He Mortgaged The Farmhouse

Robert Madge made it in true, boot-strap fashion: At 33, after the company where he had worked as technical director failed, Madge mortgaged his farmhouse to launch a startup specializing in products linking personal computers. In 1986, he set up shop in the farm's empty barns.

Today, Madge N.V. is No.2 to IBM in the $1.3 billion market for his product, which is known in the trade as token-ring networking. Sales last year jumped a hefty 47%, to $213 million, and earnings rose 44%, to $23.7 million. Madge does business in Britain, Japan, the U.S., and 30 other countries.

Looking back, Madge doesn't regret getting the thumbs-down from British venture capitalists in 1988. "We took the kind of risks that probably wouldn't have been acceptable if we'd had external investors," he says.

Even when the company had only 10 employees, Madge tackled the giant U.S. market. Thirty percent of Madge N.V.'s shares now trade on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Yet Madge remains a member of that rare species in Britain: the successful high-tech entrepreneur.

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