In 1982 Janice Davidson was a school teacher-turned-computer programmer experimenting with the use of personal computers in the classroom. Stood up at a lunch meeting with a software publisher, Davidson opted to start her own firm with encouragement from husband Robert, an attorney in the construction industry. With $6,000 from their children’s college fund, Davidson & Associates was born.
An early title, Speed Reader, was a hit and netted the pair $270,000. In 1989 Davidson convinced her husband to join the company as chairman and CEO. Subsequent educational titles, including Math Blaster and Reading Blaster, attracted the attention of bigger players, including Stamford, Conn.-based CUC International. In 1996, CUC bought Davidson for $1.5 billion, propelling the Davidsons into the ranks of Los Angeles’ ultra-rich.
“We worried about wiping out the kids’ savings,” Janice said after the buy-out. “Now we’ve made them rich. I don’t know which is worse.”
Under the sales agreement, Robert has remained on the company’s board. Janice, who holds a Ph.D in American literature from University of Maryland, is director of the non-profit Los Angeles County Educational Foundation, a member of Pepperdine University’s board of regents, and an advisor to the Clinton Administration on the role of technology and telecommunications in education.