Techies take a corporate leap

In 1985, Eid Eid left his position at a seismography technology house to follow his dream. He had a stunning entrepreneurial idea in the area of imaging technology: build an imaging computer for “before” and “after” pictures, a platform for hairstylists and dentists to show customers the end result of styling or dental work before the operation began.

Even though the entrepreneur figured his brainchild would change the way people worked and would have lasting effects on the high-tech industry, things unfortunately didn’t turn out exactly as planned.

Eid gathered a business map, technology blueprints, investment capital and plenty of faith before embarking on his entrepreneurial adventure, dubbed Pixelar Imaging Systems Corp. The new firm had a money-making arm in the shape of a consultancy, and, according to the plan, profits from that offshoot would fund Pixelar’s true mandate: to create the picture-perfect imaging platform.

Things were good in the beginning. But, as Eid recalled during a recent interview with Network World Canada, by year three the venture was in trouble.

“We made money the first two years, but not having the financial wisdom, we invested all of our profits into developing our product, which is the wrong way to do it,” he said. “Eventually we ran out of money and we couldn’t sustain the consulting business. We closed down.”

Eid took his tech know-how to Corel Corp. in 1989, where he rose through the ranks. By 1997 he was president of Corel Computer Corp., a subsidiary bent on discovering a market sweet spot for Linux and other open-source operating systems.

But for all his success at Corel, Eid’s dream – the need to see his own ideas through from thought to revenue – never died. Later that year, he left Corel to pursue again his role as a self-made boss. “It was just an itch,” he said.

It’s an itch that the networking and IT sectors are famous for. In industries where success is so closely tied to innovation and where fertile engineering minds abound, it’s not hard to see why so many people like Eid are making the leap from employee to employer.

This itch seems to be more of a contagious rash, judging by Alan Kearns’ words. Kearns operates TalentLab Inc., an Ottawa-based recruitment company for high-tech types. Kearns knows Eid’s kind and, despite the current state of the industry – or perhaps because of it – believes that even more technology employees will start their own companies.

“The whole mindset now is, (job) security is not a function of the size of a company. So if I have an idea, why not just take the risk?”

Why not? Eid has a list of reasons: engineers don’t speak business language; newbies could lose more money than they imagine; investors are hard to come by; young entrepreneurs are too green to appreciate the perils of starting a business, et cetera.

Still, none of the above stopped Eid, who now runs OEone Corp. It’s a computer company whose product – a low-cost desktop device sporting a TV tuner, an integrated design