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A Legend In Silicon Valley

By Author: allan
Total Articles: 367

From his poverty-stricken childhood in Texas, Jim Clark rose to become one of the most famous and successful high-tech entrepreneurs in the world. Born in 1944, Clark was a strong-willed boy with a rebellious streak that became more pronounced after his parents divorced when he was 14. His mother supported him and his two siblings on $225 a month (she now lives in a house bought with Netscape stock that her son gave her). In high school,Clark ran into trouble for setting off a smoke bomb on the bus, swearing at an English teacher, drinking, and drag racing. By age 16, he'd had enough. He dropped out of school and joined the Navy. There, he got his high school e-quivalency degree, began learning about electronics, and made money on the side by loan-sharking cash to other recruits at interest rates of 40 percent.

After the Navy, Clark enrolled in the University of New Orleans and worked his way through college and graduate school at the University of Utah while supporting a wife and two daughters. After getting his Ph. D. , he had trouble finding his feet. He tried teaching, then consulting, then teaching again, this time as an associate professor at Stanford University.

At Stanford, he developed a program called the Geometry Engine which gen-erated three-dimensional computer graphics. He left academia in 1981 to start Silicon Graphics10 incorporated" with $25,000 he borrowed from a friend.

By 1986,the company had revenues of $40 million and had revolutionized the design process for everything from bridges and airplanes to special effects for movies, including Terminator 2 (1991 ) and Jurassic Park (1993).

As the company grew, shareholders brought in more conservative management who put the reigns on Clark's freewheeling style. Clark, rumored to have an explosive temper, felt stifled. In 1994, he quit the company and sold his stock.

The same day he resigned, Clark sent an email to Marc Andreesen, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois who had developed a Web browser called Mosaic at a time when most people didn't know the Web existed. Clark and Andreesen agreed to launch a new company devoted to Web software, and Netscape was born. The company had a phenomenal impact, quickly dominating the fledgling browser market and scaring industry giant Microsoft into changing its corporate focus. Netscape was sold to America Online in 1999, but Clark had already started a new venture by then, an online health information service for doctors. Called Health eon, the company became the biggest IPO (Initial Public Offering) of the year in 1999. Early investor interest in the company indicated that Clark had successfully launched three major technology start-ups in less than two decades.

In July of 1999, Clark merged Healtheon with Web MD, another successful online health forum. That same year he published an autobiography, Netscape Time. The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft, which offered a first-hand account of Netscape's race to beat Microsoft for control of the Internet.

The book also detailed how and why Clark instigated'8 the ongoing govern-mental antitrust trial against Microsoft.Clark also spends his time developing navigation systems for his $30 million sailboat. He established a company devoted to the system called Seascape Communications and hopes the software developed for his boat will become part of future navigation systems. His most recent business endeavor is my CFO,an online financial service that offers advice and strategies to high-net-worth individuals.

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