The Tech Coast 10

Our Picks for the People and Companies
to Watch as They Seal Southern California's
Place on the High-Tech Map


April 12, 1999
1998 Los Angeles Times
By Karen Kaplan, Times Staff Writer





Southern California is emerging as one of the nation's premier high-tech hubs, and it isn't happening by accident. A combination of intrepid entrepreneurs, creative scientific researchers, aggressive investors, supportive company executives, tireless economic development officials and others have helped the region grow. Together, they have raised the Tech Coast's profile both at home and around the country.

But those at the forefront know their work has just begun. As technology plays an increasingly important role in the economy and society, they will be doing their best to ensure that Southern California fulfills its potential as a high-tech leader.

Ten people and companies are particularly well-situated to achieve that goal. They are among the most influential forces on the Tech Coast, and The Cutting Edge has selected them as the ones to watch in the coming year.

The Entrepreneur: Bill Gross

It's no exaggeration to say that BILL GROSS is the most prolific high-tech entrepreneur on the Tech Coast. In less than three years, his Idealab business incubator has spawned 23 companies--including CitySearch, GoTo.com, EToys and Free-PC.com.

Pasadena-based Idealab has five more companies in "incubation," while a related venture capital fund, Idealab Capital Partners, has investments in 15 companies.

Gross, 40, who became an entrepreneur at age 12, started several successful companies--including the educational software firm Knowledge Adventure--before founding Idealab, which focuses on Internet-related start-ups. That business acumen perhaps led him to be among the first to recognize that Southern California's unique blend of technology, entertainment and marketing prowess make the region an ideal home for consumer-oriented Internet firms.

A strong advocate for adopting the kind of business practices that led to Silicon Valley's success, Gross promotes such ideas as a willingness to trade salary for stock options and to raise money through venture capitalists.

While he has made a major contribution to Tech Coast through his companies, his biggest impact on the region may be as a role model for other would-be entrepreneurs. "I hope that stories of people who join Idealab companies from traditional jobs and take pay cuts but get equity and become millionaires will inspire others to do the same, whether they join Idealab companies or not," said Gross, who was himself inspired by the "trials and tribulations" of other entrepreneurs.

Other people and companies recognized as "the ones to watch" include:
  • David Baltimore, Caltech President
  • Debra Bowen, California Senate
  • Tim Draper, Zone Ventures founder
  • EarthLink Network
  • Jon Goodman, EC2 - the Annenberg Incubator Project at USC
  • Irvine Co.
  • Alfred E. Mann, MiniMed Chairman and Chief Executive
  • Rohit Shukla, Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance
  • Jake Winebaum, Chairman of Disney's Buena Vista Internet Group



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