Spyglass Founder Exits the Internet Highway

When Tim Krauskopf considers taking his career down a different road, he's not kidding. The co-founder of Spyglass won't be found in a boardroom these days. You're more likely to find him driving a tractor trailer truck down the Illinois highway.
When Tim Krauskopf considers taking his career down a different road, he's not kidding.

The man who was a true Internet pioneer back in the early 1990s, was co-founder of Spyglass Inc., which developed the groundbreaking browser Mosaic. Microsoft Corp. scooped up the software and turned it into Internet Explorer, which is the most widely used browser today.

Krauskopf was riding the Internet wave. He was a multi-millionaire before half of Silicon Valley had time to follow suit. When it came to the dot-com phenom, he was a major player.

But today, you won't find Krauskopf in the corner office or even pitching a new technology to prospective venture capitalists.

No, today, you probably will find this 41-year-old behind the steering wheel of a tractor trailer truck heading down an Illinois highway.

About two and a half years ago, Krauskopf traded in the pressures of high-tech development and sales and a seat in the boardroom for a seat in a semi. He got his license to drive big rigs and then he bought his own truck. And with that enterprising blood still flowing in his veins, he bought two other companies and today is running a fleet of 14 trucks as part of his company, Round Lake Freight out of Downers Grove, Ill.

The turning point in Krauskopf's career came as so many do -- he was laid off from a job with Motorola as part of a downsizing.

''When I left Motorola, I looked around at the high-tech jobs out there and nothing looked that attractive,'' says Krauskopf, who had also once been the president of PCQuote.com, and the co-founder of Parlano, Inc. ''There were a glut of technologies ready for customers who weren't ready to buy them. That's not a hugely attractive environment to create new technologies in... Even very very good technology became hard to sell. People weren't ready to absorb it.''

Krauskopf says he longed for the start-up days, but those were gone.

''The business of tech has gotten tougher and it's become dominated by billion dollar companies,'' he adds. ''If you're a start-up, you have to pick a smaller and smaller niche. And my background had been really widely used technologies... To some extent I did go work for a billion dollar company -- Motorola. It was an interesting time but big companies come with their own challenges, like more beaurocracy.''

While he was checking out different ventures and looking for job opportunities, Krauskopf says he wanted to study for his trucking license to fill up some spare time, and to play around with a childhood dream. Krauskopf grew up on a farm amd when he was a boy, he was driving, and fascinated with, anything that had a steering wheel -- tractors, trucks, farm equipment.

''I always liked to go on a family vacation and watch the trucks go by. It started out with me just wanting to go drive one,'' he says. ''I was mostly thinking I would go get a license to drive a truck and play around with it for six months while I was decompressing, and then I would go see what technology seemed exciting.

''In the first months when I was driving, I would take a lot of time off to go see technologies and see what other people were doing,'' he adds. ''Remember that it was a really tough time to raise money. Now I'm just in too deep. I'm going to be dong this for many more years.''

Steering his Own Course

Krauskopf may say he's in too deep to get out of the trucking business at this point, but that doesn't mean he's not loving it.

When it comes down to it, the man is an entrepreneur, and that means he loves creating new companies -- whether it's an Internet start-up that will make him millions or a freight company that delivers bagels to McDonald's. It's all about the business. Growing a business. And Round Lake Freight is growing pretty well. In two years, Krauskopf has gone from not having a single truck of his own to having 14 in what can now be called a fleet. He employs two people to work in the office, along with 14 drivers.

And don't for a second think that Krauskopf has left his high-tech roots behind him. He's giving the average small freight company a technical face-lift.

''If you're talking to techies, it's not exciting. But from the point of view of a transportation company, it's incredible,'' says Krauskopf. ''All the dispatching is done from the core database. Everything is networked. We pull maps and leads off the Internet. We do all of the accounting live. Now I've got up-to-the-minute accounting, which not all that many trucking companies have.

''As for tracking... we're still in the prototype stage, but we're working with some stand-alone satellite GPS systems with multi-year batteries. You put it on the trailer and it reports their position every two hours. Mainly, if I have a driver who just completed a load and needs another load, I'm going to know where he is.''

For Krauskopf, he's still working with technology -- just from a different angle.

''Instead of building something and trying to go sell it, now I build something and go use it,'' he notes.

Life After High-Tech

Gordon Haff, an analyst for Illuminata, a high-tech industry analyst firm based in Nashua, N.H., says Krauskopf's story may be an encouraging one for all the high-tech professionals who are struggling to find a job in this post-dot-com-boom era.

''The fact that people can change careers and they don't necessarily need to stay in tech if that's not what they want to do, is good to hear,'' says Haff. ''In a more typical situation, where money does matter, it's going to be difficult for most people to throw away much of their skill set and still get compensated at a reasonable level. At some level, business experience and smarts and the ability to work with people are transferable... Management skills can be transferred... But this is all a lot easier to do if you've already been a huge success.''

But Krauskopf says it was a successful career that he had to leave behind him. And it has been a move that his friends and peers in high-tech have been keeping an eye on.

''I think of it as moving from the intangible bits and bytes to the very tangible,'' he says. ''When we make money, it's because we moved 20 tons of bagels or ketchup. You do something very physical and tangible for what you earn. There's something comforting, something satisfying in that.

''I would have loved to have the tech world stay heated up, but now it's all about trying to figure out where the action has moved to,'' Krauskopf adds. ''From a business point of view, it's moved to where you can you use it.''

The one-time Internet pioneer still is doing some business plan consulting -- pro bono. But for now, he's happy with where his career has taken him.

''Depending on how you see the competition, high-tech can have big rewards -- just ask some of the people working for Google. But there are a lot of people out there putting in their heart and soul and not getting anything out of it. Instead of being boom-and-bust, this is more predictable and a little lower risk that comes with a somewhat lower potential return... But with any business, it's risky enough.''






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