December 2008 (16.12) issue
By Daniel Roth
In July 1993, Tom Siebel launched Siebel Systems, which made software for managing corporate sales staffs. The US economy was faltering, and the market for his product was new and untested. In other words, the timing couldn't have been better.
The tech veteran picked up some inexpensive, underworked software engineers, secured office space in run-down East Palo Alto—at 11 cents a square foot—and bought office equipment at auctions held by the companies failing all around him. His own desk was a folding table. By the time he had his first release ready in 1995, he had spent less than $1 million on overhead and had an offering that none of the other major software companies could challenge. Investors made Siebel's June 1996 IPO—debuting just as the stock market was picking up steam—one of the year's top performers. Tom Siebel soon became one of the richest people in the US. "It was a great way to start a company," he says. (more)