Jews as High Technology Entrepreneurs and Managers
Jews have traditionally been seen as prominent in such industries as finance, merchandising, apparel, textiles, entertainment, media, and publishing. And in most of them, Jews were true pioneers. They
played leading roles as those industries emerged on the scene.
Their disproportionate importance to the contemporary world of 24/7 competitive high technology is less well known, but they have flourished there as well. It plays to their strengths. High
technology demands a solid grounding in the underlying science or
engineering and that typically calls for college, and sometimes a
post graduate education. Demographically, Jews are better educated
than their peers. An earlier chapter pointed out the high levels of
Jewish enrollment at leading public and private universities.
The National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01 goes further. It points out that:
"More than half of all Jewish Adults (55%) received a college degree and a quarter (25%) earned a graduate degree." "The Comparable figures for the total U.S. population are 29% and 6%." As a result,
"More than 60% of all employed Jews are in one of the three highest status job categories: professional or technical (41%), management and executive (13%) and business and finance (7%)." "In
contrast, 46% of all Americans work in these three high status areas,
29% in professional or technical jobs, 12% in management and
executive positions and 5% in business and finance."
Jews also tend to be disproportionately entrepreneurial, working where they will succeed or fail based on their own efforts. Andrew Grove's decision to stop writing, and instead to pursue science,
illustrates the point. Judgments about writers are often subjective
while those about science are much less so. Grove wanted to work in a
field where he would be judged on his own performance. He chose
chemistry and got his Ph.D. After several years working with the best
and brightest at Fairchild Semiconductor, he left to become one of
the three founders of Intel.
Technology is a high risk meritocracy. While even the most talented people sometimes fail, and fortune can obliterate the most brilliant of plans; technology is not political. Relationships and
initial funding will carry a venture only so far. Ultimately it must
succeed or fail on its own merits in a volatile, highly competitive
arena. Such risky opportunities can be pursued in hospitable
climates, such as the United States, and in such environments, Jewish
entrepreneurs have done well. They:
And that is only the barest overview:
Dell: Michael Dell and Larry Ellison (of Oracle) share the distinction of being two of the most successful college dropouts in history. (Non-Jew Bill Gates is a third.) Dell quit the
University of Texas in 1985 when he was 19 years old to start Dell
Computer Corporation with a $1,000 stake. His idea was to "cut out
the middleman" by selling personal computers (PCs) directly to
Dell's combination of custom built computers, excellent product quality, superb customer service, outstanding production efficiency, and low prices created the world's largest computer manufacturing
company. In achieving that distinction, he took on IBM, Compaq,
Hewlett Packard, Toshiba, and many other PC makers, most of them much
bigger and better financed than Dell.
He is emblematic of the creative, determined nature of successful entrepreneurs. In the process, he made his company one of the most valuable in the world. In 1992, Dell became the youngest CEO in
history to earn a spot on the Fortune 500 when his Company had been
in existence for only eight years. With fiscal year 2005 sales of $53
billion, Dell has humbled most competitors. Despite the challenges
of rapid growth and competitive success, Dell and its founder are
consistently counted as among America's most respected.
The success has earned 40 year old Dell a fortune, sufficient, till his most recent birthday, to consistently place him among Fortune's "40 under 40." These are all young entrepreneurs, athletes
and entertainers who have achieved stellar success before reaching
age 40. With his wife, Dell has created the Michael & Susan Dell
Foundation, endowing it with more than $1 billion. Its focus is the
health, education, safety, care and development of children. Among
its recent commitments was $130 million to help boost high school
graduation and college attendance rates in Texas.
Google: Sergy Brin is the son of Russian Jewish emigrants who left the Soviet Union in 1979 to escape persecution. Sergy was six at the time. Mathematically inclined, he earned a
computer science degree from University of Maryland before entering
Stanford as a postgraduate student. There he met non-Jew, Larry Page,
also studying for his doctorate. Together, they developed a search
engine - called BackRub before they renamed it Google.
