Donna Dubinsky

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Donna Dubinsky
Born1955 (age 67–68)
Alma materYale University
Harvard Business School
Known forCEO of Palm and Handspring and Numenta
SpouseLen Shustek[1]

Donna Dubinsky is an American business leader who played an integral role in the development of personal digital assistants (PDAs) serving as CEO of Palm, Inc. and co-founding Handspring with Jeff Hawkins in 1995.[2] Dubinsky co-founded Numenta in 2005 with Hawkins and Dileep George, based in Redwood City, CA. Numenta was founded to develop machine intelligence based on the principles of the neocortex. Dubinsky currently serves as CEO and board chair of Numenta.[3][4] Dubinsky also serves on the board of Twilio (NYSE: TWLO). She served on the board of Yale University from 2006–2018, including two years as senior trustee.

Fortune nominated her, together with Hawkins, to the Innovators Hall of Fame, while Time named the pair as part of its Digital 50 in 1999 for their contribution to the development of the PDA.

Early years[edit]

Dubinsky grew up in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where her father, Alfred Dubinsky, worked as a scrap-metal broker.[2][1] She later attended Yale University where, as a student in Jonathan Edwards College, she majored in history and earned her bachelor's degree in 1977. Dubinsky then worked for the Philadelphia National Bank[5] before obtaining an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1981.[2]

After graduating from Harvard Business School, she went to Apple Computer where she worked as a customer-support liaison. By 1985, she ran part of the company's distribution network.[6]

In 1986, Bill Campbell recruited her to a senior position in Claris, a software subsidiary of Apple. Dubinsky was responsible for international sales and marketing,[7] and within four years, her group was responsible for 50% of Claris's sales.[6] However, Dubinsky decided to leave in 1991, when Apple did not allow Claris to become an independent company.[6]

Palm, Inc. and Handspring[edit]

After a year's sabbatical in Paris to study French, Dubinsky met Jeff Hawkins through the introductions of Bill Campbell and Bruce Dunlevie. Hawkins was looking for a CEO to manage Palm, Inc.[6]

In 1995, U.S. Robotics acquired Palm, Inc. for US$44 million.[8] The first PalmPilot went on sale in April 1996. After a few months, sales started ramping quickly.[9] In its first 18 months, more than one million PalmPilots had been sold. 3Com acquired U.S. Robotics, with its Palm subsidiary, in 1997.

Dubinsky, Hawkins, and Palm marketing manager Ed Colligan quickly became disillusioned with 3Com's plans for Palm, Inc. and left in June 1998 to found Handspring.[10][11] Handspring became a leader in the market of smartphones with the Treo.[12] The bursting of the dot-com bubble took its toll and Dubinsky lost her place on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list in 2001.[13] Furthermore, in 2003, Handspring merged with Palm, Inc.[14] The company, formed through the merger was named palmOne. In 2005, palmOne was renamed to Palm, Inc., returning to its roots, and the independent PalmSource was acquired by Access Corporation of Japan.


In March 2005, Donna Dubinsky, Jeff Hawkins and Dileep George, founded Numenta, Inc.[15] The company is based in Redwood City, California. Their goal is to create machine intelligence by developing theory based on the principles in the neocortex.[16]

Numenta focuses on large-scale brain theory and simulation. Numenta researchers work with experimentalists and published results to derive an understanding of the neocortex. Their main research focus areas are cortical columns, sequence learning and sparse distributed representations. They have written a number of peer-reviewed journal papers and research reports on these topics.

Numenta is a technology provider and does not create go-to-market solutions for specific use cases. The company licenses their technology and application code to developers, organizations and companies who wish to build upon their technology. Numenta has several different types of licenses, including open source licenses, trial licenses and commercial licenses. Developers can use Numenta technology within NuPIC[17] using the AGPL v3 open source license.

Harvard Alumni Achievement Award[edit]

On September 27, 2007, Donna Dubinsky was conferred the Harvard Business School's highest honor, the Alumni Achievement Award, by Dean Jay O. Light. The award was also given to: Ayala Corp. chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, A. Malachi Mixon of Invacare, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP Group and Hansjörg Wyss of Synthes. Dubinsky was cited for "introducing the first successful personal digital assistant (PDA) and who is now developing a computer memory system modeled after the human brain."[18]

Other activities[edit]

Dubinsky was a trustee of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.[19] Several business school case studies have been written about her entrepreneurship.[20][21][22] She is involved in philanthropy,[23] and has written an op-ed in support of Obamacare.[24]


