Case Study: Hand In Palm

Can prodigal corporate founders go home again? In the volatile tech industry, necessity sometimes heals old wounds. Back in 1992, engineer Jeff Hawkins and marketing-whiz partner Donna Dubinsky founded Palm Computing to bring handheld computers to the masses. Hawkins built a Palm Pilot prototype in his garage. After the electronic organizer became the shirt-pocket accessory of the 1990s, Palm was sold to U.S. Robotics, which in turn was snapped up by 3Com.

Feeling stifled by their corporate masters, Hawkins and Dubinsky left in 1998 to found a rival handheld-device maker, Handspring. After its IPO in 2000, the pair's stake was...

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