Startups, Turnarounds & Brags

tom@tomabate.com

My First Startup Wore Navy Boots

I enlisted in the U.S. Navy when I was 19 and was trained as a broadcast journalist. I was assigned to a ship that left San Francisco Bay a few days after I reported aboard. I was supposed to run a brand-new, closed-circuit television station aboard the ship. But none of the officers had ordered any tapes or films — meaning the ship got under way for Hawaii without any programs for me to show. I solved the problem when we reached Pearl Harbor by “borrowing” dozens of movies from Fleet Headquarters until I got our ship on the regular program delivery circuit.

The Secret That Saved UC Berkeley’s Campus Newspaper

After my enlistment I enrolled at UC Berkeley. I became editor-in-chief of the Daily Californian, an independent, student-run newspaper that was on the verge of bankruptcy. I helped lead a financial turnaround and also broke a story about the H-Bomb secret that briefly put the paper into the national spotlight — galvanizing both our editorial and advertising efforts.

Two Innovations That Helped Then Hurt My Graphic Arts Firm

After graduating from UC Berkeley I moved to Humboldt County in Northern California and co-founded a graphics arts business. This was in the early days of the PC revolution. Some local engineers had invented a device that allowed typesetting equipment to accept electronic text directly from PCs. This edge allowed our tiny firm, Pioneer Graphics, to create a national mail order business serving book and newsletter publishers. Alas, desktop publishing soon allowed clients to produce type even more cheaply. We sold the business but it did not last long under its new owner.

Co-founding A Monthly Newsmagazine

My then-wife and I used our graphic arts business as the production platform with which to launch The North Coast Journal of Politics, People and Art (Eureka, California). We sold the paper so that I could attend the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. The paper’s new owners transformed the Journal from a monthly into a weekly and it continues to thrive after more than 20 years.

A Pulitzer Traveling Fellow

As one of the three top students in my graduating class (’91) at Columbia University, I won a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. I used the $5,000 stipend that came with the award to return to the Philippines, which I had visited as a sailor. During a month-long reporting expedition, I wrote about the Philippine presidential elections, the aftermath of prior-year base closures, illegal logging on hitherto-unspoiled rain forests and the Catholic nuns who helped save thousands of lives by noting signs that the volcano at Mount Pinatubo seemed ready to erupt.


Building A Home In The Country

In 2004 I oversaw the building of a house on land in Humboldt County that I had owned since 1984. I had to manage that project long-distance (I was living and working near San Francisco) and overcome maddening environmental and zoning hurdles. But I completed the project on time and on budget — with help from my eldest son, who helped me do the grunt work.

Author of “The Biotech Investor”

While covering the biotech industry as a newspaper reporter and columnist, I was commissioned by Times Books to write “The Biotech Investor: How to Profit from the Coming Boom in Biotechnology.” Here is a summary of the seven chapters in which I cover every topic from biotech tools to genes to therapeutics: lay investors should generally avoid any biotech company until after it has published favorable phase two clinical trial results.

2 Responses to Startups, Turnarounds & Brags

  1. Cecil Jones says:

    Where in the hell have you been? I have pictures of the kid from New York as a desperado.

  2. Eric Head says:

    I liked your book! Atlhough based on your current blog, I don’t think that you’ll be doing the 2015 update, which is why I visited – ‘hat in hand’, lol!
    I’m working on pharmaceutical projects, and it doesn’t look good…. If you’ve still some interests and contacts from the ‘day’ it would be great to correspond. Best of luck!

    Eric H.
    CBS ’90