|Born||Jeffrey Scott Peterson
October 11, 1972
Santa Barbara, California
|Known for||Hispanic Internet pioneer|
|Home town||Santa Barbara, California|
|Political party||Democratic Party (Before 2016)
Jeffrey Peterson (born October 11, 1972 in Santa Barbara, California) is an American technology entrepreneur and California born millionaire who is considered the pioneer of Hispanic internet in the United States. He is best known as the founder of Quepasa, one of the most popular Latin American online communities. In 2012, Quepasa changed its corporate name to MeetMe and continued trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market under ticker symbol MEET. As of late 2016, MeetMe had a market value of about U.S. $250 million.
Early life and education
Peterson grew up in Santa Barbara, California. As a son of British mother and an American father, his paternal ancestors emigrated to Santa Barbara from Spain. Peterson was educated at public schools in the Santa Barbara area. He was raised next door to the director of the University of California, Santa Barbara computer laboratory, who introduced him to computer programming at an early age in 1978.
According to a published biography about his life, Peterson spent much of his early childhood remotely connecting to the UCSB mainframe computers via terminal and modem. through this early access to technology, he quickly learned to make his own Unix and VMS based software applications on the campus PDP-11 and DEC VAX computer systems. In the early years of computing, the largely technical science of programming was a pastime overrun by the likes of college professors and engineers. To fit in, Peterson reportedly maintained an identity for login on the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory PDP-10, where he was known by his peers as "Dr. Jeffrey Peterson", at the age of eleven.
In 1981, Peterson landed his first job, as a troubleshooter for a software company focused on Commodore computers. In 1983, he worked as a product tester for vintage hardware manufacturer LOBO Systems. During the mid-1980s, Peterson focused on the development of software for freely distributed bulletin board system and multi-user dungeon gaming applications. He was known among his colleagues as an expert at implementing customized kernel-level multitasking solutions, who regularly pushed early hardware beyond traditional limits. Peterson, already a seasoned assembly and C language developer in his early years, contributed heavily to the emerging F/OSS programming communities of the 1980s. He has published numerous texts, including articles on multiprocessing, quasi-empirical methods, and artificial intelligence.
Peterson was ridiculed about his early programming years in a satirical article published by TheStreet.com in 2004. The article, which highlights Peterson's public biography as filled in a Quepasa proxy statement on April 23, 2004, was suspicious about believing that he was programming computers when he was 10 years old. Nonetheless, Peterson is credited at this age as a contributor on the inside cover of a best selling microcomputer software book in 1983.
Well acquainted with the college scene from his earlier programming years, Peterson worked as a disc jockey at UCSB college radio station KCSB-FM from 1986 to 1990. During the late 1980s, Peterson held the position of "traffic manager" on the sixteen-member executive committee at college radio station KCSB-FM that gave both Jim Rome and Sean Hannity their first radio broadcasting jobs.
Wall Street years
In 1989, Peterson started his first job at a Wall Street investment firm, Lehman Brothers, where he learned about the stock market. He would later pass the industry exams, becoming a stockbroker at age nineteen. After working for several Wall Street firms, he landed in the field of investment banking, where he gained experience in corporate finance. Peterson would go on to work with investment groups that financed hundreds of companies primarily through initial public offering transactions during the strong stock market conditions of the early 1990s.
In 1997, Peterson founded Quepasa.com. The website was the first major online community to focus on United States hispanic Internet users. A year later, he successfully persuaded Arizona sports mogul Jerry Colangelo to help raise in excess of $20 million of seed capital to launch the company. Phoenix Suns star Jason Kidd signed on as an investor as well as the former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, investing $500,000.
Within months, Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres joined the Quepasa Board of Directors. Peterson went on to sell a stake in the Spanish language website to Sony Pictures Entertainment and Telemundo LLC. CNBC chief business commentator and former FDIC chairman L. William Seidman joined Quepasa's board of directors. After meeting with Peterson during an online interview at the offices of the Miami Herald, Gloria Estefan signed a contract to become Quepasa's official spokesperson and investor. Quepasa billboards were a frequent sight in hispanic cities across the United States, encouraging millions of Latinos to join "El Mundo Nuevo" (spanish: The New World) online.
