To keep this interview appointment and catch a last-minute business flight, Surya Jayaweera had to juggle a cell phone and defensive driving. No problem for this model member of Generation Tech, who handled both tasks with the same skill he's used to steer his company to success.
Growing up, Jayaweera's dreams bounced between scientist and inventor, but age taught him entrepreneurship was the practical route to making his mark. Before getting his engineering degree in May 1996, Jayaweera brainstormed product ideas with business potential. A day at the park with a pile of magazines sparked the winner: An article on two-way pagers catalyzed images of a pager that could access e-mail and the Web.
Two days later, Jayaweera drove to Las Vegas and pitched his idea to Motorola at COMDEX, the major computer and electronics show. After a meeting at company headquarters, he penned a deal: He'd create the software; they'd make the pagers. In 1997, Jayaweera's vision, the Motorola PageWriter, was launched--and his business, WolfeTech Corp., was born.
What started as four people working from an apartment has grown to a payroll 22 strong working in several offices in Claremont, California. Jayaweera's staff: brilliant young people "who'd normally take $80,000 jobs at Microsoft, but instead are working for minimum wage where they can take on high[er] responsibilities," says the 24-year-old entrepreneur.
Although Jayaweera's initial funding involved just $12,000 in savings and credit cards, in mid-1998, connections at his alma mater, Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, led him to angel investors. Today, he frequently turns down buyout offers for his $15 million company. Says Jayaweera, "My goal is to help WolfeTech grow into something really big so we can take this technology as far as it can go."