[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
 February 1, 1998

Many IBMers moved on to form significant companies in county

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in an ongoing series of stories tracing the family tree of Boulder County’s entrepreneurial marketplace.

BOULDER — Given its tradition of loyalty and paternalism, until the rash of layoffs and “golden parachutes” of the early 1990s, IBM spin-offs were nearly unheard of.

Storage Technology Corp. is one very high-profile exception.

Founded in 1969 by four young visionaries from IBM, it began the trend of storage device firms that now dot the Front Range.

In August 1969, in rented space above the now-defunct Aristocrat Steak House, Jesse Aweida, Zoltan Herger, Tom Kavanaugh and Juan Rodriguez hatched a plan to design and build better data storage systems for IBM mainframes. With $250,000 in venture funds, StorageTek’s first product, the 2450/2470, a nine-track computer tape drive, shipped in 1970, 14 months after start-up, four months ahead of schedule.

By 1981, StorageTek occupied a half-million square feet of what grew to 2 million square feet at the Louisville campus, employed 13,000 people worldwide, and had revenues of $603 million.

Three years later, however, the company crashed, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. New management led StorageTek to emerge from Chapter 11 in 1987, the biggest turnaround in computer history.

A major layoff in 1995 reduced employees worldwide to 8,400, but with 3,400 people in Colorado, StorageTek remains one of the largest private employers in Boulder County And, as if going full-circle, the company is once again headed by a former IBMer, David Weiss.

When John Akers was in charge of IBM, selling off divisions became the order of the day. In 1991, the information products division was spun off as a totally independent company, Lexmark International Inc.

The company’s Lexington, Ky., headquarters began life in 1956 as an IBM typewriter factory. Although Lexmark primarily makes laser, ink-jet and dot-matrix printers and printing supplies, “we still make a few of what passes as a typewriter h ere,” says spokesman Jim Joseph. The WheelWriter is still useful for filling out multi-part forms on paper. “It’s a shrinking market and we own the lion’s share,” Joseph says.

Most of Lexmark’s 5,000 U.S. employees work in Lexington and in sales offices around the country, but a few hundred work at the Boulder plant — located on the IBM campus — doing research and development and producing laser toner. Some 2,500 are employed internationally in manufacturing and sales.

Another area computer visionary, former IBM worker Larry Buckley, decided to take an early retirement in 1991. Two years later, he founded Peripherals Unlimited Inc. The Longmont-based company is an international reseller of computer hardware and software products.

In 1996, Buckley bought Future Vision International, a Hong Kong company that manufactures computer memory RAM and other memory modules.

Buckley says his experience at IBM led him in a particular direction.

“In the last 10 years of my career at IBM I got involved in product planning. It opened up a new horizon to look at the different aspects of business and gave me a broad spectrum of business knowledge,” Buckley says.

Buckley took that knowledge and now sells personal computer components — mass storage devices, add-on cards, disk drives, CD-ROM drives, etc. — to the European marketplace.

With a nine-member worldwide work force, the privately held company’s 1997 sales were $28 million.

John Mozeliak’s 1992 golden parachute made it possible for him to form Ideas Unlimited Inc. The former IBM director of education had been experimenting with groupware, then a nearly unheard-of software technology.

“I thought this was a very effective way to deal with business meetings and generate ideas and capture thoughts in an anonymous fashion that was creative and productive,” Mozeliak says. “Since at that time IBM was going through the downsizing perspective I didn’t think I could sell the idea to IBM.”

Thus Mozeliak and two other IBMers, Bob Armstrong and Jim Young, set out to form a management consulting firm that uses groupware both internally and with its clients. Ideas Unlimited works with companies to address specific opportunitie s and situations, Mozeliak says. “We do gap analysis’ — we take you from where you are, to where you think you ought to be to where reality is. We mostly deal with companies that want to maintain a high level of growth, but if you’re in trouble we’ll also help.”

Lou Della Cava is one of those rare birds who left IBM of his own accord long before it became fashionable. After 21 years of “good career and income,” the former product manager resigned in 1984 to pursue other interests. He had been dabbling in real estate and found that his sideline “was generating more income and time requirements,” he says.

At the same time, he also bought Arrow Office Equipment. Although he sold controlling interest to two employees in 1995, Della Cava still operates his real estate development company, LJD Enterprises, from an office in the Arrow store.

Some of Della Cava’s commercial ventures include a partnership with Steven Tebo that operates Buffalo Village shopping center, the former Olympic Bowl (soon to be CompUSA), and the Christopher Plaza building in Louisville. He’s also involved in residential projects, including Clay Commons Court at Baseline Road and Inca Parkway, and subdivisions in Louisville, Broomfield, Longmont, Boulder, and Boulder County.

Students at the University of Colorado’s Center for Entrepreneurship are compiling the Boulder County Genealogy Study. To submit information for their study or to ask questions, contact Heidi Neck at 492-4169 or e-mail to Heidi.Neck@colorado.edu.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in an ongoing series of stories tracing the family tree of Boulder County’s entrepreneurial marketplace.

BOULDER — Given its tradition of loyalty and paternalism, until the rash of layoffs and “golden parachutes” of the early 1990s, IBM spin-offs were nearly unheard of.

Storage Technology Corp. is one very high-profile exception.

Founded in 1969 by four young visionaries from IBM, it began the trend of storage device firms that now dot the Front Range.

In August 1969, in rented space above the now-defunct…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]