Identifying the most Texans in high tech isn’t an exact science: As with anything, it’s all about who you ask. Well, we asked more than one hundred industry observers all over the state and sifted through hundreds of potential candidates in search of those who best met the definition of power today: the ability to change the way business is done, move markets, shape perceptions, shake up the status quo, and affect the lives of the rest of us. Position wasn’t a guarantee of a place on the list; lots of CEOs are too busy running their hot new start-ups to have any impact past the front door. Neither was wealth; the state’s high-tech boom has created lots of multimillionaires, but driving a Ferrari or building a home to rival Bill Gates’s is a measure of ego, not power. And, finally, being powerful in the past doesn’t necessarily ensure that you’re powerful today (see ya, Ross Perot).
One thing became clear after talking to these key players: The high-tech industry is shifting dramatically because of the Internet. Some of Texas’ oldest tech companies are changing their stripes to compete in the new Internet economy, while a number of start-ups are attracting money and talent from all over the country, especially California’s Silicon Valley. Another trend we spotted is that Austin has clearly supplanted the Dallas area as the state’s hotbed of entrepreneurial activity (not coincidentally, Austinites fill more than half the slots on our list). Dallas may be big in telecommunications and computer gaming, but Austin is the online capital of Texas. And these days, the Internet is where the action is—and the power.
Michael Dell, 35
Chairman and CEO
Dell Computer, Round Rock
Picking Dell for a high-tech power list is a no-brainer; how could you leave off the Bill Gates of Texas? While wealth commands power—and Forbes estimates Dell’s net worth to be $20 billion—his influence goes way beyond money. He’s the David who knocked down Goliaths like IBM and Compaq, and he is still wielding his slingshot. Competitors predicted that the University of Texas dropout would fail, but Dell Computer is now the top seller of PCs in the U.S. and number two in the world. Like Gates, Dell is also an Information Age philanthropist: He set up a corporate foundation, and he and his wife, Susan, personally have donated millions to charities and are helping to pay insurance premiums for thousands of poor kids in the Austin area (see “Shares and Shares Alike,” page 8). Building the nation’s biggest computer seller, creating enormous wealth and sharing it—all that makes Dell Texas’ high-tech kingpin, hands down.
Thomas Engibous, 47
Chairman, CEO, and President
Texas Instruments, Dallas
The course of Texas Instruments has been charted, you might say, by an inventor and a reinventor. The former was engineer Jack Kilby, whose work on the integrated circuit in 1958 triggered an electronics revolution and set TI on the path to becoming one of the semiconductor giants (see “What Ever Happened To…”). The latter was Engibous, who has successfully tackled the task of rethinking the company’s mission. Named CEO in 1996 after predecessor Jerry Junkins died of a heart attack, Engibous has presided over a sweeping transformation of TI, which used to crank out everything from PCs to missile systems. Fourteen divestitures and sixteen acquisitions later, the company is betting its future on digital signal processors, or DSPs, which are inside everything from digital cell phones to laser printers and will eventually allow the wireless transmission of data, voice, and video over the Internet; and analog chips, which translate signals from the real world—heat, light, sound, or pressure—into the ones and zeros of digital code that DSPs use to make sounds clearer, images sharper, and data faster. So far the makeover is paying off: TI ranks as the largest maker of DSPs for cell phones and has 47 percent of the overall DSP market. Look out, Intel.
Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., 58
Chairman and CEO
He’s a boy scout at heart—in fact, he’s the national president of the Boy Scouts of America—but he’s also a fierce competitor. A native of Ennis and a Texas Tech University graduate, Whitacre joined SBC (then Southwestern Bell) in 1963 as a facility engineer in Lubbock and rose through the ranks to become CEO in 1990. In the years since, he’s masterminded SBC’s transformation from a standard Baby Bell into a full-service global communications company, engineering a major expansion into wireless communications and acquisitions of Pac-Tel, SNET, Comcast, and, famously, in a $72 billion megadeal last year, Ameritech. The result is a telecommunications empire with about a third of the nation’s local phone lines and telephone and wireless service in 24 states and 22 countries. In January SBC asked the Federal Communications Commission for approval to offer long-distance services in Texas, but Whitacre sees data in its future as well: An alliance with Prodigy will one day give SBC access to millions of Internet subscribers, and the company is spending billions of dollars to offer high-speed Internet access.
