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Fast Track

A quick look at a software company that quickly became successful

Name and age: Michael Metcalf, 37

Company name and description: Sound Advantage LLC is an Irvine, California, software company that develops and distributes voice user-interface technology for media like e-mail and the Internet.

Starting point: In his garage in 1997, Metcalf wrote a prototype application that he showed to potential investors to raise $1 million via private placements in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the company.

1999 sales: $2 million

2000 sales: $10 million

Gut check: To keep his business afloat for another three months, Metcalf's wife agreed to sell their house to free up $100,000 in equity. She had one caveat: If no offers came within 90 days, they'd pull the house off the market-and he'd look for a job. A broker called with an offer at 11 p.m. on the 90th day and delivered the written offer 25 minutes later. "Helen was absolutely in tears," says Metcalf. They put 3 percent down on a smaller house that cost $1,000 less per month and invested the equity in Sound Advantage. Now the company is valued at $250 million. Says Metcalf, "My wife is ear-to-ear grins."

Cash management: Metcalf traded stock for services, including computers, software, legal services, printing and cabling. That gave him the freedom to move from one cheap subleased office to another every six months until he could afford to pay higher rent in Irvine. "I had a $15,000 credit with the cabling and printer companies," he says, "so I just had them recable and reprint stationery each time."


Freelance writer Chris Sandlund is a former editor of Success and Home Office Computing magazines.

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This article was originally published in the December 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fast Track.

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