Lipinski, Andreessen good choices for boards

January 19, 2004


Watch for Democratic U.S. Rep. William Lipinski to join the Illinois Coalition board today as Coalition Chairman Sam Skinner strives to balance his board by appointing prominent Democrats. Lipinski, an 11-term congressman, serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Smart move by Skinner.

More boards

Speaking of boards, nice to see Internet browser pioneer and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen joining Chicago-based Orbitz's board. Andreessen grew up in Wisconsin and learned his computer craft at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Clever of Orbitz CEO Jeffrey Katz to snag Andreessen.

"Marc will lend a useful eye to our technology direction," Katz says. "Tech is why we're successful. It's not that Orbitz was first in creating the technology, it's that we did things better in applying the technology."

Andreessen may find some old friends when he visits Orbitz's offices at 200 S. Wacker. "We have people here who were students at the U. of I. in the early days of Mosaic," Katz says.

Despite his youth, Andreessen, 32, brings experience to the board. "He's been through two IPOs, the browser wars with Microsoft, and he worked with AOL TimeWarner. Marc has a great understanding of what young companies face," Katz says.

Katz likes Chicago and plans to keep Orbitz here. When the board hired him in 2000, Katz had the green light to move the firm. Katz elected to commute rather than relocate. He didn't want to disrupt the Orbitz technology team, and he saw an opportunity to recruit top-flight finance and marketing expertise in Chicago.

"When we hired our current chief technology officer from eBay, he chose to move here," Katz says. "The right opportunity can draw people to Chicago."

Katz is one of our town's emerging technology leaders. He's guided his company through a successful IPO that raised $316.7 million. He plans to use the cash "to make acquisitions, tackle new technology, and accelerate the growth of the business."

Are we in Internet bubble version 2.0? "Things have changed," he says. "Our model had to be about profitability, not growth. This is a profitable, cash-generating business."

Siebel Scholars

Five graduate students from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management got $25,000 scholarships from Tom Siebel, CEO of Siebel Systems: Allison Barmann, Arlindo Eira Filho, Harsha Misra, Brian Myers and Edwin Van Dusen.

Siebel started the Scholars program in 2000 to recognize academic achievers and universities that make great contributions to technology, industry and society. Northwestern was honored along with traditional tech leaders Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

"The program is an effort to recognize and contribute to the careers of young, bright, high-energy scholars, who will go on to make great professional achievements," Siebel says.

Should kids in Chicago's neighborhoods prepare for jobs in technology? "Twenty years from now, we will look back and see that we have just scratched the surface of the opportunity," Siebel says.

Where to start?

Sandee Kastrul, co-founder of i.c. stars, runs an all day teach-in today for 200 supporters. The program honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. i.c. stars provides training and internships for Chicago's minority youth.

Says Kastrul, "The spirit of Dr. King speaks to our mission. Our goal is to produce 1,000 community leaders and change agents who will use technology to make a difference."

Veteran technology entrepreneur Robert Blackwell Jr. offers guidance. Blackwell, who spent 25 years at IBM and runs his own successful consulting firm, says, "What everyone wants is a well-educated person. The Accentures and IBMs are looking for well-educated people. They will train you in the computer business.

"You've got to read, write and count. Master the fundamental skills that will make you an educated person. Then you can do computers, medicine or law. The key is a first-rate education."

Amen to that, Bob, on this day of remembrance for Dr. King.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago based tech-writer and consultant, and senior vice-president for Hostway Corp., Chicago.


 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners