Ed Esber

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Edward M. Esber, Jr.
Born 1952
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Edward M. Esber, Jr. is the former CEO of Ashton-Tate and initiated its subsequent sale to Borland. Esber joined VisiCorp (the publisher of VisiCalc—the first spreadsheet)--as Exec VP of Sales and Marketing. He is credited with the successful marketing of the first productivity software for personal computing, making the way for the widespread acceptance of personal computers in business. Esber presently works as an angel investor in Silicon Valley, mentoring and financing the current generation of entrepreneurs and through his time and philanthropy his educational Alma maters.[1]


A native of Ohio, Edward M. Esber, Jr. graduated B.S. Computer Engineering degree from Case Institute of Technology (now [Case Western Reserve University]) in 1974, where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. He later earned a M.S. Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University in 1976, He then went on to earn a Masters of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School, in 1978.


Early life[edit]

Esber was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest of eight children and attended Normandy High School, a public school in Parma, Ohio. During his undergraduate education, he was one of the primary authors and programmers of a Management Simulation Game used to teach marketing at colleges called IMPS (Industrial Marketing Plan Simulation).

Early career[edit]

In 1974, Esber went to work for IBM Corporation, where he designed a floating point processor for an IBM minicomputer and worked on products in the Instrument Control Systems Division that included a Textile Color Analyzer and a Film Thickness Analyzer. He convinced IBM Corporation to take seriously the nascent microcomputer chips from Intel and Motorola. He was later tasked with creating and teaching a course to prepare IBM engineers to design with microprocessors. This seminal work led to IBM announcing and shipping the IBM Personal Computer based on an Intel microprocessor in the early 80s. During his career at IBM, he earned his M.S. Electrical Engineering from Syracuse University in 1976. In 1976 he left for Harvard Business School and was tasked with preparing an exploratory report for IBM on the efficacy of controlling energy costs in the home with a personal computer. In 1978, Esber went to work for Texas Instruments in their Consumer Products Division in Lubbock, Texas working in product marketing on Personal Computers.


In 1979, Dan Flystra recruited Esber to run worldwide sales and marketing for Personal Software (later renamed VisiCorp). Esber became the ninth employee and third shareholder. Esber launched VisiCalc as the first personal computer application software that made buying a personal computer for business viable. He pioneered the distribution and marketing of personal computer software as he and VisiCorp launched the first product line of productivity software (VisiCalc, VisiWord, VisiFile, VisiPlot, VisiTrend and VisiDex), the first suite of office software (VisiPak) and the first WinTel graphical user interface for IBM compatible PCs (VisiON).[2]

Ashton Tate[edit]

Esber took over Ashton Tate and made it one of the three leading personal computer software companies of its time (the 1980s PC Software Oligopoly of Ashton Tate, Lotus and MicroSoft). He turned dBase into one of the longest running standards in the personal computer software industry and jointly introduced SQL Server with MicroSoft. During Esber’s term as CEO, sales grew from about $40M to $311M.

During this time, Ashton-Tate acquired several companies, including Decision Resources and MultiMate.

Esber created a backlash among dBase developers by threatening to sue Foxbase who created a clone of dBase. At one point, he addressed the Software Publishing Associate Conference and threatening anyone publishing a dBase-clone to "Make my day!"[3] After several proposed mergers including two with Lotus and one with Borland, the board disagreed with the strategic direction Esber proposed and he was fired by the Ashton-Tate board[4] although later the board saw the wisdom of his strategy and sold Ashton Tate to Borland at a substantially reduced price than Esber had originally proposed.

Creative Labs[edit]

When Esber joined Creative Labs, the company that brought sound (Sound Blaster) to personal computers, Creative had just concluded one of the most successful IPOs in that time frame and was enjoying unprecedented growth. Creative's sales had grown to around $30M USD under Brown-Waugh (Creative's former distributor) and some of the proceeds of the IPO were used to buy-out the Brown-Waugh contract. This allowed Creative to regain control of its distribution and marketing and as a result the company grew revenue to over $500M in 1994. Samuels was replaced by Esber in 1994 as CEO of Creative Labs the US Subsidiary of Creative Technologies. Creative was experiencing some of the normal competition that rapid growth companies attracted. It was starting to be viewed as a "market laggard" but "current market share leader", while MediaVision was viewed as the market innovator although MediaVision management was later convicted of 27 counts of fraud and the then CEO Paul Jain and CFO Steve Allen each received jail terms. Its relations with Wall Street, the Press and its stockholders had deteriorated due to its dual listing on both the Singapore Exchange and NASDAQ (CREAf was the only dual listed stock at the time)( CREAf moved to a single exchange listing in 2003 Creative Press Release); it had strategic alliances with industry partners Intel and Microsoft; and though it struggled to create a long term strategic plan that the Singaporean founders would support, revenue and market share continued to climb. Under Esber’s leadership and that of the founders, Creative Technology (parent company of Creative Labs), enjoyed a leading position in computer peripherals and upgrades with its product line of Integrated Multimedia technology. Esber left the company in 1994 just as the company generated over $1B in worldwide revenue.