They dropped out of Stanford, rounded up $1 million from friends, family and angel venture investors and on September 7, 1998, launched Google. Less than ten years old, it is the most popular search
engine on the Web with more than eighty-two million users each month
accessing more than eight billion Web site pages (twice the
comparable 2004 figure). It employs more than 4,000 people and has
had a spectacular run up in its stock price to a value of roughly $80
billion in mid 2005.
Microsoft: Steve Ballmer did not found Microsoft. Non-Jews Bill Gates and Paul Allen did. They started the Company in 1976, five years after they began programming together while
attending Lakeside High School in Seattle where they had access to
the school's computer. Gates went off to Harvard where he and Ballmer
became good friends. Ballmer was a bright Jewish kid from Detroit
who scored a perfect 800 on his math SATs and who took it upon
himself to "socialize" Gates at Harvard - until Gates dropped out to
start Microsoft. About the same time, Paul Allen dropped out of
Washington State and together Gates and Allen launched the Company.
Gates tried to convince Ballmer to drop out as well, but instead, Ballmer stayed in school, going on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard in 1977. He worked for Proctor and Gamble for two years and
then entered Stanford Business School. Perhaps just to "fit in," he
then dropped out of Stanford Business School in 1980 after Gates had
made yet one more appeal for him to join Microsoft. Ballmer was the
Company's twenty-fourth employee.
Within three years Paul Allen was gone, the result of a bout with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Ballmer served first as the Company's financial disciplinarian and later became the number two guy, holding down
every senior job in the Company before being named President in 1998
and CEO in 2000. Known for his determination and salesmanship,
Ballmer has been vital to Microsoft's success.
Oracle: Larry Ellison is a University of Chicago dropout. He was one of the three (later four) partners who founded Oracle Corporation in 1977. Ellison, the leader, read an IBM article
about a new kind of software termed a "relational database." Then
commonly acknowledged as a revolutionary new way to build a database,
no one, not even at IBM, thought it was commercially viable. Ellison
disagreed and with $2,000, the partners began developing the
software, using cash generated from consulting projects to augment
Of the four founders, two later left the company and one died. But from the start, it was Ellison that was, and still is, the driving force behind Oracle. "Relentless," "determined," and "ruthless" are
among terms commonly used to describe him. He has been schooled in
Japanese approaches to business where anything less than 100 percent
market share is not enough.
His strong ego is characterized by the titles of two books about him. The first is titled, "The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison." It is the first line of an old Silicon Valley joke for
which the punch line is "God does not think he is Larry Ellison." The
second book is Everyone Else Must Fail, for which the preamble is
"It is not good enough that I should succeed."
Ellison was born to an unmarried Jewish teenage mother and an Italian-American air force pilot father, but he grew up with an aunt, and an uncle who constantly put young Larry down saying he would
never amount to anything. Harvard Business School's Entrepreneur of
the Year in 1990, the 2004 Forbes' 400 lists Ellison as the world's
ninth wealthiest person.
Ellison has devoted roughly half a billion dollars to charities, particularly a medical foundation focused mostly on infectious diseases in the third world and diseases of aging. In mid 2005, he
also pledged $115 million to Harvard University.
Intel: As noted in the Andrew Grove bio, Intel was formed in 1968 by non-Jews Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore who recruited Grove to be their co-founder and third employee. Their
established reputations and ability to raise the needed $2.5 million
from venture capitalist Arthur Rock financed the Company, Noyce
headed up sales and Marketing, Moore R&D, while Grove headed
manufacturing and product development. Grove disciplined the
organization to set and reach goals and he made the critical
decisions, such committing Intel to the microprocessors which made
Intel the huge success it is.
