From the January 2001 issue of Startups

With a resume boasting eight years of professional experience, Maria Nilva has the maturity of a world-renowned businesswoman. But don't be fooled-the 24-year-old CEO of Campbell, California-based Creative Science Systems Inc., a software infrastructure provider for companies of all sizes, takes a comedic approach to life, and she's as grounded as one can be in her shoes.

As proof, Nilva cites times like when she closed negotiations for an investment deal while working as an economist in London. A few days later, she rammed into the person with whom she negotiated while rollerblading to work. Experiences like this help keep her down to earth (that time, literally). As an economist, Nilva noticed trends sparking in different markets and realized the lack of innovation in them. She knew that between herself and her two partners, Jacob Dreyband and Leonid Nilva, friends from her native Soviet Union, they'd have the expertise to invent great new technology. This network proved to increase efficiency for businesses and enable them to network with others.

In 1997, the group started Creative Science Systems in Silicon Valley and has thus far self-financed its way to the top. And aside from the press positively recognizing her ideas, Nilva is proud the 100-employee company profited after only its second month and is poised to break $3 million for 2000.

Having celebrated Creative Science's third birthday last October, Nilva expects competition soon. But with "exponential" sales as proof, she feels pretty safe.

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