As a former U.S. intelligent official, retired Admiral Bobby Inman
is accustomed to relying on gut instinct to guide him through uncertain times. Inman drew on similar instincts Tuesday when he stepped up to the podium, glanced over his notes, and offered his "gut" analysis of today's economy. And if the lunch crowd -- an engrossed audience of 165 business and tech leaders -- had come to the Shoreline Grill looking for a glimmer of hope from the good admiral, they surely must have left with heavy hearts. Inman had little good news to share, except to say that maybe things will bounce back in 2003. Until then, entrepreneurs trying to kick-start new companies should look not to investors but to families and friends for support, and laid-off tech workers may want to consider flipping burgers if they intend to ride things out in Austin. On a cheerier note, Inman believes Austin is poised to take off in a big way once the economy bounces back in 18 months or so -- barring any other catastrophic events that rival the attacks on the World Trade Center.
For himself, though, Inman is no slouch when it comes to making a buck. Since joining the civilian ranks in the early Eighties, the former national security director and ex-deputy director of the CIA has raised his profile considerably in the business world -- as a former CEO of two companies, and a current board member of several corporations. These days, he invests in choice companies and enjoys a tenured professor's life at UT-Austin, where he holds the prestigious LBJ centennial chair in national policy. The law firm Jenkins & Gilchrist sponsored Inman's talk as part of their corporate technology luncheon series.