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Solo Mission

Paul Stannard used to make software for other companies. When he turned 40, he decided to make the profits his own.


Vital Stats: Paul Stannard, 48, founder and CEO of SmartDraw.com in San Diego

Company: Manufacturer of diagramming software since 1994

2001 Sales: $3 million (and "very profitable")


"When we were raising money to start our [first] company, we had to explain to investors what 'software' was."

History Repeats Itself: "I founded a software company in about 1982, and there was the same boom-bust cycle [as in the late '90s]. By 1985, 'software' in a company name was guaranteed to make any investor spit on the floor. We didn't go out of business, but finally took our marbles and went home in the late '80s."

The Big "Four-Oh": "I decided to get back into the game on my 40th birthday. I was making a good living writing software for all sorts of people that published it [like Microsoft], but I got the itch to do something different, and said, 'You know, Stannard, you're 40--you better get off your butt.' "

SmartDraw vs. Microsoft's Visio?: "I don't see us going head-to-head with Visio. Mack trucks and Ford pickups both go after people who want to move something, but do they really compete? The fact is, most people don't need a Mack truck; they need something to easily draw a simple diagram. There are a hundred times as many people in that category, so we address those people. We are quite happy to coexist with Visio and let them have total domination of their little segment while we attempt to dominate the other 95 percent."

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This article was originally published in the March 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Solo Mission.

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