Brent Kleinheksel, 28, founder and former CEO of PlanetPortal, brought similar skills with him when he left IBM. The Durham, North Carolina, start-up provides print-to-Web data servicing solutions with mapping services and content tailoring.
Before starting PlanetPortal, Kleinheksel worked at Sun Microsystems in Phoenix for nearly three years and at IBM for about a year, where he played a key role in building brand recognition for the IBM ThinkPad i Series.
Kleinheksel says he chose to work at IBM because of the outstanding reputation of its ThinkPad marketing department. He actually got the idea for PlanetPortal after attending a series of IBM business meetings in Silicon Valley focused on finding a hardware solution to help customers navigate the Web more easily.
Kleinheksel says he can't imagine being successful without having worked at a large firm first. "That's not to say it's the only way to do it," he says, "but if you don't get experience first, your investors, employees and everyone else will pay for your learning curve."