|#80 in 1984
|#80 in 2007
Ronald Harland Sr.
Word documents and paper documents
Bill Gates founded Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in 1975. Last year, it had sales of $44.3 billion. Ronald Harland Sr. founded Evolv Solutions in 2001. Evolv leases copiers, printers, and fax machines to companies such as Lockheed Martin and Johnson & Johnson.
Both Gates and Harland were Boy Scouts. Scout's honor.
The four food groups
Gates has been known to polish off cases of Diet Orange Crush and nosh on grilled cheese sandwiches. Harland prefers fried chicken and barbecued ribs.
Watch those sand traps
Gates and Harland both list golf among their favorite hobbies. Gates has a handicap of 23.9; Harland's is 18. "I'm not that great of a golfer," acknowledges Harland. "My time centers on the business."
With a little help from friends
Neither Gates nor Harland started their companies alone. Gates, who was 20 at the time, launched Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen. Harland founded Evolv with his two sons--Eric and Ronald Jr. They were 31 and 34 at the time, and Harland was 53.
The Xerox connection
Harland identified this parallel: Xerox (NYSE:XRX) came up with the concept of the computer desktop, which laid the foundation for Windows, Microsoft's operating system. A strategic partnership with Xerox, Harland's former employer, helped lay the foundation for Evolv Solutions. Almost scary, isn't it?
|#479 in 1994
|#479 in 2007
Computer worlds and computer security
Will Wright founded Maxis in 1987 and 10 years later sold it to Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS) for $125 million. Wright is the creator of SimCity and The Sims, the best-selling computer game of all time. Todd Gabel co-founded Nexum in 2002. It resells and installs data-security products for clients such as Fidelity Investments and State Farm.
Runs in the family
Both of their fathers were entrepreneurs. Wright's father's company made plastic bags. Gabel's dad made promotional materials.
Wright is an atheist and Gabel says he's an agnostic.
Something's fishy here
Both Wright and Gabel entertain themselves with underwater creatures. Wright is currently designing a game in which characters evolve from underwater molecules into complex species. Gabel's favorite movie is the 1988 comedy A Fish Called Wanda.
Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto
Wright's home is filled with various robots, some of which he built himself. Gabel never constructed a robot, but he does own a Roomba, which obediently patrols his hardwood floors.
Daddy's little girl
Wright and Gabel each have a daughter. Wright and his daughter used to build Battlebots, robots that duke it out in tournaments. Gabel and his daughter enjoy playing tennis and bowling on the Nintendo Wii.
Pizza and beer
Both Wright and Gabel got together with their business partners over refreshments. Wright met his co-founder, Jeff Braun, at a pizza party. Gabel and his co-founder, David Lesser, hatched their business plan over a few beers.
|#71 in 1986
John Paul Mitchell
John Paul DeJoria
|#71 in 2007
Suds and songs
John Paul DeJoria, together with Paul Mitchell, founded John Paul Mitchell Systems in 1980. The hair care line is sold in more than 90,000 hair salons in more than 70 countries. Adam Lavine founded FunMobility in 1999. His company makes and sells ring tones and background wallpaper for cell phones.
Before he hit it big, DeJoria was homeless--twice. Lavine never had to live in his car as DeJoria did, but at age 19, he did hitchhike through Ireland and Thailand, staying in hostels and huts. "Looking back I say, 'Why did I do that?" says Lavine.
You do what?
Before starting their companies, both DeJoria and Lavine had strings of odd jobs. DeJoria sold encyclopedias, copy machines, and insurance. He also worked as a janitor, pumped gas, and repaired bikes. Lavine juggled at amusement parks, taught animation, shoveled cow manure, and was a counselor at computer-circus camp, where kids learn to program computers and perform circus tricks. "I could juggle and program, so it was perfect," he says.
And they say there's no such thing
Both DeJoria's and Lavine's companies offer their employees free lunches.
Both toasted their achievements with big purchases. Twenty years after becoming homeless, DeJoria bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. When FunMobility hit its first month of $1 million in sales, Lavine bought his staff iPods.
|#457 in 1983
|#457 in 2007
Food and drugs
Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ), which Tom Monaghan founded in 1960, now oversees more than 8,000 pizza stores and franchises in the U.S. and 55 other countries. Big Communications, which Lisa Stern founded in 1994, has cooked up creative marketing plans for large pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen, Pfizer, and Schering-Plough.
Monaghan and Stern are practically neighbors. Monaghan has a house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Stern lives half an hour away in Franklin.
The actress and the priest
Both Monaghan and Stern ditched their childhood dreams. Growing up, Monaghan wanted to become a priest, but says he got kicked out of seminary for participating in pillow fights and talking in chapel. Stern had her eye on the stage, but learned she didn't like auditioning.
Get a job
After high school, Monaghan joined the Marines. Stern also displayed a lot of discipline, waiting tables at a comedy club and working in a cider mill.
They both have a soft spot for certain baseball teams. Monaghan likes the Detroit Tigers, which he owned from 1983 to 1992. Stern prefers to root, root, root for the Dragons, her four-year-old son Jonah's T-ball team.
|#91 in 1985
|#91 in 2007
National Safety Commission
Buildings and cars
Roger Staubach, a former quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, founded the Staubach Company in 1977. The company, which represents tenants in commercial real estate deals, has completed $26 billion worth of real estate transactions, finding office space for large companies such as PepsiCo, Time Warner, and CVS. Ken Underwood founded the National Safety Commission in 2002. His company creates online driver's education courses for Florida and California residents.
Need for speed
Along with Troy Aikman, another former Cowboys quarterback, Staubach owns Hall of Fame Racing, a NASCAR team. Underwood used to fly 757s for American Airlines and has plans to purchase a Javelin, a small jet that tops 900 miles per hour and is slated to be released in 2008.
In the Navy
Both Staubach and Underwood served in the Navy. Staubach entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1961 and won the Heisman trophy while playing for the Midshipmen. Staubach served in the Navy until 1969. Underwood joined the Navy in 1983 and served for eight years. He's been a reservist for the past 12.
Friends in high places
Staubach has palled around with a number of bigwigs, including NBA star Grant Hill and both Bush presidents. Underwood has met with some top guns in the Republican Party as well, including both President Bushes, Governor Jeb Bush, and John McCain.
Traveling in packs
Staubach and Underwood each have five children.
Fond moments from 1985
It was a good year for both Staubach and Underwood: Staubach was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Underwood earned his wings to become a Navy pilot.
If at first you don't succeed
Both Staubach and Underwood had early disappointments. Notre Dame, the college Staubach had dreamed of attending, turned him down for a scholarship. Underwood failed his first navigation test and had to go through additional training before he could become a pilot.