Just Missed—See You Next Year.
Richard Linklater, 39
Detour Film, Austin
The indie filmmaker isn’t dazed and confused when it comes to digital movie making. His new feature film, Waking Life, was shot and edited digitally and will be computer animated.
Thomas J. Meredith, 49
Senior Vice President and CFO
Dell Computer, Round Rock
The breakout star of Dell’s top ranks is responsible for its corporate planning and development and investor relations. And he’s a player in public affairs, advising both UT and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Greg Peters, 39
Chairman and CEO
Less than a year after he took over Vignette, which helps its customers build businesses online, the company has one of the highest market capitalizations of any Central Texas high-tech firm.
Sanjiv Sidhu, 42
Founder and CEO
i2 Technologies, Irving
The former Texas Instruments engineer’s software company, which creates online marketplaces for e-commerce, saw its market capitalization soar to almost $20 billion in January.
Richard Tapia, 61
Rice University, Houston
The son of Mexican immigrants is an adviser to Houston’s GirlTECH, which helps teachers incorporate computer technology into the classroom and encourage girls to pursue careers in math and science.
Scott Hochberg, 46
State Representative, Houston
Hochberg is not a water carrier for the high-tech industry; rather, he’s one of the savviest lawmakers in terms of figuring out how the state can best use technology to benefit Texans. A techie himself—he has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University, writes and sells software, and designs Web sites—he was an early champion of the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR), which is helping other agencies put all sorts of state information online and to make the state’s Web site interactive. During four terms in office, he’s worked on bills to post all legislative actions and state agency rules on the Internet and to allow state licensing boards to share information electronically, and he’s served on the Judicial Committee on Information Technology, which has studied how to bring all courts online. In preparation for the next session, he is reviewing the state’s laws on computer crimes and working on a bill that would standardize laws on electronic transactions. “When I leave office, if I can say the state is a model of delivering its services electronically, then I’ll be happy,” he explains. Spoken like a high-tech nerd.
Carolyn Purcell, 52
Texas Department of Information Resources, Austin
Purcell is a player not just because she led the $200 million effort to make sure state agency computers were Y2K compliant. Year in and year out, she and her team are charged with promoting the concept of electronic government in Texas. Agencies have lots of autonomy when it comes to technology, but the DIR is the “corporate information headquarters for the giant holding company,” as Purcell puts it, coordinating plans to disseminate data in cyberspace and to allow electronic transactions like the reporting of sales taxes and the renewal of driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registrations. The DIR also manages the state’s Web site, which has been online since 1992. “Texas got into the game of making information available over the Internet pretty early,” Purcell says, “but we want more of an interactive tool for the public.”
Arnold Viramontes, 51
Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board, Austin
An El Paso native, Viramontes manages the nation’s largest program for investing in telecommunications infrastructure for Internet access. Over a ten-year period, the board will disperse $1.5 billion to wire Texas schools, libraries, universities, and not-for-profit healthcare facilities for high-speed connections to the Internet (down the road, there will be funds available for teaching system maintenance and repair). The TIF grew out of legislation in 1995 that levied an assessment on some telecommunications carriers in the state; the money goes into the fund and is then passed on through grants. The goal is to reach poor areas and level the playing field in public information technology, and it seems to be working: So far, about $370 million has been awarded to more than one thousand school districts.
Steve Papermaster, 41
Founder and CEO, Agillion;
Founder, the Powershift Group;
Founder, Texas Technology Network, Austin
Papermaster is a master, all right—of balancing several projects at once. His Powershift Group venture capital fund invests in new companies, and he founded and runs Agillion, an Austin start-up that develops Internet-based software. But he’s also a guy who believes it’s time for Texas techies to get involved in politics and public policy, and he’s taking the lead. Along with Austin entrepreneur Peter Zandan, the UT grad launched 360.Summit, an Austin-based group of high-tech CEOs and community leaders. Papermaster has George W. Bush’s ear on high-tech issues—he’s hosted fundraisers for the presidential hopeful—and co-chairs his national high-tech advisory council. Last fall he founded the Texas Technology Network, a spin-off of the powerful Silicon Valley-based TechNet lobbying group of high-tech executives. The industry can’t afford not to get involved, he says: “A lot of government leaders don’t understand the Internet economy and the maniacal pace. We’re dealing with time compression, and government is used to moving at a snail’s pace.”
