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Snapshot 09/04

Jeff Jonas, 40, founder of SRD in Las Vegas

Description: A company specializing in the large-scale identification of individuals and their relationships with others

Startup: $0 in 1984

2004 Projected Sales: Almost $20 million

Back Seat Dealer: At the age of 19, Jeff Jonas was a high school dropout, lived out of his car and was more than $100,000 in debt. Jonas stopped attending school when his personal knowledge of computers surpassed high school level. His ingenuity put him in charge of his own team of computer consulting subcontractors, but his lack of business experience caused his downfall and left him in debt. But from the back seat of his car, ideas were brewing, deals were made, and his business was born.

Upholding The Constitution: Initially, SRD developed custom software programs that did everything from tracking grants for a philanthropic organization to weeding out fraudulent customers for Las Vegas casinos. SRD still serves a wide range of companies, but since 9/11, Jonas' fastest-growing customer segment has been the government. He's switched the focus of SRD to producing patent-pending technologies and software products. Jonas is in high demand for devising ways to address issues of national concern while protecting people's privacy. And he currently spends 30 percent of his time in Washington, DC, think tanks, developing technologies such as ANNA, which uncovers hidden relationships between people and protects privacy by enabling companies to share information anonymously. Explains Jonas, "We have to respond [to threats] in a way that means we don't unravel the Constitution."

Mad Scientist: Three years ago, Jonas hired a CEO and gladly demoted himself to chief scientist. "To make the company valuable, it needed people who cared about how to create value," says Jonas. "I care about inventing things that are useful, so I'm a perfect tool for a company. But I shouldn't really run [one]."

This story appears in the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »