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Being in the Right Place at the Right Time Is Everything in Tech

Dot-what? Lawyers and business executives recounted two sprawling technology stories during two evening presentations in late February.

Michael Daniels, the former chairman of Network Solutions, looked back on the commercialization of the Internet during a Feb. 25 talk before about 40 people at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego.

“This feels like an SAIC reunion,” said Robert Sullivan, the school’s dean, as he scanned the audience prior to Daniels’ talk. Though SAIC founder Robert Beyster was not in attendance, family members Betty Beyster and Mary Ann Beyster were. So was Bill Roper, the longtime chief financial officer at SAIC.

SAIC, of course, is the previously iconic local tech and defense company, which has long since moved to Virginia. It had the excellent fortune to buy a money-losing business called Network Solutions in 1995, just as the Internet was poised to take off. In late 1992, the federal government awarded Network Solutions the exclusive worldwide right to sell all domain names with the suffixes dot-com, dot-org and dot-net. At the time, ordinary people thought those terms were gibberish. Business didn’t see much value in them, either. Daniels recalled that AT&T Inc. won the right to register all dot-edu website names but gave it back to Uncle Sam after a year.

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While working as a top SAIC executive, Daniels bought Network Solutions on behalf of SAIC for $4.7 million. SAIC deliberately did not integrate it into its defense contracting business.

“In my opinion, it would have been smothered,” Daniels said.

In 1997, SAIC took Network Solutions public and held a secondary offering soon after that. VeriSign bought the business in 2000 for $19.3 billion.

The moral of the story?

“You should know when to move on,” Daniels said.

Daniels and Beyster recount the story in their recently published book, “Names, Numbers and Network Solutions: The Monetization of the Internet.”

As for the current state of technology, Daniels said he’s no expert, but it appears that there is a wave behind social, mobile, analytics and cloud technology, known for short as “smac.”

On an entirely different note, representatives of the legal and media communities engaged in a lively debate over the Edward Snowden case, the reach of the National Security Agency and the role of the news media in front of about 100 people Feb. 20 at the Morrison & Foerster LLP law office in Carmel Valley. Snowden, to refresh memories, is the government contractor suspected of turning secret documents over to a foreign media outlet. The Securing Our eCity Foundation presented the session. Panelists included James Huston and Andrew Serwin, both of Morrison & Foerster, and Reo Carr, the San Diego Business Journal’s executive editor. The topics introduced at the session — including whether a person can expect privacy when he puts information on the Internet; when and whether the media must hold back information at the government’s request; whether the government should spy on citizens, as well as creative ways it can do so; and the parallels to the Pentagon Papers case during the Vietnam War — would easily fill a book.

The Snowden-NSA topic is so compelling that it crept into the Network Solutions talk five days later. It’s everywhere.

• • •

Looking Higher: Eight engineers from UTC Aerospace Systems – Aerostructures in Chula Vista spent a recent morning at nearby Vista Square Elementary School to teach a before-school seminar. One hundred students from the school on Chula Vista’s west side learned about engineering — a field that is poised to grow over the next couple of decades. They also learned about the work at the nearby plant, which builds aircraft jet engine housings called nacelles. Students got to feel some of the advanced composite materials that UTC uses to build its structures, and the session concluded with a hands-on project: Students assembled small glider kits and flew them. A good percentage of the students at the school qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, so the possibilities of an engineering career may not have been on many of their minds. UTC Aerospace Systems, which employs 2,700 people in Chula Vista, is part of United Technologies (NYSE: UTX). People may know UTC Aerospace Systems better by its old name, Goodrich Aerostructures, or its older name, Rohr. The South Bay Family YMCA holds the before-school classes with the support of the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation.

Send San Diego technology news to bradg@sdbj.com.

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