Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

CLARK, JIM (b. 1944)

Once a high school dropout in Plainview, Texas, James H. Clark became a university professor, then a business entrepreneur who founded three billion-dollar companies: Silicon Graphics Inc., Netscape Communications Corp., and Healtheon Corp., now Healtheon/ Web MD. He is still involved in the latter enterprise, which used the Internet to revolutionize the handling of medical records. In addition, he serves as chairman of MYCFO, an Internetbased money-management firm; Shutterfly .com, a Web site for digital photo hobbyists; and SmartPipes, Inc., a business networking company. He serves on the board of directors of two genetics companies, DNAsciences and Kiva Genetics, and is an investor in Shockwave. com, an entertainment site. His customary method of operation is to see an emerging trend, form a company to take advantage of it, then turn its operation over to management professionals.

Jim Clark was born in Plainview, Texas, on March 23, 1944. His mother worked in a doctor's office; his father did odd jobs and had a drinking problem and a violent temper. His parents divorced when he was fourteen, leaving his mother to support the family, which included Jim's brother and sister, on $225 a month. Clark attended Plainview High School but was bored. He was suspended in his junior year for talking back to a teacher. He never returned. Instead, he joined the navy. After completing his four-year hitch, Clark passed his high school equivalency test and entered college. By 1971 he had received a master's degree in physics from the University of New Orleans, and in 1974 he earned a doctorate in computer science at the University of Utah.

By age thirty-six, he was an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, working in the computer systems laboratory. While in this post, he invented a breakthrough integrated-circuit chip that made possible new developments in three-dimensional graphics. To build upon this invention, he started Silicon Graphics in 1981 and left Stanford. Unfortunately for Clark, the venture capitalist who had helped fund the new company ended up controlling it. Disillusioned and not much richer, Clark next founded Netscape Communications to develop and market an innovative Internet browser created by programmer Marc Andreesen. This time Clark made sure he retained control. When Netscape merged into America Online, he left that association with a personal take of $1.5 billion. This nest egg gave him the operating capital to start his subsequent successful businesses.

Marvin Bryan Palm Spring, California

Bryan, Marvin. "How to Become a Billionaire: Netscape Founder Jim Clark Tells All." Profit Magazine (September 1999): 50–54.

Clark, Jim. Netscape Time. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

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