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Building a Fat Startup with a Massive Patent Portfolio: Cleversafe Founder Chris Gladwin (Part 2)

Posted on Thursday, Jul 24th 2014

Sramana: What did you do after Lockheed?

Chris Gladwin: Lockheed was a very good experience because I got to learn what it meant to be a customer of technology products, particularly an enterprise customer. I essentially spent my time evaluating products. Eventually, I felt that I wanted to start building the technology instead of evaluating it.

I switched over to Zenith Data Systems, which had been one of our biggest suppliers. At the time, they were the largest manufacturer of portable PCs in the world. I worked there for about five and a half years. I purposely moved myself through the different functions involved with building technology products. I managed development for a while, followed by product management, and product marketing. I helped with sales as well. I learned all the different things.

In the end, I became responsible for the newest ideas at Zenith Data Systems. One of the ideas that I worked on was wireless tablet computers. We started a division to commercialize those. I was able to spin that out into a new company called Cruise Technologies. I was the CEO of that company as even though I was pretty young, I had the experience of building that business within the larger business.

Sramana: What year was that and what did the company do?

Chris Gladwin: We spun Cruise Technologies out in 1997. At that time, there was a big focus in the industry on network computing. We made wireless network computers. Our business model was to do the design, engineering, and development of the products. We partnered with established technology companies that would sell them. Every wireless networked computer in the market at the time, including those owned by Motorola, IBM, Telos, and others were our products. There was one product on the market that we did not make, we made everything else.

We ended up selling part of that to Motorola. We had some fantastic intellectual property and patents that spun back into Zenith Data Systems, who had subsequently been bought by Packard Bell, which in turn was bought by NEC. They used it for some Japanese products. That happened in 1999.

Sramana: What came next?

Chris Gladwin: I started a company called MusicNow. In some ways, it was similar to Cruise Technology in that we were a core creator of technology and our customers were major companies with big brands and distribution. MusicNow made digital music services. We made download stores, Internet radio services, and Internet music subscription services. We licensed all music and we were the first to do a catalog wide license for digital distribution. We defined the form used in digital music. We built the system that kept track of people playing or downloading music and figuring out who got paid what based on if they were the artist, writer, etc. It was remarkably complex.

Apart from the companies that built their own music service, we powered every music service out there. We had names such as the Best Buy download store Clear Channel and a lot of companies like that. We did not make Apple or Rhapsody’s services. Unfortunately, Apple became the market leader. We sold that business to Circuit City in 2004.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Building a Fat Startup with a Massive Patent Portfolio: Cleversafe Founder Chris Gladwin
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