Steve Wallach, 54
Vice President of Technology
Chiaro Networks, Richardson
Wallach became something of a high-tech celebrity in 1981 after writer Tracy Kidder made him a key character in The Soul of a New Machine, a Pulitzer prize-winning book about of a team of inventors at Data General (where Wallach then worked) racing to build a new minicomputer. Soon after, he was lured to Dallas to co-found Convex Computer, a supercomputer maker that was bought by Hewlett-Packard in 1995, and cemented his reputation as the state’s resident high-end computing whiz. An entrepreneur at heart, he left HP after only a few years to pursue the next New New Thing. Since then, he has invested in start-ups and taught at Rice University, and he sits on the White House Advisory Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Technology, and the Next Generation Internet. Most recently, he joined the tech team at Chiaro Networks, a start-up that is developing next-generation optical networks that will be built in Texas. Chiaro doesn’t even have a product yet, but it has already received early-round funding from Sevin Rosen and Intel.
Corey Carbonara, 44
Executive Director, Institute for Technology Innovation Management
Baylor University, Waco
Carbonara isn’t a typical academic; his background is straight from the leading edge of multimedia. As Sony’s first product manager for high-definition television in the mid-eighties, he worked with Hollywood studios on the latest video technologies. Since being tapped to head ITIM in 1996, he’s worked with students, high-tech companies, and the public sector to apply new technologies to projects that tie together multiple disciplines. Carbonara and his fellow researchers, for example, are working with NASA to bring astronauts into Texas classrooms, via laptop computers and wireless transmissions, to teach math and science. Another project, one involving a Fortune 500 company, could bring digital healthcare into homes in the form of a box that would transmit patients’ vital signs for monitoring purposes. “Part of our job is to provide research opportunities for students and faculty,” Carbonara explains, “but part of it is to solve real-world problems.”
Ken Kennedy, 54
Computer Science Professor
Rice University, Houston
Kennedy, the ann and john Doerr Professor in Computational Engineering at Rice, is Texas’ brightest star in research at the highest levels of computing. In 1997 Bill Clinton tapped him to co-chair the White House Advisory Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Technology, and the Next Generation Internet, which has been studying the federal government’s long-term research investment priorities. This year he’ll be directly involved in cooperative projects at Los Alamos, the national research lab in New Mexico, to devise ways for scientists to solve massive computational problems using local or global networks. He’s also active in promoting access to technology for girls and minorities in the Houston area.
Diana Natalicio, 60
The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso
Natalicio has not only lured more Hispanics to UTEP, a school with traditional strengths in engineering and the sciences, but she has also been a key mover in bringing El Paso students into the cyberage. In 1994 Bill Clinton appointed her to the National Science Board, which advises and oversees the National Science Foundation, and she currently serves as its vice chair. She’s also been on the advisory council to NASA and is on the board of the Sandia Corporation, an arm of the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. Since Natalicio took over as president in 1988, UTEP has been using technology in all sorts of innovative ways, from offering online classes to creating The Borderlands Encyclopedia, a border-themed Web site and CD-ROM. Off campus, Natalicio has been a key player in the collaborative effort to use technology to improve public school education.
Money Men (& Woman)
Jon Bayless, 59
Sevin Rosen Funds, Dallas
Sevin Rosen was the most famous Texas venture capital firm in the early eighties when it was the early lead investor in wildly successful companies like Compaq and Lotus Development. With a fund of about $580 million, Sevin Rosen is still a powerhouse—and Bayless is the heaviest hitter, especially in telecommunications investments. A Ph.D. in electrical engineering who has been with the firm since 1981, he is revered in Dallas’ telecom corridor for picking winners. His latest grand slam is Monterey Networks, a Richardson start-up. Last year Cisco Systems acquired Monterey for $500 million—before it had even sold a single product.
