Pre-teen bliss is usually defined by Friday-night roller rink excursions and sneaking into R-rated movies. But by his wonder years, Chris Morrison, now 30, had the future at his fingertips.
Spending his weekends with a borrowed school computer (that is, until his mom bought him an Apple), Morrison quickly declared hacking a favorite pastime, along with programming and writing software--all self-taught skills.
By 15, Morrison was getting paid for teaching clients how to use the then-new technology. As for his should've-been junior year, he says, "[High school] wasn't the most exciting place to be, so I ended up `sick' a lot." To continue working, Morrison opted for a home tutor and limited classes to one day a week. Spoiled, he repeated the arrangement his senior year but didn't graduate due to the lack of a few credits.
But that wasn't the demise of Morrison's technological career. Today, he co-owns 10-year-old, 41-employee-strong PLP Digital Systems in Scottsdale, Arizona--an international company that'll make nearly $10 million this year by providing software-based integrated document control and reprographic systems to such clients as architectural and engineering firms, government agencies and utility companies (to name a few).
Morrison designed software for the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction at age 17 and used his earnings to develop and sell his own products, which included a handheld time accounting system. The car-auction circuit eventually led him to Michael Addison, now his partner, who supplied PLP Digital Systems with the $15,000 it needed in start-up cash.
As for venturing out into "the real world" sans diploma, Morrison says, "If you can support yourself and are comfortable with potentially making no money, it's worth a try. You can always go back to school."