Overleaf Came about Thanks to a Lucky Win on a Scratchcard

Overleaf has been around for the last seven years or so and it now has more than 4.5 million users all over the world. Furthermore, since 2012, more than 35 million documents have been created using this program. However, it was an idea that the founder, John Hammersley, thought up back in 2008.


So Why Did It Take So Long to be Released?

Well, the same reason why many other great ideas don’t become reality – a lack of money. Hammersley will be the first to admit that he was a bit of a geek growing up. While most other kids his age wanted to go out and get drunk with their friends at the weekend, he much preferred staying indoors and working on his computer. In fact, he is so knowledgeable about computers that what he doesn’t know about them simply isn’t worth knowing.

He studied computer science at university, where he met his good friend John Lees-Miller, who is now his business partner. One day, during a lecture, his professor was moaning about how there is a severe lack of options when it comes to programs that allow a group of people to work on the same document at the same time.

After the lecture had finished, Hammersley turned to Lees-Miller and said that he reckoned that they would be able to create a great program that would allow groups to edit a document in unison. They both agreed but didn’t speak too much more about it as they didn’t have the funds to create such a program. They were both well aware of the amount of money that would be needed to create a collaboration program that would become popular all over the world.

However, the idea never really left Hammersley’s brain.


One Day, the Dream Became a Reality

Hammersley is a huge computer nerd, but he has a guilty pleasure in life which comes in the shape of scratchcards. He loves nothing more than using his spare change to purchase some scratchcards to see if his luck is in.

One day, while walking home after university, he found a dollar on the floor outside a shop. He picked it up and decided to spend it on a scratchcard. He put it in his wallet and actually forgot about it for a day or two. He only remembered about it when Lees-Miller asked him during their next lecture whether he got lucky on any scratchcards lately. He took it out and scratched it right there. Himself and Lees-Miller could not believe what they were looking at – he had just won $250,000.

Hammersley immediately turned to his friend and said, “you know what this means, right? I can create that collaboration program that we mentioned a while ago, and I want you to join me”.

This is exactly what they did and, after three years of hard work, they were able to release Overleaf to the world in 2012. Since then it has grown from strength to strength and is now one of the leading collaboration programs in the world.