Philipe Kahn, the colorful former CEO and current Chairman of Borland International built a powerful software company from the ground up with a series of brilliant business moves including the 1991 acquisition of Ashton-Tate, one of the software industries’ biggest companies for $440 million. Until very recently, the company was extremely successful, culminating in the building a palatial headquarters complex costing nearly $100 million. At one point, Kahn even entertained thoughts of challenging Microsoft as the world’s top software manufacturer. (1) While the company has recently fallen on hard times, its beginning is one that some would consider morally questionable while others would denote as being “smart moves within the game.”
In an interview with Inc. Magazine in 1989, Kahn told the story of Borland’s humble beginnings. Operating out of two small rooms and strapped for cash, he couldn’t afford to place an ad in Byte magazine, the best forum to reach his target market. In order to convince the ad salesman to extend credit terms, Kahn hired “extra people” to scurry around and made sure the phones were ringing in order to look busy. He prepared a media plan on a chart in which Byte was crossed out but made sure the salesman “accidentally” saw the chart. When the salesman asked if they wanted to advertise in Byte, Kahn replied that it was not the right audience and that they couldn’t afford it. The salesman pleaded and eventually gave good terms of credit. The ad ran once and sold $150,000 worth of software, launching a successful venture.(2)
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