Code/Rag Time Machine: Looking Back at Action Jack
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 looking at Jack “Action Jack” Barker, a legendary CEO known for his work as the CEO of Entercross Systems and Turnwire.
Name: Jack “Action Jack” Barker
Born: November 18, 1959
Companies: Entercross Systems (IPO’d at $1.4B in 1998), Turnwire (sold to Microsoft for $2B in 2003)
A Cornell graduate, Jack Barker came to the valley in the late ’70s and quickly dominated the tech scene, rising in the Tandy Corporation as VP of their personal computer division and later supervising the expansion of their RadioShack division. He credits the floppy disk with inspiring his love of tech. He called it “the perfect consumer item. Exciting, but practical. Reusable, but also disposable. You’ve got to have more than one.”
Barker became “Action Jack” in 1993, when he accepted the CEO position at Entercross Systems. Entercross, well known for its leadership in ERP integration systems, flourished under Barker’s decisive, pragmatic leadership. While at Entercross, he developed several management theories, including his now famous “Conjoined Triangles of Success” taught at many business schools. Barker famously led the company to an IPO valuing Entercross at $1.4 billion in 1998, a feat he’s said would not have been possible “without those darn Triangles.”
Shortly after the headline-making IPO, Barker left Entercross to serve as CEO of Turnwire for four years. At the time, the company was struggling to stay afloat after a security breach exposed clients’ personal information. After successfully navigating Turnwire through unsure times, Barker led the company to acquisition by Microsoft in 2003. Microsoft paid $2 billion for Turnwire, although no Turnwire technology (GPS devices for non-automotive vehicles) was ultimately released. After the sale, Barker made his way up north to Napa, where he took up an interest in horse breeding and wine tasting.
Many thought Barker may be taking an early retirement, but you can’t hold Action Jack down. In 2013 he created the Joyce Barker Foundation in his mother’s name. The foundation’s mission statement is to “honor the memory of Joyce Barker through cancer research, patient services, and leadership.” While proud of his philanthropic work, the dot-com boom veteran has long suggested he’s ready to come out of retirement for a tech company that’s worth it, and he’s certainly proved himself to be a valuable asset to any company he chooses to lead. As usual for Barker, it’s unclear what his next move will be, but we expect to be impressed.