Lotus: Mitch Kapor did not invent the spreadsheet, but his software program, Lotus 123, was the first application to spawn huge demand for personal computers. Visicalc, an earlier
spreadsheet program created by Jew Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston in
1982, was available on several early computers including the Apple II
a few years before Lotus 123 arrived. But Lotus 123 had many more
features, was easier to use, and had far better graphics. It provided
the compelling reason for consumers to buy personal computers and
demand was so strong, Lotus grossed $53 million in its first year and
$156 million by 1984. Kapor went on to create other major software
programs including Lotus Agenda.
eBay: Jeff Skoll did not create eBay, non-Jew Pierre Omidyar did in 1993. For Omidyar, born to French and Iranian parents, creating an on-line auction Web-site was a Labor Day weekend
hobby project. For its first couple of years, it was simply a free
Web-site Omidyar ran on his own home page along with several other of
his Web page creations. During the first few months, he tried to
recruit Skoll, a Jewish French-Canadian he met through friends, to
become his partner. Skoll turned him down, choosing to remain at
Stanford Business School.
In early 1996, Omidyar's Internet service provider began charging him $250 a month to host the site. Omidyar was forced to start charging a fee, which he passed along to the site's users based on
the sale price of auction items. As the checks started rolling in
Omidyar realized he needed help. Again, he approached Skoll. This
time, after a few months of consulting for eBay, Skoll signed on as
its first full time employee and President.
Skoll grew up in Canada and showed early signs of being a driven entrepreneur. At twelve, he was selling Amway products door-to-door. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a 4.0 grade
point average, he set up two high tech companies before moving to
Palo Alto to enroll at Stanford Business School. Compensating for
Omidyar's easy going ways and enjoyment of programming, Skoll was the
driven leader who planned the business and made things happen. He
hired key people, established much of the culture, and constantly
pushed to build the business.
The result is the number one auction Web site in the world. It grossed $3.9 billion in 2004, netted $936 million and was worth $53 billion by mid 2005, all of which made both Omidyar and Skoll very
wealthy. Skoll has since left eBay and now devotes the bulk of his
time to philanthropic activities, particularly his Skoll Foundation
to which he has donated $250 million. The Foundation supports social
entrepreneurs working to effect lasting positive social changes
worldwide. In 2003, Skoll won recognition from Business Week magazine
as "one of the most innovative philanthropists of the past decade"
InterActive Corp (IAC): Barry Diller has made a career of corporate transformations. He started in the mail room at the William Morris Agency in his early 20s, and at age 24, moved to
ABC-TV. Within three years, he was Vice President of Feature Films
and Program Development. In that job he inaugurated ABC's Movie of
the Week, the most popular movie series in television history. At ABC
Diller pioneered highly profitable "made-for-television" films which
focused on social issues such as homosexuality, the Vietnam War and
In 1974, following that success (and still only 32), he was named President of Paramount Pictures. At Paramount, he oversaw creation of the hit television series: Cheers, Taxi, and Laverne and Shirley,
and hit movies including: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saturday Night
Fever and Grease. Ten years later he moved to Twentieth Century-FOX
where in 1985, after Rupert Murdoch took over, he launched Fox as the
fourth television network. By 1990, Diller had Fox producing five
nights of prime time television with such popular shows as: The
Simpsons, Married With Children, Cops and America's Most Wanted.
Diller quit Fox to purchase a stake in QVC, the cable shopping network, and from there he launched an unsuccessful bid to take over Paramount. Sumner Redstone's Viacom beat him out. Shortly thereafter,
in 1995, non-Jew John Malone recruited Diller to leave QVC, invest
in and run Liberty Media's Silver King Communications, which was
broadcasting the Home Shopping Network. Diller later merged Home
Shopping into Silver King.
Through a blinding series of name changes, strategic redirections and $8 billion worth of mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and investments in more than 45 companies, Diller created what is now
called Interactive Corp (IAC), the fifth major Internet Company,
(behind Google, Amazon, e-Bay, and Yahoo). Little known to the
general public, IAC controls such prominent Internet names as:
Expedia, Hotels.com, Lending Tree, Hotwire.com, Evite, Citysearch and
Over the years, Diller has served as a director of Coca Cola and the Washington Post, Trustee of New York University, member of the Executive Board for Medical Sciences at UCLA, member of the Board of
Councilors of USC's School of Cinema-Television and a member of the
Board of the Museum of Television and Radio.
