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Forbes - - New Billionaire -

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.

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