Revenge Of The Nerds

Yesterday's computer geeks stake a claim in cyberspace. Guess who's cool now?
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the April 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It wasn't always hip to be computer savvy--as CyberNation's co-founders Matthew D'Andria and Adam Pisoni know all too well. "It's funny," reflects Pisoni, "because when we were younger, you were [considered] a nerd if you were involved with computers. Today, though, you're not--you're actually cool."

Well, so much for perfect timing. But whatever cachet longtime friends D'Andria, 22, and Pisoni, 21, may have lacked as kids, they're making up for it now with their , California, interactive media firm. As award-winning Web site creators, D'Andria and Pisoni guide big-name clients such as Honda Motor Co., Pictures and Capcom Entertainment through the electronic avenues of the . It's a fusion of good, old-fashioned imagination and cutting-edge .

"Every time a new technology comes out, we're expected to know it because the client is going to ask about it," Pisoni says. "So it's a constant process." Not that they strictly limit themselves to a learning curve: "In addition to keeping up with the industry," D'Andria says, "we're trying to be innovators ourselves."

To be innovators in such a rapidly changing industry is obviously no easy task--but the co-founders of CyberNation have a wealth of experience to draw on, their youth notwithstanding. Along with company president and co-owner David Simon,?4, Pisoni maintained his own electronic bulletin board system while growing up. For his part, D'Andria had a personal computer long before they were fashionable.?It seems like forever," says Pisoni, reflecting on his life spent in front of a computer screen.

So how did amateur screen time compute into a full-fledged business? "While we were in college, we saw that the Internet was taking off," Pisoni explains. "And we saw there was a huge need for full-service Internet development companies that did everything from Web site development to Web promotion to programming. That's where it all started." And the momentum kept going as CyberNation moved into its first office in 1996--and Pisoni brought his brother, David, aboard as chief information officer.

Three years after its inception, CyberNation is now a company with more than $1 million in sales--and growth projections of approximately 300 percent for this year. Big numbers? Certainly. But, as Adam Pisoni points out, there's a whole wired world out there. "What we're seeing today is only scratching the surface of how people can be connected around the world," he says. "The possibilities are unlimited--up to the day when everything from your refrigerator to your computer to your telephone answering machine is going to be connected to the Internet."

Cyber Stars

They've been saddled with the rather inauspicious moniker "Generation X," but many of the twenty- and thirtysomethings that comprise the baby bust might better be thought of as "Generation Tech." Oh, sure, the young 'uns who were virtually born with laptop computers in their hands are one day destined to outshine us all in the ways of the wired world. And, yes, many of the grayer-haired Xers are as tech-averse as the even grayer baby boomers. But as the first crop of young adults to navigate the computer age, GenTechies are the ones with their feet on the pedals of the revolution.

Which explains why so many young entrepreneurs are now steering their own high-tech companies. According to research firm IDC/Link, an estimated one in three (or 20,000) high-tech enterprises are launched each year by founders under the age of 30. This month's profile is of one such youth-driven company in the eye of the cyberstorm. Is it difficult to stay at least one step ahead in this digitized era? You bet--especially considering that the so-called "Net Generation" is right on its elders' heels. But, for now, GenTechies are wired for success.

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