BusinessDallas Meet the New Economy Milli,000,00onaires These people are cashing in on the technology revolution. By Shelly Grimes
High-tech is transforming the Dallas economy, no doubt about it. And the new economy is achieving that old-fashioned Dallas goal: making people rich. Everyone has heard of boy billionaire Mark Cuban and i2’s Sanjiv Sidhu. We wondered about those people you haven’t heard about: the normal, everyday, go-to-work millionaires, whose ideas are driving new technologies and whose work ethic is producing jobs. Regardless of the market’s ups and downs, they are building value for employees, investors, and themselves. “Dallas is the embodiment of the American entrepreneurial spirit,” says Vickie Abrahamson, co-founder of Iconoculture, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm. “More than any other city in the country, Dallas residents ‘think big’ when they build careers.” Here are 22 movers and shakers in the high-tech community who got where they are by thinking big. While a couple of the individuals we profiled are just over the edge of the million-dollar mark, most have long since surpassed that number. (And some are looking to add yet another comma to their net worth.) They are helping Dallas earn its new reputation as “the capital of capitalism.”
Jim Hill, 47 Publisher Wordware Publishing Inc.
Founded in 1982, Wordware publishes computer books, regional books on Texas and the Southwest, and educational software. The company’s technical manuals and other instructional books dominate the computer game development genre. How he made it: Hill reports approximately $2 million in computer book sales last year, roughly 15 percent of Wordware’s sales overall. During Hill’s five-year tenure, sales have increased sevenfold. The bookworm: Hill collects first-edition literature books.
Patrick Brandt, 28 Executive vice president of strategy NetSN
Brandt is a busy boy. Besides his regular gig with NetSN, he’s also a partner at Daikoku Ventures, a venture capital firm, and he sits on the board of directors for NetJammer, an online independent music label and marketing site. He came to NetSN after the founders agreed to take 40 percent salary cuts and reinvest that back into the company and distribute ownership among the employees. How he made it: Brandt sold his shares of Cyberpix.com, a company he co-founded in 1996, for a healthy chunk of change. Motto: Brandt is a believer in distribution in place, to avoid “burning money in research and development.”
Lonnie Martin, 53 Co-founder and CEO White Rock Networks
White Rock Networks has a need for speed: They specialize in optical transport systems for high-speed service. Martin’s bandwidth allowed him to raise the company’s initial funding—a mere $12 million. How he made it: Martin has several successful ventures under his belt, including stints at Broadband Telesystems and ADC’s Business Broadband Group. Nice pants: Martin has been known to don jalapeo-printed chef pants for a day at the office.
Derek Wilson, 35 Mitch Gervis, 36 Co-CEOs Neospire
Started as 1-800-HOSTING.com in 1998, Neospire provides complex Web services and advanced Web hosting solutions. How they made it: Gervis has worked for Verio, PSINet, and AOL from the financing side. Wilson brings fundraising and business development expertise to the table. Local flavor: Customers include the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the Texas Rangers.
Scott Lawson, 37 Founder and President Intelligraphics
Intelligraphics tests the products of hardware and software manufacturers. How he made it: Net sales grew from $4.4 million in 1998 to $6.3 million in 1999. Home sweet home: Lawson implemented a “work from home” employment model early on to attract and retain top engineers.
Mark Aguirre, 40 Chairman and co-founder LifeCast
LifeCast caters to the private-club set by creating members-only, interactive Web communities (think calendars and dinner reservations). How he made it: Aguirre had skills on the court, but he has also held management positions in the NBA and was an early investor in Dallas-based Source Media Inc. Green thumb: Aguirre spends his spare time in—where else?—the garden.
Matthew Hutchins Sr., 45 President and CEO BroadbandNOW
BroadbandNOW is Hutchins’ latest Internet bet, and it rests solidly on the square marked “broadband.” How he made it: Hutchins has been successful at a combination of prior Internet business ventures and at BroadbandNOW. Wise words: “The hallmark of an enduring business is not which way the wind blows, but how you set your sails.”
Brian Dameris, 29 Business Development Manager Yahoo!Broadcast
Dameris has done everything from “plugging wires into computers” to writing the business plan to working on the IPO. Employees like him are what make Yahoo!Broadcast the leader in providing audio and video streaming on the Internet. How he made it: Brian was the fifth employee hired at broadcast.com. He cashed in when Yahoo bought Broadcast. The next Seinfeld: Dameris dabbles in improvisational comedy.
Joseph P. Lane, 33 Steve O’Brien, 36 Founders NextJet Inc.
