But 7th Level's next efforts didn't do quite so well. In March 1997, when the company decided to drop its line of educational titles and focus entirely on games, Grayson left to form his own software firm, The Imagination Station. By the end of that year 7th Level had merged with Pulse Entertainment and left the gaming business entirely. The CD-ROM market eventually collapsed, thanks to both the medium's notorious technical problems and the rise of the Net. Imagination Station, however, continues to provide Internet-based educational materials to elementary schools across the nation.
We don't miss CD-ROMs one bit. But we do miss the parties.
Falls from Grace
Michael Cowpland1985: Founder of Corel
Now: CEO of ZIM, a mobile entertainment firm
Though it began life as Cowpland Research Labs, this small Ottawa-based firm was known simply as Corel in 1989 when it released Draw, one of the first Windows-based graphics programs. Known as much for his flamboyant lifestyle and fondness for sports cars as for his management prowess, Cowpland proceeded to take Corel on one of the wildest rides in the PC business.
Cowpland wasn't content with being the biggest fish in the Windows graphics pond, so in 1996 Corel acquired the WordPerfect Office Suite from Novell. Cowpland vowed to capture half of Microsoft Office's market share, but never really came close. That same year, Corel announced plans to build both its own handheld PC and a so-named Network Computer. (Corel sold off its moribund hardware unit in January 1999.) In November 1999, Corel released a desktop Linux program designed to compete head-to-head with Windows. Needless to say, that didn't fly. Ventures into Java software development and videoconferencing also didn't pay off.
Around that time Cowpland was accused of insider trading for selling US$20 million worth of Corel shares weeks ahead of an earnings warning that caused its stock price to plummet. Under pressure from stockholders, Cowpland resigned as CEO in August 2000. Two months later Corel made peace with Microsoft, receiving a cash infusion of US$135 million.
In February 2001, Cowpland acquired Zim Technologies, an Ottawa-based text messaging firm, and installed himself as president and CEO. In December 2003, he settled the insider trading case by paying a fine of US$575,000. With Cowpland at the helm, the tiny Zim has slowly transformed itself into a mobile entertainment network, delivering live TV programming to cell phones. Who knows--he may topple Microsoft yet.
Stephen Paternot1993: Co-founder and CEO of theGlobe.com
Now: Budding movie mogul
Community Web site theGlobe.com had one of those roller coaster rides that only seem possible in the dot-com biz--or the movies. Started by Paternot and partner Todd Krizelman while still undergrads at Cornell, theGlobe was the Facebook of its time, combining live chat with personal ads, classifieds, and games. The company's IPO in November 1998 shattered records, climbing from US$9 to US$97 before closing at US$63.50--a gain of more than 600 percent. Just 24 years old, Paternot was worth nearly US$100 million on paper.