Chet Pipkin creates the tech accessories that fll your house—or at least a kitchen drawer.
CHET PIPKIN MIGHT be next to you already. Or at least his products probably are. His company, Belkin, makes a clutter of gadgets and accessories—things like Linksys wireless routers, chargers, tablet keyboards, computer cords, docking stations and iphone cases.
It adds up to a lot more than just a tangled mess. FORBES estimates Belkin pulls in $1.5 billion in annual sales. After buying back 10% of the frm in July from the venture capitalists at Summit Partners, Pipkin owns virtually all of the business—enough for a $1.1 billion fortune. Summit had invested 13 years ago, and he worried it might pressure him to go public. He didn’t want that. “Our vision is always really
long term. We’ve never wanted to try to create some short-term value,” he says.
A machinist’s son, Pipkin, 55, grew up with a slight stutter in a working-class southern California neighborhood. As a kid, he worked odd jobs such as washing dishes in the school cafeteria and selling homemade candles; he even once created street-fair games children paid to play. He dropped out of UCLA after less than a year to cash in on the personal-computing revolution. One of his frst inventions: a cable to hook an Apple II to any parallel printer. He created prototypes on his parents’ dining room table, then peddled
the cables to local stores; sales reached $178,000 by the end of the frst year. After his frst national ad in Computer Dealer magazine in 1985, orders poured in from around the country. As he expanded his product line to make more accessories and cords, Pipkin set up shop in L.A.’S Compton neighborhood to take advantage of cheap rent.
Now operating from glass-bedecked headquarters in high-rent Playa Vista— a.k.a. Silicon Beach—belkin is moving to proft from the Internet of Things. It’s concentrating on its new Wemo mobile app, a hub to control smart cofee makers, Crock-pots and sprinkler systems. “We have to be reinventing ourselves on a continual basis,” Pipkin says.