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Winner: Emerging Company Featured

10:08am EDT July 22, 2002
When Carol Latham quit her job at Sohio in 1989 to found Thermagon, she had nothing but an idea: a way to dissipate the tremendous heat generated by semiconductor devices in computers. "Unfortunately, I had no investors and little money to pursue my goal," she says.

Her challenges: Find investors and customers despite the two obvious strikes against her-her lack of experience as a business owner and her newness to the computer industry.

Latham marketed her products through press releases in technical journals, hoping to catch the eye of West Coast computer manufacturers. Eight years later, Latham's persistence has paid off. Thermagon's thermally conductive materials are installed in more than 50 percent of the laptop computers made today. Latham employs 45 people-double that of a year ago-and Thermagon's revenues have grown from $100,000 to $5 million in the last five years.

Her company's client list includes Unisys, IBM, Motorola, Silicon Graphics and Intel. It was Intel that first endorsed Latham's designs in 1995, providing her with the industry credibility she previously lacked. Intel put Latham in contact with Southeast Asian computer manufacturers, which began installing the materials in high-speed laptop computers.

"We grew four-fold the next year," Latham says. "People began to realize we really did have a product better than anyone else."

As for capital, that doesn't seem to be a problem either. When approached by one casual investment offer during the time that Entrepreneur Of The Year judging was taking place, Latham quickly declined.