John Thornton, 34
Austin Ventures, Austin
With more than $1.6 billion already doled out, Austin Ventures is the state’s hottest high-tech venture capital firm in the state’s hottest city for dot-com and Web-related entrepreneurial activity. And Thornton is the money guy to know right now. As the general partner who focuses on investments in software, e-commerce, and media, he has worked with some of Texas’ most successful start-ups, including garden.com, Ignite Sports Media, and Vignette, and he was instrumental in putting together Austin Ventures’ new $825 million fund, making the firm the third-largest of its kind in the nation. He’s constantly on the prowl for more e-deals—so get those business plans ready.
John Hime, 51
Bob Inman, 68
George Kozmetsky, 82
Mike Maples, Sr., 57
Marc Seriff, 51
Austin and the Hill Country
High-tech start-ups are lucky to be touched by one of these angels—private investors who put their own cash into risky new ventures (they aren’t the only ones in Texas, but they’re the ones involved in the highest-profile deals). Most are retired high-tech execs who cashed out of their companies and now write checks and serve as key advisers to promising start-ups. Hime was the vice president of marketing at Austin’s Tivoli Systems and spent ten years with Silicon Valley start-ups, including Sun Microsystems. Inman was the deputy director of Central Intelligence and headed the Austin computer consortium MCC (see “How I Made It”). Kozmetsky, the elder statesman of high-tech start-ups, founded both IC2, a think tank affiliated with the University of Texas, and the Capital Network, which helps match investors with companies. Maples oversaw IBM’s software strategy and was responsible for all product development and marketing at Microsoft, where he was a member of the office of the president, reporting directly to Bill Gates (he is still a consultant with the company). Seriff, an Austin native, co-founded America Online back in the days when it was known as Quantum Computer Service. Unlike traditional venture capitalists, these angels can take more chances and be more patient about seeing a return on their investment; typically, they kick in $50,000 to $250,000 in the first round. Collectively, they’ve invested in and advised dozens of new companies, including Computer Moms International, Mission Critical Software, living.com, and hire.com.
Laura Kilcrease, 42
Partner and Founder
Triton Ventures, Austin
The U.K.-born Kilcrease is a rarity: a female venture capitalist and one of the few trailblazing women in Texas high tech. She’s known as a mother hen of sorts in Austin for starting the Austin Technology Incubator in 1989; during her ten-year tenure as its director, it grew and nurtured more than 120 high-tech companies and was named the best such organization in the nation. In January 1999 she started her own small venture firm, and so far, she’s invested in five start-ups, including charitygift.com and Applied Science Fiction. She also sits on the board of the influential Austin Software Council.
Mark Cuban, 41
Todd Wagner, 39
Co-founders, Yahoo Broadcast Services;
Senior Vice Presidents, Yahoo!, Dallas
Cuban and Wagner showed what dot-com entrepreneurs in Texas can become: incredibly, unfathomably rich. The co-founders of AudioNet started out in 1995 with a transmitter set up in Cuban’s bedroom sending radio signals from Dallas station KLIF to home computers via the Internet. At first the company broadcast mainly sporting events. Then it began broadcasting presidential conventions and the like, demonstrating the Net’s multimedia potential. In May 1998 its named changed to Broadcast.com, and the rest is Wall Street history: In July 1998 the company’s IPO was the largest ever to date (it has since been surpassed). A year later, Web giant Yahoo! acquired the company for $5.7 billion. These days Cuban and Wagner don’t enjoy as high a profile (though Cuban’s is certain to rise as the new majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks), but they do have the power of Yahoo! behind them; Cuban is scouting for new opportunities in digital media, while Wagner is more involved in the company’s day-to-day operations. And the operation is expanding: Late last year Yahoo Broadcast announced it would stay in its converted warehouses in Dallas’ inner-city Deep Ellum neighborhood and add seven hundred jobs.
Leonard H. Roberts, 51
Chairman, CEO, and President
Tandy, Fort Worth
Roberts is leading the venerable neighborhood RadioShack stores—once best known for selling batteries, electronic toys, and tape recorders—into the new territory of wireless networks and the Internet. In 1999 he brokered an alliance with Microsoft that will expand RadioShack’s reach on the Web (other big Internet players and retail chains quickly followed suit). Roberts, who became RadioShack’s president in 1993 and engineered alliances with Compaq, Sprint, and RCA, is also making the chain a dominant player in the wireless phone market. It’s already the leading seller of cellular and PCS digital phones and is the biggest retailer of satellite TV systems. No longer does RadioShack want to be America’s electronics store; if Roberts has his way, it will be America’s telecommunications store.
