There Ought To Be A Law

Warning! Serial Entrepreneur At Large

Name: Clarence Wooten Jr.

Companies started so far: 4

Age: 28

Height: 6'3"

Weight: 225 lbs.

Hair color/eye color: black/dark brown

Distinguishing characteristic: Carries 10 extra pounds from too many power lunches

Last seen: Fighting traffic on the DC beltway en route to yet another meeting

Like many entrepreneurs, Wooten doesn't particularly want to be a serial entrepreneur. He thinks he's found his dream. ImageCafé.com is it.

Not that his previous three companies were a wash. The Baltimore resident began Envision Designs, an architectural visualization company, when he was studying at Johns Hopkins University in 1991. The company created 3-D animated models of architectural plans and was marketed to small architectural firms, which couldn't afford him, so Wooten soon dissolved his company.

Next, he co-founded, with a friend, Soft Ideas Corp. in Columbia, Maryland, in 1995, which developed one database software application. After the initial phase, Wooten bowed out and Soft Ideas was dissolved a year later.

From 1994 to 1999, Wooten ran Metamorphis Studios, a multimedia and Web design company, with silentco-founder Andre Forde. He ultimately sold it for $20,000 and, with Forde, created ImageCafé.com. A better version of the previous company, according to Wooten, ImageCafé.com is a superstore of professionally designed Web sites aimed at entrepreneurs--$300 gets a consumer a Web site they can fill in with their company's own text and links.

Wooten says he isn't a serial entrepreneur just because he likes starting new companies, but because his philosophy is about constantly searching for the right idea at the right time.

Leo B. Helzel, a former serial entrepreneur who co-founded Haas School's entrepreneurship program at University of California, Berkeley, 30 years ago, echoes Wooten's sentiment: "Most entrepreneurial students are looking for the one deal that's their dream. But if it's a failure, they'll be onto something else. As far as going back to work for Procter & Gamble or Citibank, that's not in their vocabulary."

Wooten, whose company has 17 employees and expects millions in sales this year, may continue his serial career. "I'm an entrepreneur," he says. "I don't know if I'm going to like running a public company."

Weeks after that comment, Wooten got the chance to find out if he'll enjoy running, or almost running, a large corporation when he sold ImageCafé.com to Network Solutions Inc., a domain name registrar in Herndon, Virginia, in November 1999 and took on duties as vice president. The serial entrepreneur bug strikes again.

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: There Ought To Be A Law.

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