotely across the world and trying to convince potential clients that Internet advertising might just work.
What does the future hold for you?
I really enjoy my current career so much and there are so many opportunities ahead. I think this film quote pretty much sums me up right now: “Well, yes, ma'am, I do...”.