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WITI Women | Esther Dyson

Esther DysonEsther Dyson
EDventure Holdings, Inc.

Esther Dyson has devoted her life to discovering the inevitable and promoting the possible. As an investor/commentator, she focuses on emerging technologies (groupware, artificial intelligence, the Internet, wireless applications), emerging markets (Eastern Europe) and emerging companies (ComputerLand Poland; Medscape; Uproar.com; Orchestream; TrustWorks; Brunswick Direct; NewspaperDirect; IBS of Russia; NetBeans of Prague, just sold to Sun Microsystems; and others you will someday hear of). In 1994, she was one of the first to explore the impact of the Net on intellectual property (among other things, why Bill Gates now plans to offer software as an online service). In 1997, she published a book on the impact of the Net on individuals' lives, "Release 2.0: A design for living in the digital age."

In addition, she donates time and money as a trustee to emerging organizations (the Santa Fe Institute, the EastWest Institute, the Eurasia Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation). And finally, as chairman, she leads ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a new international agency charged with setting policy for the Internet's core infrastructure (technical standards and the Domain Name System) independent of government control.

After graduating from Harvard in economics, Dyson began her serious career in 1974 as a fact-checker for Forbes and quickly rose to reporter. In 1977 she joined New Court Securities as "the research department," following Federal Express and other start-ups. After a stint at Oppenheimer covering software companies, she moved to Rosen Research and in 1983 bought the company from her employer Ben Rosen, chairman of Compaq. Renamed EDventure Holdings, the company publishes the monthly computer-industry newsletter Release 1.0 and holds two annual conferences, PC Forum in the US and the High-Tech Forum in Europe. With eight people, EDventure has been the vehicle for Dyson's adventures ever since. (Asked about her greatest achievement, she says: "I hope I haven't done it yet!")

The daughter of an English physicist and a Swiss mathematician, Dyson started traveling in Eastern Europe in 1989 and eventually helped to fill the small but vital vacuum at the intersection of Eastern Europe, high-tech and venture capital. Her portfolio now includes four IT companies in Russia and eight start-ups from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as many others in northern Europe and the United States. Also, she sits on the advisory board of Internet Capital Group, advising a collection of leading business-to-business start-ups. She sums up: "Basically, at 48, I'm retired. All I do is what I want to do."

Esther Dyson answers these questions:
1. What was your first job in technology?
2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
6. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?

On the lighter side:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
3. If you were to choose a different profession, what would it be?
4. What is your definition of success?

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