About Ken Hess

Ken Hess is an experienced engineer, a seasoned entrepreneur, and a budding educator. He holds one of the first software patents ever granted, and he has been responsible for designing and/or developing dozens of commercial software, content, and Web products, including Family Tree Maker, one of the all-time best-selling home software programs. Among his awards are a PC Magazine Editor's Choice, PC Magazine Top 100 Web Site, and Software Publishing Association Codie.

Not content with just making products, Ken also builds organizations. He bootstrapped Banner Blue Software, the company that produced Family Tree Maker, and grew it to over 100 employees and $23 million in sales before selling it to Broderbund Software. Later he founded Pocket Express, a software developer for handheld devices such as the Palm Organizer. Most recently, Ken founded Science Buddies, a non-profit focused on improving science education, and a vehicle for him to share his life-long passion for science and technology with students around the world.

Ken is author of the book, Bootstrap: Lessons Learned Building a Successful Company from Scratch. He holds a BS in Engineering from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard. Before striking out on his own he spent several years at Intel and Hewlett-Packard.

Ken's Years at Banner Blue Software

From 1984 to 1996, Ken was Founder and President of Banner Blue Software in Fremont, California. Ken bootstrapped this software development company from a personal investment of $20,000 and no outside funds, guiding it to annual sales of $23 million and acquisition by Broderbund Software, Inc. In so doing, he navigated platform transitions from DOS to Windows to CD to Internet and distribution transitions from direct mail to software reseller to consumer mass merchandiser — with sales growth and outstanding profits every single year.

In 1994, Banner Blue acquired Automated Archives, Inc., a genealogy data compiler, from internally generated cashflow. Through 1996, Banner Blue sold approximately two million copies of software through direct and retail channels, primarily Family Tree Maker (for locating and organizing information about one's ancestors) and Org Plus (for making corporate organization charts).

Ken personally wrote the initial versions of both these award-winning programs. Ken's engineering work also received one of the first software patents, Patent 4,764,867, Display System and Method for Constructing and Editing a Hierarchical Arrangement of Information, issued August 1988 by the USPTO.

Family Tree Maker and Org Plus have appeared on numerous industry hot sales lists. During the first half of 1996, Family Tree Maker was one of the top three selling personal productivity product lines according to PC Data. An OEM version of Org Plus was shipped as a component of Microsoft's PowerPoint for almost a decade, accounting for additional sales of many tens of a million units.

You can learn more about Ken on his personal website:


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