Peter Lewis, 47
The New York Times, Austin
He’s one of the most influential commentators on the national high-tech scene, thanks in large measure to the fact that he writes for the national—some would say international—newspaper of record. And he has been doing it since 1984, when he began writing a personal computer column for the Times. These days he writes the high-profile State of the Art column for Circuits, the weekly personal technology section the paper launched in 1998, a job that puts him in a position to shape perceptions about companies, products, and trends (the fact that he works out of Austin gives the city some exposure as a high-tech capital too). Lewis briefly was an entrepreneur himself—he left the Times in 1997 to help start an Austin Internet company called ideaMarket—but despite glowing reviews in the Wall Street Journal and other publications, it failed. “I guess we forgot to put ‘dot-com’ in our name,” he jokes. Fortunately for millions of readers, the Times took him back.
S. Michael Dunn, 37
Carmelo Gordian, 41
William Hulsey III, 45
Paul Hurdlow, 40
Paul Tobias, 35
Ask ten people to name the most powerful attorney in Texas high-tech and you’ll get ten different answers; as a sage observer puts it, “When you’ve seen one Gucci-soled lawyer, you’ve seen a thousand.” But you can’t ignore the powerful Northern California law firms that in recent years have opened offices in Austin to service the exploding number of high-tech companies. Among the biggest players are Dunn and Gordian, a partner and the firm-wide chairman of the business and technology group, respectively, at Brobeck, Phleger, and Harrison; Hulsey and Hurdlow, a partner and the managing partner, respectively, of Gray, Cary, Ware, and Friedenrich; and Tobias, a managing partner of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, and Rosati. The Silicon Valley suits may be mostly transplants from the West Coast (the notable exception is Tobias, who’s an Austin native), but they keep the wheels of our high-tech industry turning, focusing on everything from corporate securities to mergers and acquisitions, IPOs, and intellectual property.
Gary Chapman, 47
Director, the 21st Century Project The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ
School of Public Affairs, Austin
At a time when technology is viewed as either savior or villain—rarely in between—Chapman is the state’s leading voice of reason. As the head of the non-profit 21st Century Project, researching the social implications of new technologies and telecommunications, he finds himself in the midst of such issues as Internet free speech, privacy and ethics, and technology gaps between rich and poor. In a field that’s rife with spin, he’s a self-described “hypersensitive bullshit detector” who’s pro-technology but thinks it can be “used badly, particularly in ways that line someone’s pockets but don’t serve the public’s interest.” For example, he was the only critic to testify at a state Senate hearing against a proposal to replace public school textbooks with a laptop computer and CD-ROMs; the idea died for a variety of reasons, but Chapman made an impression. Currently he’s developing a Web site for teaching young people, parents, and teachers about responsible use of the Internet. He’s also writes Digital Nation, a syndicated, biweekly column for the Los Angeles Times, and the occasional essay for magazines like Texas Monthly Biz.
Gene Crick, 54
Executive Director, TeleCommunity Resource Center Project;
President, Electronic Frontiers-Texas, Bastrop
If it has anything at all to do with the Internet, Crick is in the thick of it. His hat rack is full: He heads up the largest state association of Internet service providers; is the executive director of the TeleCommunity Resource Center Project, a nonprofit that has brought free public Internet access to underserved Texas cities; directs the Metropolitan Austin Interactive Network, a volunteer project that creates, hosts, or links sites for more than four hundred nonprofits; is president of Electronic Frontiers-Texas, an influential cyberspace civil liberties group; and is president of the Austin Area Multimedia Alliance, a telecommunity group that promotes Central Texas as the growing center of multimedia and telecom art, science, and industry. And that’s just a few of his jobs. Somehow Crick manages to keep his sense of humor—he’s an ace wisecracker. But he’s as serious as can be when it comes to the Internet and free speech, public access, and the rights of Texas’ cybercitizens.
