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Utah’s next venture capitalist

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Dave Moon — you helped shape WordPerfect through its growing years, then helped guide the governor's office through major technology initiatives, including Y2K. What are you going to do next?

"Venture capital," says Moon, who is winding down in his duties as Utah's first cabinet-level chief information officer amid a transition back to the private sector.

Venture capitalists find and route the investment money that helps developing businesses grow. In Utah, venture capital is often the missing ingredient in the formula for developing new business enterprises — the Achilles heel in the state's otherwise strong-running technology sector.

The right partners attracting attention (and money) to the best new technology is the formula for a venture capital infrastructure Moon hopes to help build. "We have so many wonderful entrepreneurs, but we had only one company last year go public. Part of its because of the lack of a strong VC infrastructure," he said. "I have some good partners that seem to be willing to work together to make something happen."

Moon isn't talking about his partners yet, but it is hard to ignore the possibilities considering another development in Utah's venture capital arena: The Wall Street Journal reported last week that just-retired 49ers quarterback Steve Young has plans to become a venture capitalist, operating both in Utah and Palo Alto, Calif. The Journal said David Bradford, who left his post as general counsel for Novell about three months ago, will be Young's partner. Bradford and Moon are former boardroom associates at Novell.

Moon said he is also maintaining continuity in the governor's office as he prepares for a change. "I've committed to the governor I'll help keep the ball rolling as we look for a replacement."

"He gave us a heads-up almost six months ago that he was ready to make a transition," said Vicki Varela, Gov. Mike Leavitt's spokeswoman. "It was clear from the time that he came on that he didn't intend to have a long tenure. He wanted to make a public service contribution — he had lots of other opportunities. We respect the fact that he's now pursuing them."

"Absolutely amazing," is how Varela characterized Moon and his tenure in the governor's office. "He'll be deeply missed. We are in the process of defining where we go from here with a chief information officer."

Moon joined WordPerfect in 1982 while finishing a computer science degree at Brigham Young University. He developed the PlanPerfect spreadsheet product and the tables feature in WordPerfect 5.1 and WordPerfect for Windows. He was WordPerfect's chief technology officer when WordPerfect was acquired by Novell in 1994. He left Novell in 1995 when it sold Word Perfect to Corel Corp. and started a sporting goods store in American Fork with a brother-in-law.

Moon described his venture into sporting goods as "a nice diversion," but it ended with the sale of the business and its assets.

Leavitt boosted the CIO position to a cabinet post when he brought Moon on at the beginning of 1998. It could have been a job with a fairly low profile except for Leavitt's penchant for electronic commerce and government — and a calendar item called Y2K.

Looking back, "Y2K was a very interesting process," Moon said. "I count that as one of my blessings that we came through that pretty well, but it took a lot of time and preparation.

"The other thing that's really been a focus has been the e-government initiative, and moving our processes to Web-based applications and trying to get the mind-set into that. It's coming," he said, "There is so much that still needs to be done in terms of reinventing government, re-engineering processes in government, and that's a tough process."

Moon said he talks to CIOs in other states and is reminded that Utah, as a whole, is farther along in its technology initiatives than many others. "It helps when you have a captain that wants to turn the ship," he said of Leavitt.

E-mail: steve@desnews.com