Marc Lassus doesn't take "no" for an answer. In the 1980s, his engineering team at France's Thomson Semiconductors developed a prototype "smart card" with a microchip to store data and record transactions. But he couldn't persuade his bosses to manufacture it. So in 1988, with Thomson's blessing, he started his own company, Gemplus. Today, it's the world's biggest manufacturer of smart chips, used in everything from cell phones to credit cards. Sales topped $817 million last year.
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