  1. ^ a b "The Importance of Giving Back: Donna Dubinsky '77". Giving to Yale. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  2. ^ a b c "Who Made America? - Innovators - Donna Dubinsky". WGBH Boston: They Made America series. 2004-09-08. Retrieved 2015-11-10. This Silicon Valley executive brought a transformative technology -- the hand-held digital assistant -- to market. By making information portable, the device has changed the way we live.
  3. ^ "Numenta Company Page". Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
  4. ^ "Donna Lee Dubinsky, '77 B.A., M.B.A., Fellow". Yale University. Archived from the original on 2015-11-10. Retrieved 2015-11-10. At Yale she served as a member of the University Council. Ms. Dubinsky was named Successor Trustee in 2006.
  5. ^ Marlow, Vanda (2000-08-13). "Silicon Giants: Palm's pilot makes Handspring fly". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-11-10. Before Harvard, Dubinsky had been a banker for two years at the National Philadelphia Bank working in commercial lending and doing all her spreadsheets by hand.
  6. ^ a b c d Grant, Adam M. (2016). Originals : how non-conformists move the world. New York, New York. ISBN 978-0-525-42956-2. OCLC 932116058.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ Guglielmo, Connie (2012-08-01). "Donna Dubinsky - In Photos: Apple Alumni: Where Are They Now?". Forbes. Archived from the original on October 8, 2012. Retrieved 2015-11-10. head of international sales for Claris, Apple's software subsidiary.
  8. ^ Niccolai, James (2010-04-28). "A Brief History of Palm". IDG. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
  9. ^ Auletta, Ken (2007-05-14). "Critical Mass - Everyone listens to Walter Mossberg". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2015-11-10. In 1996, after Mossberg called the handheld Palm Pilot a 'breakthrough product'—a comment that Donna Dubinsky, the company's former C.E.O., calls 'a huge thing'—its sales surged.
  10. ^ Joyce, Erin (1998-08-28). "After the PalmPilot, What Do You Do for an Encore?". Business Week. Archived from the original on 2016-03-12. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  11. ^ Maney, Kevin (2008-03-28). "10 years ago Palm Pilot got started on a bluff by inventor". USA Today. Retrieved 2015-11-10. 'And I remember saying, "Yeah." Even though I hadn't really thought about it,' Hawkins says.
  12. ^ "Donna Dubinsky, President and CEO of Handspring". Fox News. 2001-10-15. Retrieved 2015-11-10. the product is called Treo, because it's three things in one. It's a phone, it's an organizer, ... and it does wireless data
  13. ^ "America's Richest". CBS News. 2001-09-28. Retrieved 2015-11-10. Others who fell off include Donna Dubinsky and Jeffrey Hawkins,
  14. ^ Tam, Pui-Wing (2003-06-05). "Palm Agrees to Acquire Handspring As Hand-Helds Morph Into Phones". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-11-10. Palm Inc. agreed to buy struggling Handspring Inc. for $192 million in stock.
  15. ^ Markoff, John (2005-03-24). "A New Company to Focus on Artificial Intelligence". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-04-09.
  16. ^ Jin, Lionel (2015-04-16). "YEI launches new prize with tech firm Numenta". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  17. ^ Numenta (2013-07-22). "NuPIC Open Source Project and Community Established at". (Press release). Retrieved 2017-12-31.
  18. ^ Abs-Cbn Interactive, JAZA receives Harvard alumni award[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Markoff, John (2008-05-01). "Charles Babbage's Proto-Brain Comes to America". Bits Blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-10. Donna Dubinsky, co-founder of Palm and Handspring and one of the backers of the Computer History Museum
  20. ^ Jick, Todd D.; Gentile, Mary (1986-02-21). "Donna Dubinsky and Apple Computer, Inc". Harvard Business School, 9-486-083, 486083-PDF-ENG. OCLC 225915404. Archived from the original on 2015-11-10. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  21. ^ Glynn Jr., John; Spitzer, Joshua; Ziebelman, Peter (2005). "Case No.E189: Handspring and Palm, Inc. A Corporate Drama In Five Acts". Stanford Graduate School of Business. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  22. ^ Abrahamson, Eric (2008). "Donna Dubinsky: Act II". Columbia Business School, Case ID 080413. Retrieved 2015-11-10. Donna Dubinsky: Act II
  23. ^ Thorne, Maxim (2012-02-23). "Donna Dubinsky - Philanthropy in Action". Yale: Philanthropy in Action. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  24. ^ Dubinsky, Donna (2012-04-06). "The case for Obamacare". Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-11-10.

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