Jay M. (Marty) Tenenbaum ‘64, SM ‘66, never set out to start his own business. But given the atmosphere in Silicon Valley in the 1990s and his entrepreneurial DNA, he probably couldn’t avoid it. Tenenbaum founded Enterprise Integration Technologies (EIT), which in 1992 conducted the first Internet transaction. Decades earlier his father, Dan, had converted a used-furniture business into New York City’s largest source of props for television–his own era’s emerging technology.
Tenenbaum’s work has opened a vast new marketplace for entrepreneurs and shoppers, but his first passion was artificial intelligence, not business. He was an AI researcher at SRI International, the nonprofit research group, and ran the AI lab at Schlumberger, a leading oilfield services provider, for most of the 1980s. When the company moved the lab to Texas, Tenenbaum–who has now lived for 30 years in Portola Valley, CA, with his wife, Bonnie–needed a job. Problem was, “no one was hiring research lab heads in 1988,” he says.
So Tenenbaum returned to Stanford University, where he had earned his PhD 20 years earlier. Working with Jim Plummer, now Stanford’s dean of engineering, on using the Internet to coördinate large engineering projects, he had an epiphany: “The Internet at that time had 20 million users,” he recalls. “I realized that was a market, but no money was changing hands.”
So Tenenbaum left Stanford in 1990 with the mission of transforming the Internet into a marketplace. He founded EIT, which over the next few years conducted the first commercial Internet transaction, secure Web transaction, and Internet auction. In 1997, he cofounded Veo Systems, the company that pioneered the use of XML for automating business-to-business transactions. Veo merged with e-business pioneer Commerce One in 1998.
Today Tenenbaum is board chairman of CommerceNet, which he founded in 1994, the first industry association to conduct industry-wide research aimed at advancing the commercial use of the Internet. His current entrepreneurial focus is on using the Internet to improve health care by tapping the collective intelligence of doctors, researchers, and patients.
Meanwhile, his son Josh Tenenbaum, PhD ‘98, has followed his father’s footsteps to MIT. He’s an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science. “Josh’s work lets me vicariously return to my AI roots, attempting to understand human intelligence in computational terms,” Tenenbaum says.