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11/18/2005
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Joel Ronning, CEO at Digital River Inc.

Digital River Inc.'s CEO has this thing for water--just look at the company name. He founded Digital River in 1994 to build and manage E-commerce operations and sites for other businesses, letting them focus on what they do best.

Joel Ronning,
CEO at Digital River Inc.

Interview by Elena Malykhina


Joel Ronning, CEO at Digital River Inc.

Photograph by Raoul Benavides

InformationWeek 500
1
Real-Life Education
Ronning paid for college using proceeds from a company he started that created an automated marketplace of Mercedes dealerships across the United States and Canada. The business raked in $15,000 a month. "This was way before Mercedes had their system automated. It was really fun."

2
Bathtub Epiphany
"I was in the bathtub one night in 1992, and the concept for Digital River came to me. If only we could put a digital-rights-management wrapper around software and deliver it either via storage devices or electronic bulletin boards, I thought, then maybe we could sell a lot of additional software around the world."

3
More Fluid Ideas
Ronning holds seven patents in encryption technology and digital delivery. Says Ronning, "The ideas for the patents also were the result of the bathtub epiphany."

4
Focus On Strengths
Retailers like Best Buy and Staples outsource their online software business to Digital River. "Companies want to outsource because they want to get their costs down and focus on what they do well--their domain expertise."

5
Fun And Games
Sailing is Ronning's favorite break from his job, but he still wants work to be fun. "Once a month on Thursdays, everyone brings their dogs to work. Every Friday is beer day. We have a game room with GameCubes and Xboxes. We try to build an atmosphere for people to want to work in."

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