Col Needham

Col Needham

An English software engineer, film fan, and the founder and CEO of IMDb.

Col Needham is a Manchester-born entrepreneur and founder and CEO of IMDb (the Internet Movie Database). He was born on January 26, 1967. On July 22, 1989, Col Needham married Karen Needham with whom he has two children. Col Needham's personal IMDb shows he has rated over 12,000 films.

In 2015, Col Needham served as a member of the Sundance Film Festival's International Dramatic Jury with Mia Hansen-Løve and Taika Waititi. His work on films has included Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature (2001) and Suffragette (2015).


Col Needham attended Audenshaw Grammar School in Audenshaw, Manchester, from 1978-1983. In 1983, he attended Hyde Clarendon Sixth Form College in Hyde, Greater Manchester; Needham graduated from this institution in 1985. In 1979, at twelve, Col Needham was gifted a Science of Cambridge MK14 kit, which allowed him to build his first computer, and which he has credited with beginning his interest in technology and computing.

From 1985 to 1988, Col Needham attended the University of Leeds, where he earned his Bachelor of Science with honors in computer science.

Col Needham holds two honorary Doctor of Letters: the first from Bristol University, which was awarded to him in 2018, and the second from Bath Spa University, which was awarded to him in 2019.

Early Career

After graduating from the University of Leeds, Col Needham worked in software research for Hewlett Packard. While there, he began keeping a database of all the films he had watched. The data was first kept on paper, but in 1981, it became a digital database. At the end of each film, he would type the main credits into the database he built on his Sharp MZ80K computer. At the time Col Needham started building his database, similar information was found in printed guidebooks updated yearly or in professional business information systems which often charged $80 per page of film credits.


In 1985, Col Needham found like-minded film reviewers online who would help him expand his personal database. On the 17th of October, 1990, Col Needham published the software database which became the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). At the time, the Internet was not a popular commercial entity—its primary use was for connecting academic institutions and companies. Publishing the software for IMDb publicly has been described by Col Needham as a labor of love rather than a purposeful business decision.

In 1996, Needham and three others incorporated IMDb as a company. The incorporation was the first time the three of them met. And the incorporation was a necessity brought on by a New York Times article profiling the early site which increased the sites traffic, and in turn required employees to keep up with the volume of data. Col Needham would be the only employee until 1997. This led to their first advertising campaign in 1996, which was for ad-space on the IMDb website. The first piece of advertising they sold was to 21st Century Fox, for Independence Day. That year, Col Needham decided to quit his job at Hewlett Packard and work full-time at IMDb.

IMDb was acquired by Amazon in April 1998. The deal saw IMDb remain a separate brand and the website was optimized for discovery, search and contribution. Amazon took the data to create an e-commerce experience. Speaking on IMDb's appeal, Col Needham told The Guardian in interview:

The human brain likes to make connections. Somebody spots a connection between two things. This prop always appears in their films, the roars in The Lion King are actually those of a tiger. You want to share that knowledge. And IMDb is a good platform.

In 1999, Col Needham received two Webby awards for IMDb.

In 2002, Col Needham led the creation of IMDbPro. IMDbPro is a subscription-based premium service which offers fuller contacts for talents, as well as upcoming projects. Needham also launched Starmeter, which ranks actors, directors, writers, and producers in order of desirability. The rating is based on the views an individual's page has received in a given week.

In 2008, Col Needham and IMDb acquired Box Office Mojo, a website that parses adn tracks Hollywood box office revenues, and Withoutabox, an electronic interface that allows film makers to distribute their own films.

In February 2017, Col Needham and IMDb decided to shut down its message boards, a longtime feature of the website. According to and IMDb press statement, the message boards were "no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of [...] users worldwide."


November 3, 2020
Col Needham serves as a member Sundance Film Festival's International Dramatic Jury
Col Needham works as an extra on the film Suffragette.
April 24, 1998
Amazon acquires Col Needham remains as CEO.
January 1996
Col Needham incorporates
October 7, 1990
Col Needham publishes first software version of IMDb.
January 26, 1967
Col Needham is born.
January 26, 1967
Col Needham was born in Manchester.



Further reading


Documentaries, videos and podcasts


What Movies Mean To Me: IMDb Founder Col Needham

November 24, 2014




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