Bill and I started working together over 30 years ago. We met in December 1984 when Bill had created an accounting software product that worked with Lotus 123. Within one hour of our meeting, Bill asked me to stop all my other work to help him launch GNP Development.
In early 1986, we ended up selling that company to Lotus Development after two days at the table with Lotus founder, Mitch Kapor and others. At Lotus, Bill launched GNP's creation which became known as Lotus HAL. Then he created Lotus Magellan and worked on Lotus 123 Mainframe. When Bill left Lotus, he was interested in Traffic management, but his fascination with early Multimedia won over.
Bill brought me in as one of the co-founders and VP Sales of Knowledge Adventure Inc. We built sales to over $25M in annual sales. In 1996, we sold Knowledge Adventure for $100M. As part of Universal, Knowledge Adventure grew to $400M in revenue. From his success in the sale of Knowledge Adventure, Bill was able to form Idealab. I was CEO of one of the early Idealab companies and an early shareholder.
And now, Bill shares some personal thoughts. His replies follow each of my questions and are italicized below.
How many companies...
Have you started?
- More than 125.
Have you invested in?
- All of them.
Got sales ($1M or more)?
- Half of them.
Sold for $100M or more?
- More than 10.
WHAT COMPANIES ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
- I'm especially proud of CarsDirect.com, because we were the first place to sell cars online.
- I'm very proud of Goto.com/Overture, because we pioneered pay-per-click advertising which has become a fundamental driver of monetization of the Internet.
Do you still...
Work at a stand-up desk
- Yes! I think I was doing it way before others in 1991, but now it's commonplace.
Sleep odd hours
- Much regular hours now. Age brings more of a need for 8 hours a day.
Work closely with your brother Larry?
Are you still in touch with...
- YES: Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Ben Rosen.
P.S. I showed Bill a copy of the Inc. magazine article [March 2015, page 78] which showed him as one of four 'Solo Acts' including Thomas Edison. As usual, Bill was appreciative and humble.
- I did see that Inc Magazine list with me and Thomas Edison in it. Wow! That's a bit too generous! Smile. But nice.
Bill Gross founded Idealab in March 1996 and has served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer and as a Director since that time. Mr. Gross served as President from March 1996 to March 2000. Prior to Idealab, Mr. Gross started Solar Devices, a firm which sold plans and kits for solar energy products and he patented a new loudspeaker design and formed GNP Loudspeakers, Inc.
After graduating from California Institute of Technology, Mr. Gross started GNP Development, Inc., which made a natural language product for Lotus 1-2-3 called HAL. In 1985, Lotus Development Corporation acquired GNP. From February 1986 to March 1991, he was a software engineer at Lotus Development. In 1991, Mr. Gross started Knowledge Adventure, an educational software publisher that was eventually sold to Havas, which is owned by Vivendi Universal.
Mr. Gross serves on the boards of directors of numerous companies and is also a member of the Board of Trustees of California Institute of Technology and the Art Center College of Design. Mr. Gross received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California Institute of Technology.