[See my 14-company start-up portfolio…]
I started this blog for high school and college students because:
- Young people regularly ask me for advice.
- I joined ~800-person Microsoft in 6/1985, and helped it to grow to over 30K people by the time I left in 8/1999. I interviewed ~500 people and hired ~120 people, and worked on OS/2, MS-DOS 6.0 and 6.2, Windows 95, and more. [My Github has a few programs I wrote for Win32 and OS/2. My MasterMind program from 1995 still runs on Windows 10!]
- I started and led the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft through the release of IE 3.0 (1994-1996). (Listen to this 11/2014 Internet History Podcast, to hear me discuss my experiences developing IE.)
- I predicted the rise of the Internet and the decline of Windows in my May, 1995, memo The Web is the Next Platform. On December 12, 1995, I placed my first order on Amazon.com, making me customer number 10,272.
- In 1998, I described my vision for the The Window Service, 22 years before the 2020 SARS2 pandemic brought a subset of this vision to prominence in Slack and Microsoft Teams.
- In my March 2003 memo Connecting Students to Northwestern Forever, I describe a college social networking site 10 months before Mark Zuckerberg started www.thefacebook.com (in January, 2004).
- I started the online educational software company DreamBox Learning in 2006 and sold it in 2010 (to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings), retaining a small economic interest. The Rise Fund (by TPG) purchased DreamBox Learning in 2018. For the 2020-2021 school year, DreamBox delivered online K-8 math lessons to more than 5M students and 200K teachers in North America.
- My work at Microsoft and DreamBox Learning lead to 21 granted patents.
- My wife Lisa and I are active “angel” investors and advisers. We have invested in 19 different companies since 2003, and we have 14 current investments in biotechnology, hardware, software, and space launch. Our first two investments were disasters. DreamBox Learning gave us a slight return. And we had nice exits in Azuqua and AppSheet. I have been a formal adviser to several different start-ups, and recently I’ve been meeting with 80-100 start-ups/year. See gory details at My Start-up Portfolio.
- I served 20 yeas on the Northwestern University board of trustees (1998-2018). During that span, I spent ~5 weeks a year in Evanston and Chicago, meeting with students, faculty, staff and alumni in addition to my board duties. I served on these board committees: Northwestern Medicine (overseeing our Feinberg School of Medicine and our relationship with Northwestern Memorial Healthcare), Educational Properties (buildings and grounds), Budget/Finance, Information Technology, and Alumni Relations and Development. I also served on the EECS Department advisory board (on and off between 1989-2018) and the NUvention Web+Media (entrepreneurship course) advisory board (2010-2018).
- I earned BS degrees in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics in 1982, and an MS degree in Computer Science in 1985, all from Northwestern University.
- My wife Lisa and I became philanthropists in 1997 (see Wissner-Slivka Foundation) and some of our more recent grants have been focused on the life sciences, including Project Violet at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Institute for Protein Design (IPD) at the University of Washington. I chaired the IPD Campaign Council 2015-2020.
- See my LinkedIn profile for more details.
You can watch my May 2014 commencement address in Kyrgyzstan to learn about the first 25 years of my life (embroidery, knitting, sewing, cooking, wood shop, metal shop, typing, drafting, offset press printing, journalism, constitutional law, computer programming, model rockets, various flunky jobs, etc.)
And here is the 1993 episode 1149 (26m31s) of the PBS show Computer Chronicles, where Tony Audino and I demonstrate the new features of MS-DOS 6.2 to host Stewart Cheifet. (Tony and I show up at 5m37s.) There is also brief coverage of “DOS 7” (which never shipped), along with screen time for Mike Dryfoos and Richard Jernigan.
I got my first digital camera in 1997 and I have captured >400K images since then.
You can view a few of my photographs in my SmugMug portfolio.
I have visited 54 countries outside of the USA (47 since 2014): Argentina (2019), Australia (2020), Austria (2018), Barbados (2016), Belgium (2017), Bhutan (2015), Botswana (2015), Brazil (2018) , Burma (2015), Cambodia (2015), Canada (2017), Chile (2019), China (2017), Costa Rica (2017), Czechia (2017), Denmark (2008), Ecuador (2016), Finland (2019), France (2018), Germany (2019), Guatemala (2019), Hong Kong (2014), Iceland (2014), India (2016), Ireland (2009), Israel (2014), Italy (2017), Japan (2014), Kazakhstan (2014), South Korea (2015), Kenya (2022), Kyrgyzstan (2014), Laos (2015), México (2021), Morocco (2019), Netherlands (2017), New Zealand (2003), Panama (2017), Peru (2018), Portugal (2019), Qatar (2017), Romania (2018), Saint Lucia (2016), South Africa (2019), Spain (2016), Sweden (2019), Switzerland (2013), Tanzania (2017), Thailand (2015), United Arab Emirates (2012), United Kingdom (2018), Vietnam (2015), Zambia (2015), and Zimbabwe (2015) .