MITCH KAPOR, 49
Present life: Currently a partner at Accel Partners, a prominent venture-capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif., Kapor is best known as the founder of Lotus Development Corp. and the co-creator of Lotus 1-2-3.
Former life: After graduating from Yale, in 1971, Kapor was a disc jockey for WHCN-FM in Hartford for two years.
Lessons learned: The disc-jockey experience had some practical payoffs in communication skills. "I had no fear of speaking to large audiences. It came in especially handy at staff meetings as Lotus got larger. I had also done stand-up at a comedy club one summer, so when it came to holding a crowd's attention and getting people fired up, I knew how to do it," says Kapor.
"As a DJ, I knew people were out there listening. And the idea that there was an audience and that people were paying attention helped -- especially when Lotus really took off.
"Knowing how to address large groups was also helpful in serving on panels, at trade shows, or at other speaking events. Just having the verbal acuity that being on the radio gives you -- having a quick comeback or being able to say something offbeat to get a crowd's attention -- can go a long way with your audience because panels at the big industry shows like Comdex can be really boring."
Kapor also relished getting a real-world perspective before embarking on his software career. "Today, in the Internet gold rush, so many people go into dot-com jobs right from school or even before finishing," he says. "Their motivation is understandable, but sometimes they just lack experience. In my case, having knocked around at different jobs helped me get a sense of what the world is actually like and also helped me get out of a cocoon."