Creative Insights[edit]

Founder of the first "Computer Toys Company", Creative Insights, Inc., and the "Toy Company of the Computer Age." A Computer Toy is a creative, compelling piece of hardware, which plugs into a standard multimedia personal computer and is aimed at a specific purpose, to be brought to life with equally compelling multimedia software, aimed at the same purpose.

Other startups[edit]

After Esber’s pioneering work in Personal Computer Software, Esber has been on the leading edge of the integration of computers and multimedia at Creative Labs, the integration of computers, toys and learning at Creative Insights, the integration of computers, communication and telephony at SoloPoint; the mobilization of email and internet access at Poqet Computer, portability of Personal Computers at Poqet Computer and tablet computing at Motion Computing.

The Angels Forum and The Halo Funds[edit]

Esber was a founding member in 1997 of The Angels Forum, a professional, Silicon Valley based group of angel investors. He also is a member of the management team of The Halo Funds, a venture capital fund focused on early stage, seed investments in medical devices, Web 2.0/SaaS, consumer/retail and green technology companies based in Silicon Valley.[5][6]

Park City Angels[edit]

Esber joined the Park City Angel Network(PCAN) in early 2011. PCAN is an Angel Group which funds start-up companies founded in Utah.

State of Utah[edit]

In May 2011 Esber was appointed as a board member of the Utah Capital Investment Corporation overseeing the Utah Fund of Funds which invests in Venture Capital Funds in Utah, California and throughout the United States.

In addition, in May 2012 Esber was appointed to a committee of the Utah Small Business Growth Initiative responsible for disbursing about $15M in stimulus funds. Specifically Esber is on the committee to disburse about $5M of the stimulus funds to Utah seed funds who will create jobs and stimulate growth in Utah.

Course Taught[edit]

Esber taught a course entitled “Starting and Running a Successful Startup” at the Weatherhead School of Management of Case Western Reserve University.

Honors and awards[edit]

  • BusinessWeek, "25 Executives to Watch,” April 15, 1988.[7]
  • Computer Reseller News, 1985&1986, "Industry's 25 Most Influential Execs." [8]
  • Esquire Magazine, 1986 Register Honoree, Business and Industry.[9]
  • So Ca Executive, "The Southland's 100 Outstanding Leaders in 1986." [10]


Esber currently sits on the boards of Quantum Corporation, Panterra Networks and is co-chair of the emeriti trustee committee of Case Western Reserve University. In the past Esber has served on the boards of Activision, Ashton Tate, SonicBlue. Pansophic Systems, Integrated Circuits System Technology and many private companies.[11][12]

Personal life[edit]

Esber is married to Margaret (Peggy) Esber and resides in Park City, Utah. He has three children.


  1. ^ "Ed Esber's website". 
  2. ^ "VisiCorp Wiki". 
  3. ^ Chapman, 2006, p76-77
  4. ^ Chapman, 2006, p. 83
  5. ^ "The Angels Forum website". 
  6. ^ "The Halo Funds website". 
  7. ^ "25 Executives To Watch". Businessweek. April 15, 1988. p. 150. 
  8. ^ "The Industry's 25 Most Influential Execs". Computer Reseller News [1]. 1985–1986. 
  9. ^ "The 1986 Esquire Register Honorees (Business & Industry)". Esquire [2]. December 1986. p. 278. 
  10. ^ "The Executive of the Year: 100 Outstanding Leaders (Computer & Technology". The Executive of Southern California. Jan–Feb 1987. p. 50. 
  11. ^ "Quantum Corporation website". 
  12. ^ "Panterra Networks website". 

External links[edit]