Yahoo: Terry Semel did not create Yahoo. Non-Jews Jerry Yang and David Filo did in 1994, as a hobby, while pursuing their electrical engineering PhD's at Stanford. In those halcyon,
"early bubble" days, Yahoo went public within two years. It was then,
and still is today, regarded as one of the major Internet successes
of all time, but along the way, it hit a bump in the road. In 2001,
Yahoo lost $93 million on revenues of $717 million. The stock
tanked and new talent was needed to avert a melt down.
That is when Terry Semel arrived. Semel had 24 years at Warner Brothers where he had been instrumental in building the Company from $1 billion to $11 billion in annual revenues. Semel quickly pushed
Yahoo's marketing, consumers' services and acquisitions and by 2003,
he had turned the company around. In 2004, Yahoo made $1.6 billion
under his leadership.
Qualcomm: Irwin Jacobs is listed as one of seven Qualcomm founders, but by any measure, he has been the "essential man" from Qualcomm's 1985 inception till now.
Qualcomm created and controls Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA), a major wireless telecommunications technology. It is the most widely used wireless calling technology in the United States,
(47 percent market share) used by such carriers as Verizon, Cingular,
and Sprint. Around the world, 212 million wireless phones already
utilize Qualcomm technology and as 3G, the next generation of
wireless, is deployed, Qualcomm is expected to become the
international market leader as well.
Jacobs grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was a mediocre musician, but an excellent student earning a bachelors degree from Cornell and a Masters and a Doctor of Science degree from
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He taught at MIT and the
University of California San Diego (UCSD) from 1959 to 1972.
While teaching, he wrote a still used college text, Principles of Communications Engineering, and in 1969, co-founded LINKABIT, a company he describes as his initial move towards becoming an
"academic dropout." That finally happened in 1972 when he became
LINKABIT's full time President and Chairman. The Company pioneered
satellite TV receiver technology (VideoCipher) and was the first to
commercially introduce Time Division Multiplex Access (TDMA), the
predecessor technology to CDMA. Jacobs built LINKABIT to 1,400
employees, before merging it with M/A-COM and he served on that Board
Initially, Qualcomm did research and development and some manufacturing for wireless companies while it built the largest satellite-based messaging service used by trucking companies to
manage their fleets. That service was quickly overshadowed, however,
by CDMA. By 2004, CDMA was generating over $5 billion in annual
All of this has made Jacobs (and his fellow founders) quite wealthy. Jacobs has responded with major philanthropy. He and his wife have given $110 million to the San Diego Symphony (hearkening
back to his days as a mediocre musician), another $110 million went
to the UCSD to "support the other faculty that are currently doing
the teaching," $7 million went to the Salk Institute, and millions
more has gone to support the San Diego Food Bank and historic New
Bedford. Both he, and fellow Qualcomm founder Andrew Viterbi now have
schools of engineering named after them, Jacobs at UCSD and Viterbi
and the University of Southern California.
RealNetworks: Ron Glaser takes credit for creating the first technology to "stream" audio, video, and other digital content, such as music and games, to computers. He founded
RealNetworks in 1994 to capitalize on the technology.
Fresh out of Yale with degrees in economics and computer sciences, Glaser joined Microsoft in 1983 where he rose, over his ten years there, to become Vice President of Multimedia and Consumer Systems.
He left Microsoft in 1994 and shortly thereafter, says he downloaded
Mosaic, an early version of the Netscape Internet browser. He
immediately saw the potential to augment the browser with
"streaming." He founded RealNetworks and was soon able to take it
public. It became a hot Internet stock and, for a time, Glaser was a
Today, following the bursting of the Internet bubble and heightened competition with Microsoft's Media Player and Apple's Quicktime, RealNetworks continues to post operating losses and it is
taking on Microsoft in court. Like earlier Federal and state lawsuits
against Microsoft, Glaser's company claims Microsoft competes
unfairly by bundling its Mediaplayer into its software. Win or lose,
RealNetworks has sufficient cash to finance itself for some time and
thus remain a major Internet force, particularly as the downloading
of music and games becomes ever more prolific. If RealNetworks
succeeds, Glaser will rejoin the ranks of billionaires who hit it big
with their Internet technology innovations.
