You Could Strike it Rich, Too
When Telco Communications, a discount long-distance carrier in Chantilly, was sold last year to Excel Communications of Dallas, it wasn't just Telco's principals who got rich.
Telco's founder and CEO Donald Burns earned about $111 million in cash and $118 worth of Excel stock, and the windfalls for Burns's partners, Henry Luken III and Thomas Cirrito, were more than $150 million each. But Telco employees further down the chain of command also found a pot of gold. Stock options for some of them were worth millions.
It's the Microsoft model of success: Get into a company on the ground floor, earn stock options, watch the company go public, make millions. Watch the company get sold, get richer still. It's happening more and more to employees of local computing and telecommunications firms.
"It's happening enough that it keeps the dream alive," says Robert Templin, president of the Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon. "It's not without downsides and risks. There are people who give it their all, and could be earning more somewhere else, only to find the company failing. I hear as many of those as the other."
Being part of a start-up usually means long hours. And not all start-ups offer stock options; some owners prefer profit-sharing or bonuses. But being part of a start-up can be exhilarating.
"One of the reasons people sacrifice to be on an entrepreneurial team is everything is horizontal, a team approach, and you're involved in everything," says Dyan Brasington, head of the High Technology Council of Maryland. "It's exciting to feel you're an owner of the company, that you have a stake in it."