What was SHAFT when Lain came out?
I realize this is in all likelihood a joke, but I’ll give it a serious answer anyway: SHAFT’s website proclaims that they’ve been around since 1975, but they were largely a subcontractor for other animation studios until the turn of the century, after a few co-outings with Gainax. Fun fact: SHAFT is credited for “Work Assistance” on the adaptation of NieA_7, which came in 2000 – two years after Lain, and towards the end of SHAFT’s second-string period.
Akiyuki Shinbou, the studio’s most well-known personality, started directing in 1990, although he didn’t become associated with SHAFT until Moon Phase in 2004. He was apparently directing some very ’90s anime during Lain’s TV run.