Mitchell David Kapor
(born November 1
) is the founder of Lotus Development
Corporation and the designer of Lotus 1-2-3
, the "killer application
" often credited with making the personal computer ubiquitous in the business world in the 1980s. He is known as an entrepreneur, investor, social activist, and philanthropist.
Early life and education
Kapor was born in Brooklyn, New York
, and attended public schools on Long Island in Freeport, New York
, where he graduated from high school in 1967. He received a BA
from Yale College
in 1971 and studied psychology
and computer science
as part of an interdisciplinary major in Cybernetics
. Kapor served as Music Director and Program Director at Yale's radio station WYBC-FM
During the 1970s, Kapor was employed as a radio disc jockey at WHCN-FM, a commercial progressive rock station based in Hartford, Connecticut. It was also in this period that he became interested in Transcendental Meditation, going on to teach the philosophy in Cambridge, Massachusetts (where he also worked as a low-level computer programmer) and Fairfield, Iowa. In 1978, he graduated with a Master's degree in counseling psychology from Campus-Free College (later renamed Beacon College) in Boston. Kapor subsequently began a career as a mental health counselor at New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
In 1980, Kapor left his counseling career to attend the Master's of Science in Management program at the MIT Sloan School of Management, but did not graduate.
Kapor founded Lotus Development Corporation
in 1982 with Jonathan Sachs
, who was responsible for technical architecture and implementation, and created Lotus 1-2-3. Kapor served as the President (later Chairman) and Chief Executive Officer of Lotus from 1982 to 1986 and as a Director until 1987. In 1983, Lotus' first year of operations, the company achieved revenues of $53,000,000 and had a successful public offering. In 1984 the company tripled in revenue to $156,000,000. The number of employees grew to over a thousand by 1985.
Lotus' first product was presentation software for the Apple II known as Lotus Executive Briefing System. Kapor founded Lotus after working as head of development at VisiCorp (the marketers of VisiCalc) and selling the rights to his products; VisiPlot and VisiTrend to VisiCorp.
Shortly after Kapor left VisiCorp, he and Sachs produced an integrated spreadsheet and graphing program. Even though IBM and VisiCorp collaborated on VisiCalc for the PC and VisiCalc shipped simultaneously with the PC, Lotus had a superior product. Lotus released Lotus 1-2-3 in January 1983. The name referred to the three ways the product could be used, as a spreadsheet, graphics package, and database manager. The latter two functions were less often used; 1-2-3 was the most powerful spreadsheet available. Sales were enormous, turning Lotus into the largest independent software vendor in the world almost overnight. The business plan had called for $1 million in sales in the first year, and the actual results were $54 million.
Kapor was also the fundamental architect of the "free-form" database application, Lotus Agenda.
In October 1984 Jim Manzi was named President, and in April 1986 he was named as CEO, succeeding Mitch Kapor who had become inactive in the company.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
In 1990, with fellow digital rights activists John Perry Barlow
and John Gilmore
, he co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation
, and served as its chairman until 1994. The EFF is a non-profit civil liberties organization working in the public interest to protect privacy, free expression, and access to public resources and information online, as well as to promote responsibility in new media.
Kapor has been the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation
since its inception in 2003. He founded the Mitchell Kapor Foundation
to support his philanthropic interests in environmental health. He also co-founded, and is on the board of, the Level Playing Field Institute
, a 501c(3)
dedicated to fairness in education and workplaces. Kapor is also Chair of the Board of Directors of Linden Lab
, a San Francisco
-based company which created the popular virtual world Second Life
, and a member of the Advisory Board for the Wikimedia Foundation
In 1990, Kapor's new company On Technology
introduced their new product On Location,
an application designed for the Macintosh that contained an indexing system that permit quick retrieval and display of text on the Mac's hard disk. "We think we're being cagey by bringing it out on the Mac first," Kapor said. "It's a richer medium than MS-DOS, and if we have a hot product in the Mac market, it will be easier to get into the PC market."
In 2001, Kapor founded the Open Source Applications Foundation, where he is now working on Chandler, a modern personal information manager built using open source tools and methods.
In 2006, Kapor founded his latest startup, Foxmarks, based in San Francisco.
He is married to Freada Kapor Klein
and resides in San Francisco
Kapor is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Information at University of California, Berkeley.
- Rosenberg, Scott. Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software (2007) Random House ISBN 978-1-4000-8246-9, about Mitch Kapor, collaboration and massive software endeavors, particularly the open source calendar application Chandler.