Ana Sisnett, 47
Austin Free-Net, Austin
In the most wired city in Texas, almost a third of the residents have Internet access; Sisnett is extending a hand to the two thirds who don’t. With funding from the U.S. Commerce Department and the state and through a partnership with the City of Austin, the nonprofit Austin Free-Net sets up free Internet access to computers in such public places as libraries and community centers. More important, it provides education and training about the Internet to those who don’t have computers of their own. Sisnett, who hails from Panama and has traveled the world teaching people about all things digital, says that giving everyone a computer isn’t going to bridge the gap; what makes a difference is getting out into the community and showing people the benefits and limitations of new technology. “Just because a person is low income,” she says, “doesn’t mean they’re a have-not.”
Angel Munoz, 39
Founder and President, Cyberathlete Professional League;
Founder and President, Adrenaline Vault, Irving
Munoz is largely responsible for turning computer gaming into a full-fledged professional sport with corporate sponsorships and cash prizes. His Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), launched in 1997, hosts gaming conventions and tournaments all over the country; this year it will expand into Asia, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Europe. A onetime investment banker, Munoz also operates the Adrenaline Vault, one of the top gaming Web sites, with 3.4 million visitors a month. An avid gamer himself, he got the idea for the CPL after hearing about get-togethers where gamers linked themselves in local area networks. “I discovered their level of playing had exceeded the games’ limitations,” he says. “They were able to do things the programmers never envisioned.” Next month, the CPL will host a four-day event in Dallas, which is expected to draw 1,500 people and dole out $100,000 in prizes, including $40,000 to the winner. Sponsors of CPL events include pro sports standbys Gateway and Nike. Can a call from ESPN be far behind?
Chris Roberts, 31
Founder and CEO
Digital Anvil, Austin
Roberts is a legend in the gaming world for creating the Wing Commander flight-simulation game series at Origin Systems, another Austin-based game company. When he left Origin to start his own company, many wondered if he could top one of the best-selling computer games ever and the first made into a movie (alas, the big-screen version of Wing Commander flopped). In his quest to fuse games and movies, Roberts recruited film director Robert Rodriguez to develop online multiplayer games and interactive movies. And he cut a deal with Microsoft; with the publishing power, marketing muscle, and deep pockets of the tech behemoth behind him, Roberts is set to release several game titles this year. But what makes gamers really salivate is the future release of Robert’s new space combat simulation game, Freelancer. Last year it was previewed for game critics at the prestigious Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles and won Best of Show.
Mike Wilson, 29
Harry Miller, 32
President and Chief Operating Officer
Gathering of Developers, Dallas
Wilson and Miller are the dynamic duo behind G.O.D., a group of irreverent game designers who banded together in 1998. Their goal: to change the interactive entertainment industry by turning individual game developers into brand names and letting them map their own creative destiny. Wilson, who previously was the CEO of Dallas game developer ION Storm, and Miller, who had been the CEO of game developer Ritual Entertainment, have been getting their share of attention. In December Entertainment Weekly ranked G.O.D. among the nation’s top ten e-companies and “visionaries” leading the charge into the next century—and it was the only game publisher on the list.
Where Is . . .?
On the outs—for now.
Dick Brown, 52
Chairman and CEO
Electronic Data Systems, Plano
He has his work cut out for him at the company that Ross Perot built, which has grown so unwieldy that it has stumbled on its own bureaucracy and lost ground to competitors.
Ross Garber, 33
He presided over the most successful high-tech public offering in Texas in 1999 (Vignette’s stock price is up more than 2,000 percent since the day of its IPO) but has since cashed out and quit, taking his power with him.
Richard Garriott, 38
Origin Systems, Austin
Last fall marked the arrival of the ninth and final chapter of his Ultima series, the longest-running fantasy role-playing game of all time. Farewell, Lord British.
Eckhard Pfeiffer, 58
Compaq is no longer the top seller of personal computers in the nation, and its stock price dropped more than 35 percent in 1999; no wonder he was forced to ‘paq it in as CEO.
John Romero, 31
ION Storm, Dallas
Repeated delays in the release of his long-awaited game, Daikatana, opened him up to ridicule in the press. The defection of several of his designers to rival companies only made matters worse.