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Youth is Relative In Tech Industry
The Orange County Register, June 5, 2006
By Colin Stewart

Late 30s may sound like middle age or nearly so, but in the high-tech world of Orange County it’s positively youthful.

If you ask local business promoters to name young leaders of high-tech companies, they mention people such as Steven Joe, 38, chief executive of home networking company D-Link of Fountain Valley, or Jeffrey Margolis, 42, CEO of health-insurance software company Trizetto Group of Newport Beach.

The county’s emphasis on electronics and medical devices is part of the reason its high-tech leaders tend to be in their 40s and 50s. Those are industries where success depends less on pure youthful genius and more on building contacts, research teams, and networks of suppliers and customers.

But few high-tech executives here remain on the job past traditional retirement age. After all, it’s a demanding position requiring continual innovation and no resting on laurels.

Among the most experienced at a large local company is Philip Harding, 73, the chief executive of flexible-circuit-board maker Multi-Fineline Electronix of Anaheim. He has been in charge there since the late 1980s, when he first steered the company into its current strategy of developing ever-more-sophisticated types of cables and circuitry.

If the county had more software companies – the “ultimate low-barrier-to-entry industry,” says Gary Augusta of the business group OCTANe – we would probably have more 20-something CEOs. As it is, among the youngest is Kevin Maloney, 33, CEO of Santa Ana’s QuantumSphere nanotechnology company, which he co-founded at 29.

As the company seeks a commercial breakthrough for its nanometals in batteries or fuel cells, Maloney said he sought some sage advice. “I have youth and ambition to see this through, but I humbly went out and found older advisers É with legal, business and scientific experience. You need some grey-haired people (to show) that you know you aren’t the smartest person in the room.”

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© 2006 QuantumSphere, Inc. All Rights Reserved.