Code/Rag Time Machine: Gavin Belson’s History of Innovation
By: Nathaniel Young
This is Code/Rag’s Time Machine, where we put aside our newfangled iPads and HooliPhones and take a look at the men and women who came before us. In this month’s edition, we’re taking a look at Gavin Belson, Hooli’s founder and chief innovation officer.
Name: Gavin Belson
Born: March 15, 1972
Companies: VidClone Graphics, Hooli
Gavin Belson has come under fire lately since he dissolved his pet project Nucleus—but Nucleus isn’t the only thing Belson has done in his life, and we here at Code/Rag thought it worth looking at the man’s amazing track record. Belson is a Bay Area native, born and raised in San Jose with Silicon Valley in his blood. He graduated Stanford University in the early ’90s, and shortly after, Belson partnered with Peter Gregory to found VidClone Graphics. The company started in Gregory’s mother’s garage and manufactured VGA graphics cards for IBM clones.
After IBM bought out their inspired tech, Belson went on to found Hooli, which was, at the time, a humble company that consisted of merely an email system (albeit a totally brilliant one). There was some initial controversy about whether Gregory had any ownership of the underlying tech but an out of court settlement named Belson as the owner of the IP, and Gregory went on to found venture capital firm Raviga Partners, using his share of the VidClone buyout to fund his first investments. Both men proved astute at evaluating and developing tech, Gregory using it to build investment capital and Belson to build Hooli into the tech giant it is today.
No longer just for email, Hooli benefitted from Belson’s genius as it developed tech for phones, search engines and a full range of office software, among other things. And for every failed Nucleus project, there’s a Hooli XYZ, designed by Belson to push the boundaries of innovation.
Belson hasn’t just fostered innovation within the company—many of Hooli’s greatest products use tech from companies Belson personally made deals to acquire, such as search engine CartoPoint (incorporated into Hooli-Search) or hardware company Vortal (designs used in the HooliPhone). More recently, Hooli is rumored to have acquired incredible hologram tech courtesy of Telehuman, which Belson will surely incorporate into yet another quintessential Hooli product.
Of course, Belson is also known for his charitable work. Beyond the charities he’s created within Hooli (everything from building houses to curing AIDS), Belson serves on the board of several outside charities, including a no-kill animal shelter—and he doesn’t even have pets. Even in charity, he looks to expand his mind and world understanding. In fact, Belson is an honorable shaman at the Institute of Spiritual Therapy and Vision Quests, a topic he’s happy to talk about should you be lucky enough to meet him. Whether his days of innovation are behind him remains to be seen, but for now, we think it’s too soon to call.