BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE: JANUARY 8, 2001 ISSUE

The Top 25 Managers -- The Top Entrepeneurs

JoMei Chang, Vitria Technology

In just one year, 48-year-old JoMei Chang has gone from CEO of an obscure software maker to the boss of one of the hottest tech properties in Silicon Valley. Her company, Vitria Technology Inc. (VITR), grew more than 400% in 2000, to an estimated $150 million, and is even eking out a profit.

Vitria is the culmination of years of research for Chang, who moved from Taiwan to the U.S. in 1974 to get a PhD in computer management systems. Vitria makes the software that acts as a bridge for old, hard-to-replace systems to accommodate Internet software. ''They are counting on us,'' Chang says of her clients. There's still work to be done: Wall Street, zeroing in on small tech stocks, has battered Vitria shares recently. But the company seems to have found a niche. Indeed, many of its customers wouldn't have an e-business strategy without Chang's technology.



Mark J. Levin, Millennium Pharmaceuticals

Mark J. Levin and his wife are fixing up a 33-room mansion in Rhode Island. There's also a llama, two peacocks, and nine African sika deer to care for. But those projects are nothing compared to Levin's transformation of tiny biotech startup Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. (MLNM) Levin, 50, plans to use the knowledge contained in the human genome to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry. Millennium, which has five drugs in clinical trials, will market its first, for leukemia, in early 2001. He has raised about $1.8 billion from big drug companies and others. Some of that will no doubt be used to buy up competitors and extend the house that Levin built.



Dan Lauer, Haystack Toys

Dan Lauer, 39, is serious about toys. In 1988, he left a 10-year career in banking to try to sell a line of water-filled dolls he had designed. After some 700 submission letters went unanswered, Lauer raised $250,000 from friends and family to make and distribute the doll himself. His Waterbabies became the second-biggest-selling baby doll ever and made Lauer a millionaire. Last year he launched a new venture, Haystack Toys. It uses the Internet to talk to parents about the kinds of toys they want to buy and then scours the country for great ideas that fit the bill. His first line--including child-size butterfly wings and plush fish--is already selling out at some Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz stores.



Gino Tsai, JD Corp.

When Gino Tsai added a sleek aluminum frame and neon-colored wheels to a 70-year-old toy, he inadvertently created the must-have product of the year: the Razor Scooter. But all the 44-year-old president of JD Corp. wanted was a quick way to negotiate his sprawling bicycle factory floor in Chang Hua, Taiwan. ''My legs are too short, and my walking speed always seems too slow,'' he says. Tsai, a mechanical engineer, was quick to see the potential. In the summer of 1998, he took the scooter to a convention in Chicago. Sharper Image Corp. ordered 4,000 of them. By August, 1999, JD could not keep up with demand. Tsai boosted output to 1 million in November, 2000. Last year, the company more than doubled its 1999 revenue of $40 million. Tsai has designed a battery-operated scooter; a longer, more stable version; and a shorter one for daredevils. But Tsai won't sell them until after the holidays--when he figures the fad might start to fade.



David G. Neeleman, JetBlue Airways

When a newbie airline like JetBlue Airways Corp. can turn a profit and win praise from the legendary Herbert D. Kelleher, who heads up Southwest Airlines, you know it's on to something big.

JetBlue CEO David G. Neeleman, 41, initially raised $128 million--a record for a startup airline. A devout Mormon with nine children, he started flying the low-fare, low-cost carrier out of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport last February. Now, JetBlue is filling more than 80% of its seats, and it turned its first profit in August. No wonder Kelleher is impressed. ''Keep an eye on JetBlue,'' he says. ''That could prove to be a successful operation.'' Maybe even a competitor.



Sunil B. Mittal, Bharti Telecom

Sunil B. Mittal transformed his small bicycle-parts business into a telephone-equipment maker, and now India's premier cellular operator. In 1994, Bharti Telecom Ltd. resisted bidding on government licenses in south India. But by 1999, many rivals had faltered. Mittal spent $225 million for three licenses, spurring consolidation. Impressed, Singapore Telecom paid $400 million for 20% of Bharti. Bharti is growing at 50% a year--and unlike most competitors, makes a profit.



Gururaj Desphande and Daniel E. Smith, Sycamore Networks

You might call them the tech world's dynamic duo. Gururaj Desphande and Daniel E. Smith built Cascade Communications into an early rival of Cisco Systems Inc.--then sold the data-switch company for $3.7 billion in 1997. A year later, they teamed up to build Sycamore Networks Inc. (SCMR), an optical networking pioneer. The two are an odd couple. Desphande, 50 and the chairman, is a visionary from India. Smith, 51 and the CEO, is a Harvard MBA who served on a Navy destroyer. ''People are surprised at how well we work together,'' says Desphande. And how. Sycamore earned $20 million on revenues of $198 million in the year ended July 31. And despite the tech stock rout, which trimmed Sycamore's shares some 85%, the company is still worth a cool $10 billion.





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STORIES:
JoMei Chang, Vitria Technology

Mark J. Levin, Millennium Pharmaceuticals

Dan Lauer, Haystack Toys

Gino Tsai, JD Corp.

David G. Neeleman, JetBlue Airways

Sunil B. Mittal, Bharti Telecom

Gururaj Desphande and Daniel E. Smith, Sycamore Networks


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