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Ping Fu

December 23, 2005

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:52

Geomagic founder and CEO Ping Fu has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. magazine. She is pictured on the front cover of the December 2005 issue. Inside, an inspiring article details her years in China and the steps that led to the launching of her successful company. The text and photographs presented in the story grip your attention and show how this woman overcame almost unbelievable odds.

I have known Ping for many years and have a great deal of respect for her. Until I read the story, I knew little about her past. While in China, she was beaten, tortured, and put in solitary confinement for days. When she was very young, she watched the Red Guard attempt to drown her younger sister in a river. Ping went in after her and saved her life, but Ping paid a terrible price for it, as depicted in the article.

At 23, Ping was locked in prison by the Chinese government without being charged for any crime. She had no heat, light, or latrine, and she was expecting to be executed. Surprisingly, she was released days later and deported to the U.S. Upon her arrival, with almost no money, she learned English and enrolled at the University of New Mexico, then at the University of California РSan Diego. Ping went on to write code for a software company in southern California, earning a six-figure income. She then left to pursue a doctorate in computer science at the University of Illinois and to work at Bell Labs. 

In 1990, Ping joined the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) to work in computer graphics and visualization. While at NCSA, she assisted one of her students, Marc Andreessen, with the development of an Internet browser (Mosaic), which later became Netscape. In 1997, she left NCSA to launch Raindrop Geomagic. The first few years were rocky. In 2001, she took over as CEO and the company immediately began to thrive. The first major sale ($1.8 million) was to Align Technology, the makers of the Invisalign invisible braces for teeth, although Ping credits the former CEO for establishing the groundwork. This year, the company will generate an estimated $15 million after growing 2,105% the past five years.

Ping Fu is a remarkable individual. With such a difficult past, one might expect her to be bitter. She is not. In fact, she is one of the most delightful, personable, and helpful individuals that you’ll ever meet. And she is exceptionally bright. It is a privilege to know her and to gain insight into her past. Inc. magazine considered the best of the best for the Entrepreneur of the Year and this distinction could not have gone to a more deserving individual. Congratulations, Ping!