The Computer Entrepreneurs
Who's Making It Big and How in America's Upstart Industry
By Robert Levering, Michael Katz, Milton Mokowitz 11.1.1984
"We're reasonably candid and low-key and, all the same, ruthless"
BEST-KNOWN VENTURE: John Brockman Associates
OTHER VENTURES: By the Late John Brockman, Afterwords (and other books)
RAISED: Boston, Massachusetts
FATHER'S OCCUPATION: Flower wholesaler
FIRST DOLLAR EARNED: Delivered "Fruit of the Week" to women's colleges
SCHOOLING: B.S., Babson Institute; M.B.A., Columbia University
PERSONAL NET WORTH: "101 percent" of John Brockman Associates
HOME: New York City, New York
FAMILY: One son with his partner, Katinka Matson
PERSONAL TRANSPORTATION: Mercedes 380 SFL
JOHN BROCKMAN ASSOCIATES INC.: The literary agent who put a floppy disk on his logo and panicked staid old Publisher's Row into a buying frenzy.
BEST-KNOWN CLIENTS: PC World, Whole Earth Software Catalog, Lifetree Software, Human Edge Software
YEAR FOUNDED: 1973
HEADQUARTERS: New York City, New York
ANNUAL DEALS: $20 million (1983 estimate)
ANNUAL COMMISSIONS: $3 million (1983 estimate)
OWNERSHIP: Privately owned by founder
I'm not in business to help people. I'm not in business to make friends. I'm in business to make money." The persona John Brockman likes to present to the press (and the press has been very much interested in him lately) is one of relentless cynicism.
"I'm not in love with personal computers; I'm not in love with software: It's a business. We're doing it to make money, and we're making a fortune. When you have an opportunity like this you go flat out. Anyone who doesn't is an idiot."
Brockman earned his place in this book when he went flat out to create a new market—by selling the staid, New York publishers on computer books and software before they even knew what a floppy disk was. As the world's first software agent
Brockman doesn't have to write, design, publish, distribute, or even look at the stuff (which is fortunate because he finds those tasks very boring). What he does for software producers is the same thing he used to do for his literary clients (including the three authors of this book): he picks up the phone and makes deals with publishers. In remuneration for this service, he keeps 15 percent of all proceeds.
By July 1984, John Brockman was making more money each month than he did in his entire first seven years as a literary agent.
So why do we have so much difficulty taking Brockman at face value—isn't he just another entrepreneur out to make as much money as possible? His previous personae have a lot to do with it. He was a first-rate literary agent, an avant-garde philosopher, a producer of multimedia performances, a promoter of experimental films. ■
Published by Dutton, November 1, 1984.