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In The News

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Provided by The Plain Dealer Written by Henry Gomez
Brian Deagan fired off an e-mail to Bill Gates more than 10 years ago, much like a kid writing Santa Claus before Christmas. It wasn't until he received an "odd note from a guy in Brazil" that Deagan realized the Microsoft chairman had written back.

It was the mid-1990s - the beginning of the dot-com boom - and "Ask Bill" columns were running in newspapers across the world. Deagan, then 20 years old and unsure if he wanted to finish school or focus on his own Internet startup, turned to America's most famous college dropout.

His question: "Do you regret not finishing college? (Brian Deagan, Uniontown, OH)" had appeared in Brazil with Deagan's e-mail address and a nice response from Gates.

"When you hear success stories about people who quit, it might be tempting to believe that education doesn't matter for the entrepreneurially minded," Gates replied. "But unless a person has an idea that's very time-critical and thinks that he or she might never have as good an idea again, it's probably better to finish."

With that, Deagan, who had been working odd construction jobs and was preparing to attend New York University's Stern School of Business, "printed off the article, took it to my parents, and told them NYU can wait."

Today, Deagan is chief executive at Akron's Knotice Ltd., his third venture on a successful trip inspired by Gates. His previous endeavor, Internet software firm 600 Monkeys Inc., sold to California's Niku Corp. in 2000 as part of a multimillion-dollar deal.

Deagan spent several years with Niku in Silicon Valley before returning to Northeast Ohio in 2004 to launch Knotice, an e-marketing software firm, with longtime business partner Bill Landers. Last month, Cleveland early-stage investment firm JumpStart Inc. committed $500,000 to Knotice. Deagan, now 31, said it confirms he made the right decision a decade ago.

But, "I imagine I will [finish school] some day," he said.

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