20 Who made it possible: Alfred S. Chuang

20 Who made it possible: Alfred S. Chuang


FRAMINGHAM (10/02/2002) - ALFRED S. CHUANG Cofounder, Chairman and CEO

BEA Systems Inc.

You won't hear people tell stories about Alfred Chuang break-dancing at Comdex, entertaining politicos at his Western ranch or browbeating analysts in closed-door sessions—although he could. Instead, you're more apt to hear about the steady, reliable success of his company, BEA Systems in San Jose, Calif.

Before cofounding BEA in 1995, Chuang spent nine years at Sun Microsystems in a range of management positions. Widely acknowledged as a seminal relational database expert, Chuang's Internet credentials are top drawer. It was Chuang who prototyped the implementation of the TCP/IP protocol on the IBM PC. Though a few companies were working toward an Internet applications infrastructure before 1998, BEA was the first to put its money behind Java application servers in a meaningful way, says Deborah Hess, a senior research analyst with Gartner. "They said, We're going to be an e-business company, long before anyone was saying that. It was truly visionary," says Hess. "BEA pretty much invented the term Java application server."

Initial Impressions

Alfred Chuang has ego sufficient to lend an initial to the company he cofounded in 1995 (he's the A in BEA Systems), but he was happy to share credit with his colleagues Bill Coleman (the B) and Ed Scott (the E). Seven years later, now chairman and CEO, Chuang is still careful not to hog the spotlight, says Mike Gilpin, research fellow at Giga Information Group, who has known Chuang personally for five years. "Alfred exhibits real respect for the leaders in his company," says Gilpin. "He has a very good personal leadership style. He's what some people would call a mensch."

BEA cofounder Bill Coleman originally held the titles of chairman and CEO but turned them both over to Chuang in the past year. "I noticed a difference in the way the company reacted to changing market conditions," says Mike Gilpin, research fellow at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass. "Under Alfred, the company is more realistic in its understanding of its position in the world and more proactive in response to that."

Chuang, 41, makes it a point to reach out to BEA customers. "He combines the inward-facing technical understanding with an outward, real-world skill in knowing his customer base," says Gilpin. "It's a very effective combination."

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