Broadcast.com & HDNet: Mark Cuban grew up poor, the son of Russian Jewish emigrants in blue collar Pittsburgh. He was a bright student who was also considered something of a hustler
with his native selling ability (selling garbage bags, greeting cards
and magazines, all door-to-door, from the time he was 12.) At the
University of Indiana he started a chain letter and gave disco
dancing lessons to pay for school.
After graduating in 1983 he started a computer consulting firm, MicroSolutions, though he neither owned, nor knew much about, computers. Self-taught by having to learn to perform on the promises
he made to customers, he built the Company to revenues of $30 million
a year before selling it to Compuserve. He made himself wealthy in
He then "kicked back" for a few years, before returning in 1995, with partner Todd R. Wagner (not Jewish), to create Broadcast.com. It pioneered radio and television broadcasting over the Internet. Cuban
and Wagner soon took it public and, in 1999, sold it to Yahoo for
$5.7 billion. Cuban and Wagner were billionaires.
His attention then shifted to his ownership of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Cuban is a brash, avid, courtside presence whose outbursts have cost him an estimated $1 million in fines. At
the same time, his savvy marketing and recruiting of top talent has
converted the Mavericks from a perennial loser to a contender.
Cuban also launched HDNet, a high definition television broadcast network available on satellite, cable, and selected over the air high definition broadcast stations. He and Wagner also purchased Landmark
theaters, a large U.S. chain of "art-house" movie theaters which
will air the high definition movies he is producing and the films he
has contracted six major studios to convert from film to digital.
Measures of entrepreneurial success
One measure of entrepreneurial success is provided by the Fortune "40 Under 40" annual list of the wealthiest young Americans, nearly all of them self made. Though entrepreneurial success is not simply
about wealth, it is one scorecard. The Fortune's 2004 list is
included as Exhibit 16a. While it includes thirteen athletes and
entertainers, the remaining twenty-seven are successful young
entrepreneurs, mostly from high technology companies they started or
led. Of the twenty-seven, at least six are Jewish. Three of them are
among the top five and five of them among the top ten. In order, the
six include: #1 Michael Dell, #3 Jeff Skoll, #5 Sergey Brin, #9 Dan
Snyder, #10, Marc Benioff, and #17 Jerry Greenberg. Statistically, at
two percent of the U.S. population, Jews would be lucky if even one
of the twenty-seven was Jewish. At 22 percent, the result is ten
times what one would expect.
The Forbes 400 corroborates the Fortune list. (Exhibit 16b) Of the year 2004 ranking, at least 25 percent of the "400" are Jewish. And like the Fortune "40 Under 40," many of them made their wealth as
entrepreneurs who started successful businesses. Prominent among the
first twenty-five are #9 Michael Dell, #10 Lawrence Ellison, and #11
Steven Balmer. As with the Fortune 40, the performance defies
expectations. We would expect perhaps eight Jews among the 400, the
actual figure (at least 102) is twelve times that.
OMG, A Jewish History of the Internet
Did you know that the internet is Jewish? Yeah...Moses got the Torah from HaShem on Mt. Sinai and HaShem told Moses that his brother Aaron and his descendants would be Kohenim forever. Now a "Kohen" is
a priest and the story of the internet involves a Jewish priest, a
Jewish painter, a Jewish Scotsman and a Jewish sugar merchant living
high in the mountains...well sort of...
In 1972, at the International Computer Communication Conference, Robert Kahn (a kohen) was able to connect 40 different computers revealing his work to the public for the first time. Just three years
later David Farber (whose Yiddish family name means “painter”)
worked to create a primitive kind of email system. Within the next
twenty years the internet that we now know and love was born. In 2003
MySpace was launched and by 2006 it had become the largest social
networking site in the United States. MySpace added a new dimension
to how we communicate and share information with our friends, family
and even religious communities. The website was co-founded by Tom
Anderson. Although Tom’s last name reflects his father’s Scottish
heritage, he and his mother are Jewish and he was raised in a
messianic Jewish household. At the age of 14 Tom was a computer
hacker working his mischief under the tag name Lord Flathead (not a
Jewish name). He lead a team of hackers that were able to brake in
to Chase Manhattan Bank computers, he tampered with banking records
and left a message saying that unless he was given free use of the
system he would wipeout the records. He must have been praying
because he was never charged with the crime :) The website Tom would
later become famous for inspired a 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg (a
Jewish name meaning “sugar mountain”) to create another social
networking site called Facebook. Things are looking sweeter then a
pile of sugar for Zuckerberg because Facebook has made him over a
billion dollars and more people can be found on his networking site
then in the entire country of Japan.
