Connect Inducts Software Pioneer Peter Preuss to Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame

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Preuss Foundation for Brain Tumor Research and helped start labs focused on neuro-oncology in San Francisco and at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.

He also served for 15 years on the University of California Board of Regents, developing an interest in education that resulted in the formation of The Preuss School, a UC San Diego-owned high school that prepares San Diego’s underprivileged youth for college.

Preuss, who was born in Berlin in 1943, also recalled what it was like to grow up amid the rubble and reconstruction of postwar Berlin. “My mom told me that she had to go into the cellar twice during labor,” Preuss told the crowd.

After the war, he said a U.S. Army officer “basically adopted our family,” and from the time he was two or three years old, “I fell in love with an American and Americans.” As a youngster, Preuss said, “Sports was something I didn’t know how to spell. Believe it or not, I actually was a bit of a nerd. I loved everything that had anything to do with mathematics, and I hated everything else.” It was only a matter of time, though, before he came to the United States, and Preuss said he arrived in San Diego as a graduate student to study at the newly formed U.C. San Diego.

In the 1960s, Preuss said, “You have to understand that mathematics had absolutely no future in terms of getting a job… In those days, there was [only] a chance of becoming an insurance company mathematician.”

At UCSD, though, Preuss had access to what was at that time “a very powerful supercomputer” and he got a job developing the first computer graphics for UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The work led him to found ISSCO instead of completing his Ph.D.

“We had no beginning capital. I had no concept of what venture capital was,” Preuss recalled. “So for the first five years, we lived on very little money, and very few customers—basically big oil companies and U.S. national laboratories.”

When asked what was the biggest lesson he has learned as an entrepreneur, Preuss said, “Believe in your ideas, and fight for them.” And as a business manager, he added, “Don’t be afraid to hire people who are better than you.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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