On June 24, 1999, Quepasa went public on the Nasdaq. By the end of the day, Quepasa was worth $272 million. The young company founder was featured in live interviews on CNN and CNBC. At age 26, Peterson had seen his net worth rise by $36 million.
Quepasa management controversy
Shortly after the Quepasa public offering, Peterson was ousted from the company by Gary Trujillo, the new CEO that Peterson hired to run Quepasa sixty days prior to the incident. Speaking about the surprise management coup to the Arizona Republic, Peterson was quoted that Trujillo breached every ounce of trust he placed in him. In a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, Peterson was accused of competing with Quepasa. The lawsuit was settled 90 days later, with Quepasa paying $2.4 million to Peterson. Trujillo would later concede that the problem was of a "personality issue". Peterson subsequently resigned from the board of directors, but still remaining Quepasa's largest single shareholder. His resigning from Quepasa left the company in the hands of a chief executive officer and a board of directors inexperienced in both the Internet and the technology that ran it.
In July 2001, Peterson founded Internet search company called Vayala Corporation, together with Brian Long Lu, son of Asian technology mogul Hong Liang Lu, and Mike Marriott. Vayala, a developer of large scale dynamic search technologies, was successful in securing venture capital financing with executives of Softbank Corp.. In 2002, Vayala was acquired by Quepasa.
During this time, The Arizona Republic ran a photo of Peterson on the front cover of the Sunday edition, in a three-part feature about his career. The series ran on September 9 and 10, 2001, concluding on September 11, 2001.
Quepasa takeover and resurrection
By 2002, Quepasa shares had declined in value under the leadership of Trujillo. In media reports, Trujillo blamed the decline in Quepasa's market value on unfavorable market conditions and the ".com bubble". The Chicago Tribune wrote that even with Internet Winter blowing cold wind across the digital landscape, many experts were surprised to hear the death rattle of America's once successful hispanic-centered Web operation, Quepasa.com. Later that year, Peterson led a group of investors through a proxy fight and hostile takeover of Quepasa, reportedly investing millions of his own money. Shortly after the takeover, Peterson was again named Chairman and Chief Executive of Quepasa.
Peterson, a Democrat, has been involved in political circles. His political affiliations have often been related to Hispanic interests. In 2003, Peterson was appointed to the Arizona-Mexico Commission by former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. By 2005, he had been appointed to the Executive Committee.
In 2005, Peterson was appointed to the cross-border transactions committee of the Arizona Department of Real Estate. The committee is focused on international real estate transactions between residents of Arizona and Mexico. In the same year, he was appointed as the chair of the Technology Subcommittee of the 2006 Executive Bond Committee, by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. The $850 million bond initiative was approved by voters in March 2006. He also financially supported the March 25, 2006, and April 10, 2006, reform marches organized by immigrants and he was a co-host at a June 1, 2006, fundraiser for Arizona Senatorial candidate Jim Pederson, featuring former president, Bill Clinton. Jeffrey held a fundraiser at his residence for Barack Obama featuring Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and actress Scarlett Johansson on August 21, 2008. Peterson was named as a co-host at a October 19, 2016 fundraising event for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton featuring Chelsea Clinton at a private residence in Phoenix.
In 2013, Peterson was appointed to the Board of Directors of the U.S. Philippines Society, a Washington, D.C. based private sector initiative Chaired by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte and former AIG Chairman Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.
For unknown reasons, Peterson has been known to maintain ties with significant entertainment industry personalities. For example, Peterson signed Gloria Estefan as Quepasa's spokesperson and investor in 1999. Movie producer Paul Mazursky was an investor in Peterson's startup, Vayala Corp. The co-founder of rock band Dishwalla is listed as a member of the board of directors in an early Quepasa registration statement. Peterson is a childhood friend of rap music producer Damizza. In September 2005, Quepasa announced a marketing deal with Jennifer Lopez.Sammy Hagar, a promotor of Mexican tequila, has been reported to have forged ties with Quepasa.
Peterson is considered to be amongst the top authorities on Hispanic Internet culture in the United States. He maintains a presence in a number of IT industry advisory roles. Peterson serves on the Hispanic committee of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in New York City. According to his public biography, he acts as a technology consultant to the Federal government of Mexico.
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- Forbes.com Jeffrey Peterson Profile
- LinkedIn profile