…So we see that many key players in the field of computer technologies are our fellow tribesmen. The internet itself has even been compared to the Talmud…layers upon layers of commentary dealing
with issues from personal hygiene to oven construction. However the
internet is only truly comparable to the Talmud if it’s dialogue
eventually returns to G-dly matters. The Talmud finds a way to
elevate even mundane and seemingly secular matters to a level of
Torah. We should do the same with our technologies, only then do they
become truly Jewish....
Jews On The Internet
By Larry Kuperman
July 29, 2007
The question of how many Jews there are begs the definition of "What is a Jew?" and also "Who is a Jew?" Questions that have been asked many a time.....mostly by other Jews. Being a Secular Jew
myself, I like the most liberal, inclusive definition that
includes....well ME. The biggest number that you will see is about 18
million Jews. This works out to something like 1/4 of one per cent
of the world's population. So you would expect that our impact on the
Internet would be proportional to our numbers....
Not so, bubbala. (A term of endearment, darling. Can you feel me virtually pinching your cheek? In a nice way.) The impact of Jews far outweighs their numbers. Lets look at "Who's A Yid?"
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google. Larry Page's mom, Gloria Page, is Jewish. Sergey Brin was born in Moscow, Russia, to Jewish parents, Michael and Eugenia, who fled to America for
Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, while he was a student at Harvard University. It was originally going to be limited to Harvard students, but expanded quickly. Zuckerberg saw the potential in the
site and sought capital. He turned to Peter Thiel, a co-founder of
Paypal and, not-so-coincidentally, also Jewish. Facebook is often
rumored to be up for sale. How much is Facebook worth? Let me refer
that to Mr. Thiel: "Facebook's internal valuation is around $8
billion based on their projected revenues of $1 billion by 2015."
Founder Mark Zuckerberg is 23, or as we like to say, 10 years past
his Bar Mitzvah.
Robert Kevin Rose is, comparatively, an old man at age 30. He is best known for founding Digg.com. Robert lost his job during the burst of the Dot Com bubble, ended up working as a production
assistant on the show The Screen Savers He began appearing on air and
stepped in as host after Leo Laporte left TechTV. On November 1,
2004, he started a site that combined social bookmarking, blogging,
RSS into arguably the premier tech news site. Today Digg is rated
among the 100 most popular sites on the web.
Scott Blum has been referred to as the "Sam Walton of e-commerce." Leaving a successful career as a shoe salesman as a youth, he founded Microbanks, a company that sold add-on memory modules for
Macintosh computers. Before his 21st birthday, he sold Microbanks to
Sentron Technology in San Diego for $2.5 million in cash. He would
then co-found Pinnacle Micro with his father. Leaving there under a
cloud of dubious accounting practices (he paid no penalty and
admitted no guilt) he would go on to found Buy.com. He left before
went public, returned to take it back private and it is now his baby.
RealNetworks is not the most beloved company in the world, nor is Real Player a favorite product. But there is no question that CEO and Founder Rob Glaser has been influential. When he founded Real
Networks in 1994, at age 31, he was already a millionaire from his
days at Microsoft. He has had a major impact on the Internet.
Certainly also worth mentioning are Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, whose mother is Jewish; Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle, who was born on the Lower East Side of New York to a Jewish mother
and raised by his great-aunt and great-uncle in Chicago; and Phillipe
Kahn, founder of Borland.
What would the Internet be like with Google, PayPal, Facebook, Digg.com, Buy.com? It would be very, very different.
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