Friday, March 07, 2008

Chess-playing IT billionaires

Pestaño: Chess-playing IT billionaires
By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

PROBABLY the strongest chess-playing billionaire is Joop von Oosterom, the legendary sponsor of one of the most prestigious tournaments in the chess calendar, Melody Amber.

I “guesstimate” Joop‘s playing strength about 2400 or even higher and his forte is correspondence chess where he is the 18th and 21st World Correspondence Champion. He founded the IT company Volmac and is estimated to be worth 1 billion euros.

Many people do not know it, but a lot of wealth in Silicon Valley is built by very strong chess players, which is not surprising.

Paul Allen is an avid chess player and co-founder of Microsoft together with another chess player, Bill Gates (whom I featured previously to be worth $56 billion) and estimated by Forbes to be worth $28 billion. Microsoft is in the limelight lately with an offer to buyout Yahoo for $41.7 billion.

He has investments in Vulcan Inc., Charter Communications, Digeo etc. and owns the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA.

He plays regular chess with his college roommate, Bert Kolde, the chief operating officer of Digeo.

Lawrence Elison is the co-founder and CEO of Oracle, a major enterprise software company. His net worth is estimated at $26 billion. Oracle is the world’s second largest software company after Microsoft.

He used to play tournament chess and says he puts a lot of time on his game.

Roelof Botha is a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital focusing on services and software investments. Prior to that, he was chief financial officer of PayPal (e-bay) and funded YouTube before it was sold to Google for $1.65 billion. He also sits on the board of Meebo and Xoom. He plays master level chess.

Peter Andreas Thiel is a hedge fund manager, and venture capitalist. With Max Levchin, he co-founded PayPal and was its CEO. He currently serves as president of Clarium Capital Management LLC, a global macro hedge fund with nearly $3 billion under management.He also sits on the company’s Board of Directors of Facebook. He was at one time a promising chess player.

Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar was fascinated by chess and spent some time studying the game . One of the first web-based programs he wrote was chess-by-mail service. Ebay is an online auction and shopping website where people can buy and sell goods and services worldwide.

Michel Birch is co-founder and chief CEO of the mega social network Bebo. He hosts the “Chess 2.0” Silicon Valley Chess Club at the Bebo office in San Francisco. Bebo, like MySpace, provides its more than 23 million users with a kind of prosthetic personality extension: a profile page where they can post diary entries, photographs, music, homemade video etc.

The well-hyped search company Powerset is headed by co-founder and CEO Barney Pell who happens to be a very strong chess player. Powerset is a natural language search engine trying to challenge Google.

David Cowan of Bessemer Ventures is a self-admitted “chess nerd” who joined Bessemer Venture Partners in 1992. He has since made 45 early-stage investments for Bessemer, including 19 that have gone public, and 18 that have been acquired by public companies. The first Forbes Midas List ranked David among the world’s top 10 venture investors. He says that he is addicted to Yahoo chess.

Auren Hoffman has already built and sold several companies in Silicon Valley and is now working on his fourth, RapLeaf, where he is founder and CEO. Among his pastimes are football and chess.

Cepca news. Joe Atillo, tournament director of the club, has announced that our March competition will be on March 16 at Deep Blue SM starting at 1 p.m.

Kiddies and Juniors will be on March 23 same time and venue.


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