Born out of their own frustration in arranging same-day deliveries in their previous business lives, Lane and O’Brien started NextJet in 1999. How they made it: O’Brien was the president of Big Hand, an Internet services firm, which he sold to Rare Medium in a stock trade worth more than $100 million. Lane served as CEO of Global Forex, a 24-hour online foreign currency trading service, where he led the company to $1 billion in online currency transactions. The mentor: Lane speaks to youths about entrepreneurship in today’s economy.
Karen Shelton, 49 Founder Hairboutique.com and T&S Software
Hairboutique.com is one of the top three hair sites on the Web. T&S provides voice products, such as voice mail. How she made it: Shelton cashed in when IEX Corp., for whom she worked, was bought out for $163 million. Glamour girl: One reason Shelton started hairboutique.com is that she wanted long hair—fast.
John W. Day, 49 CEO and president TrinTel
This 3-year-old company is the largest privately held built-to-suit tower company in the United States. TrinTel has developed more than 4,500 cell sites for 15 carriers, including Sprint PCS, Nextel, AT&T Wireless, PrimeCo, and Triton. How he made it: Day established an accounting firm, co-founded a real estate firm, and bought and sold oil rigs before making his way to high-tech. Big bucks: TrinTel has received more than $26 million in equity funding.
Sheldon Arora, 40 CEO and co-founder esoftsolutions
This employee-owned firm employs a “do whatever it takes” attitude to ensure clients have the best in e-business solutions. Arora wears several hats, including visionary, technical expert, and consultant. How he made it: Arora’s role has grown as the company has grown exponentially—with an average of 29 percent revenue growth each month since its inception in 1997. Common sense: Arora began college with the intention of becoming a doctor, but changed his major after completing just one computer science course. He claims the CS courses “just made more sense.”
Randy Marvel, 31 CEO and President AIVIA Inc.
With a commitment to “making the easy things easy,” this e-business solutions provider is among the fastest growing companies in North Texas. How he made it: Last year’s sales grew 175 percent from the previous year, and AIVIA’s annual revenue topped out at $1.4 million. The athlete: Marvel was a starting pitcher for TCU’s baseball team.
Curtis Matthews, 34 Founder, President, CEO PFK eBusiness Systems
PFK, founded in 1997, provides inventory and supply management to companies. How he made it: Revenue rose 111 percent in the 1998-99 fiscal year. Staying power: PFK still retains both its first employee and its first customer.
Driss Bouaazzi, 39 Mok Bouaazzi, 41 Co-Founders BBX Technologies
The brothers Bouaazzi founded BBX in 1995 after spending many years at leading telecom companies. They specialize in communications software and solutions. How they made it: BBX enjoyed a 79 percent increase in revenue for the 1998-99 fiscal year. Alma mater: Both brothers graduated from the University of Dijon, France.
Adil Khan, 34 President and CEO Hencie
Khan is the majority owner of this e-business solutions and applications provider. Hencie delivers innovative, strategically aligned solutions designed to get business clicking for a broad range of clients and industry segments. How he made it: Hencie has achieved 100 percent compounded growth annually since its founding in 1997. Hot wheels: Khan roars around town in his newly purchased Ducati motorcycle.
Jon Feld, 34 CEO Navigator Systems
This Internet professional services firm helps their clients exploit information for competitive advantage. How he made it: Sales jumped from $4.4 million in 1998 to $7.9 million in 1999. Love those stock options: Navigator boasts a 95 percent employee retention rate over an eight-year period.
Todd Hollenshead, 32 CEO id Software
Id is behind some of the most popular video games on the market, including Doom and Quake. An estimated 15 million copies of Doom have been sold around the world. Hollenshead used his business savvy to double per-unit revenue since 1996. How he made it: High-margin technology and intellectual property licensing now add more to the company bottom line than ever, while id continues to crank out hit after hit in PC entertainment titles. Animal lover: Hollenshead raises purebred Egyptian Arabian horses in his spare time.
Stan Strifler, 41 President and CEO ePartners
This e-biz solutions provider has a stronghold on the middle market and offers solutions from the back office to the front office. Strifler, an SMU alum, brought a healthy dose of IT experience when he joined ePartners in 1998. How he made it: Strifler sold the Strifler Group, an IT consulting company he founded, to SHL Systemhouse in 1992. Meteoric rise: Recently ranked third on Inc.’s list of America’s fastest growing private companies. Revenue rose from $344,000 in 1995 to $57,235,000 in 1999.