James H. Clark
Dr. James H. Clark (born 1944) is a prolific entrepreneur and former computer scientist. He founded several notable Silicon Valley technology companies, including Silicon Graphics, Inc., Netscape Communications Corporation, and Healtheon. His research work in computer graphics led to the development of systems for fast rendering of computer images. He is also a devoted sailor, owner of high-tech sailboats that he has helped to design.
Clark was born in Plainview, Texas and endured a difficult childhood. He dropped out of high school after being suspended, and spent four years in the Navy. Clark began taking night courses at Tulane University's University College, where despite his lack of a high school diploma, he was able to earn enough credits to be admitted to the University of New Orleans. There, Clark earned a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in physics, and then a PhD in computer science from the University of Utah in 1974. Clark served as an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 1974 to 1978, and then as an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University from 1979 to 1982.
Clark's research work concerned geometry pipelines, specialized software or hardware that accelerates the display of three dimensional images. The zenith of his group's advancements was the Geometry Engine, an early technology for rendering highly graphical computer images he developed in 1979 with his students at Stanford.
In 1982, Jim Clark and Abbey Silverstone along with several Stanford graduate students formed Silicon Graphics, Inc. The earliest Silicon Graphics graphical workstations were mainly terminals, but soon newer models were stand-alone graphical UNIX workstations with very fast graphics rendering hardware.
During the mid-1980s, Silicon Graphics bought chipmaker MIPS, Inc. and used the MIPS CPU as the foundation of their newest workstations, replacing the Motorola 68000. Soon, Silicon Graphics became the world leader in the production of Hollywood movie special effects and 3-D imaging. Silicon Graphics did not rely on high sales as they could charge more for their special high-end hardware and special graphics software.
However, by the early 1990s, Clark had a falling out with Silicon Graphics management and got the itch to start a completely new and different enterprise. In 1994, Clark and Marc Andreessen, the co-creator of the World Wide Web browser Mosaic, founded Netscape. The founding of Netscape was a pivotal point that helped launch the Internet IPO boom on Wall Street during the mid to late 1990s, and Clark reaped the financial benefits of the Internet boom. Just as the Internet boom was about to completely bust, Clark got the urge to move on again.
In 1998, Jim Clark came up with the idea of streamlining the insurance hassles and paperwork associated with the healthcare industry. He came up with the idea of a company that would help make access to more efficient healthcare easier. Although his original idea was a bit too ambitious, it did lead some inroads in administrative streamlining of medical records technology, but an Atlanta, Georgia startup company, WebMD, was already making inroads toward the same goal. Knowing that WebMD had financial backing from Microsoft, Clark decided to merge his newest startup, Healtheon, with the original WebMD to form the current WebMD Corporation. WebMD also provides a vast resource of online, reliable health information on the Internet.
In 1999, Clark launched myCFO - a company to help wealthy individuals manage their fortunes. This was sold to Harris Bank in late 2002 for a third of the initial investment.
Clark was chairman and financial backer of network security startup company Neoteris, founded in 2000, which was acquired by NetScreen in 2003 and subsequently by Juniper Networks.
Clark was a director and investor in biotechnology company DNA Sciences, founded in 1998, which went bankrupt and was acquired by Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2003.
In the Fall of 2005 Clark, along with David Filo of Yahoo!, each donated $30 million to Tulane University for merit based scholarships to provide education to deserving students regardless of financial situation.
Jim Clark was the main subject of the 1999 bestseller The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by US author Michael Lewis. ISBN 0-340-76699-9
The current companies that Jim Clark is involved with:
- Chairman of Shutterfly
- On the Board for MyCFO.com
- Hyperion, 47.5m sloop rigged sailing yacht with 59m carbon fibre mast.
- Athena, 90m classic 3-masted gaff aluminium schooner.