Joe Chung’s father, a neurosurgeon, was disappointed his son decided to become an engineer rather than go into medicine. But now he’s beginning to believe that perhaps his son was right.
Chung, age 36, who earned from MIT a bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering and computer science in 1989, has become a high-tech entrepreneur with a knack for super success.
In 1991 he and Jeet Singh, ’86, his MIT friend and fraternity brother, began Art Technology Group in their apartment with $5,000. Now, the Cambridge e-commerce software company — which helps businesses manage customer relations and build e-commerce websites — has offices in San Francisco, Chicago, London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Sydney. There are 850 employees, and for the first three quarters this year, they generated $100 million in sales.
Two years ago, the company went public. “The growth of the company in the last two years has just been astonishing for everyone, including ourselves. We never imagined that we’d be as big as we are now,” he says.
Recently Chung and Singh established a $600,000 matching fund at MIT to support a professorship at the Media Lab in honor of the late Muriel Cooper, a professor of the pair who had a great effect on their lives.
“Muriel Cooper’s ideas, spirit, and personal influence directly contributed to our success. She had a tremendous influence on both of us and also on our company. “We ‘ve enjoyed tremendous good luck, and I think if you have been fortunate, you have a certain obligation to share. It’s important to support the people, institutions, and principles that were directly related to your good fortune.”
For three years as a student, Chung did research at the Media Lab in computer music. “For me, working at the Media Lab was without question the defining experience of my career. I wanted so much to give back.”