Since he sold his namesake software company to Oracle four years ago, Tom Siebel has been hanging his hat in both Silicon Valley and Big Sky Country.
These days, the billionaire and former CEO of Siebel Systems invests his wealth quietly through a Palo Alto holding company called First Virtual Group. He's making a bigger splash with his philanthropy, including an in-your-face ad campaign that Siebel initially bankrolled in Montana — and which has since been adopted in other rural states — aimed at warning people away from methamphetamine use.
Siebel, 56, said he commissioned the Meth Project (www.methproject.org), with its graphic depictions of strung-out teens, after learning how much damage the drug was causing in the state where he worked on ranches as a young man. Siebel also described his new energy project and explained why he's no longer bullish on tech. The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.... Highlights:
Q The Web site of First Virtual Group says you're involved in real estate, agribusiness and global investments. Do you have much invested in the tech industry?
A No. It's a segment that from 1980 to 2000 grew at a 17 percent compounded annual growth rate, from virtually nothing to a business that became about $1.3 trillion. And I was able to participate in that process. It was the experience of a lifetime.
That being said, I think information technology as an industry is likely to grow going forward at about the rate of the economy. I just do not see the kind of innovation that we saw in the last two decades of the last century. In many respects, many of the interesting problems that we set out to solve have been solved.
Position: Chairman of First Virtual Group and the Siebel Foundation
Previous jobs: Founder and CEO of Siebel Systems, CEO of Gain Technology, held executive positions at Oracle
Education: Bachelor"s degree in history, master"s degree in business, master"s degree in computer science, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Family: Married with four children
Residence: Divides his time between homes in Woodside and Wolf Creek, Mont.
Five things to know about Tom Siebel
1. He raises cattle on his Montana ranch and is a competitive team roper.
2. A veteran of the business software industry, he left Oracle in 1990, started Siebel Systems in 1993, took the company public and later sold it to Oracle for $5.9 billion in 2005.
3. He"s authored or co-authored three books on e-commerce and the software industry.
4. With estimated wealth of $1.5 billion, he ranks 468th on Forbes" most recent list of the world"s billionaires.
5. He"s donated $242 million to education, social services, alternative energy and other causes, according to BusinessWeek, which listed him among the 50 most generous philanthropists in the country.