Auguste, Donna M. 1958–

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Donna M. Auguste 1958


The Newton PDA

A Stressful First Year

A Well-Liked Boss


Donna M. Auguste is the founder and CEO of Freshwater Software, Inc., a Colorado firm that helps companies manage their businesses in cyberspace. A software engineer by training, Auguste is one of handful of African-American women to rise to the top of their professions. Colleagues and employees extol her talents for managing people as well as complex technical matters, and Auguste credits her own background for instilling such skills. Most of my management and leadership skills I learned in the black and Creole communities, Auguste told New York Times writer John Markoff. Diversity was something I just took for granted.

Auguste was born in Texas in 1958 into a family of African-American, Creole, and Native American descent that would grow to include her three sisters. They lived in Louisiana for a time before relocating to California, where her father became a restaurateur. After the marriage ended, Augustes mother sometimes worked three jobs in order to afford Catholic school tuition for her daughters in Berkeley, California. Auguste was an admitted tinkerer from an early age, known for disassembling doorbells and even toasters and then putting them back together again. She once said that the television footage of American astronauts from the Apollo 11 spacecraft and their moon landing in July of 1969 made a tremendous impact on her, and drew her even more deeply into science. Her mothers drive and determination also propelled her success. She always said if theres a closed door and that door is locked, then find a window, Auguste told Denver Post writer Jennifer Beauprez.

Auguste attended the renowned University of California at Berkeley, where she studied electrical engineering and computer science. She also delivered newspapers to support herself, and became the first person in her family to earn a college degree. She then went on to another prestigious institution, Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a leader in the computer science field, and was the first African-American woman in the schools Ph.D. program in computer science. While there, Auguste conducted research in applied science and artificial intelligence, and spent her summers as an intern at the Palo Alto Research Center of the Xerox Corporation. There she met the future founders of IntelliCorp, who hired her in 1986 as a software engineer. At IntelliCorp, Auguste worked on the some of the first commercially available technology products to use artificial intelligence. After four years, however, she tired of the long product development cycle, and quit to bicycle through the Japanese countryside for two months.

The Newton PDA

In 1990, Auguste was hired by Apple Computer as the key software engineering manager for the Newton, the first personal digital assistant (PDA) to reach consumers and precursor to the PalmPilot. The Newton was an overly hyped product years before its official launch, and the pen-based technology was initially deemed a failure when Newton arrived on the market in 1993. But Auguste won praise for her managerial skills at the embattled company. Today many team members

At a Glance

Born September 11, 1958, in Beaumont, TX; daughter of a restaurateur and Willie Mae Fruge, Education: Earned undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley; graduate work at Carnegie-Mellon University. Religion: Roman Catholic.

Career: IntelliCorp, engineer, 1986-90; Apple Computer, engineering manager, 1990-93; US West Advanced Technologies, senior director of multimedia systems engineering and development, 1994-96; Freshwater Software, lnc., founder and CEO, 1996-.

Awards: Denver Business Journal, Outstanding Women in Business award, 2000; Colorado Women in Technology, Lifetime Contribution Award, 2000; Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship Program; Women in Technology International Half of Fame; named one of the Top 25 Women in Small Business, Fortune, 2001; Outstanding Woman in Technology award, Golden Torch, 2001.

Member: IEEE Internet Computing Editorial Board, Colorado Commission on Science and Technology.

Addresses: Home Lyons, CO. Office Freshwater Software, Inc., 5603 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, CO 80303.

give Auguste sole credit for holding the project close to its deadlines, wrote Markoff the 1994 New York Times profile of her. As she told the reporter, she was not surprised to find Apple a tough work environment, where ninety-hour weeks were common, but was taken aback somewhat by the insular nature of the Newton group, many of whom already knew one another. I didnt think it was healthy, she told the New York Times. Auguste made it a point to hire more women and minorities to work on the team, and she also continued to contribute to the technical field, winning four U.S. patents for her work on the Newton.

In January of 1994, Auguste relocated from Californias Silicon Valley to Boulder, Colorado and began work at U.S. West Advanced Technologies. She served as senior director of multimedia systems engineering and development, and as such headed the engineering team that created the application for interactive television applications for the companys fiber-optic broadband network. She met others who viewed the Internet as a potentially dramatic new force in the business world, and resigned in order to launch her own company in 1996 with three colleagues. To do so, Auguste first met with new-technology venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, explaining to them her idea for a company that would develop tools to help businesses maintain profitable sites on the Internet for their products and services. The company would be called Freshwater Software, and she would serve as its president and CEO. Auguste won $250,000 for the start-up costs, then $1 million later on in 1996.

A Stressful First Year

Despite the influx of seed money, Freshwaters first year in business was a tough one. Initially, they had just thirty clients. We were scraping by, vice president Pete Welter told Jennifer Beauprez of the Denver Post. We had charts on the walls telling us the amount of money we needed to make payroll. That drove us. Freshwater provided tools for businesses to monitor the performance and availability of their Internet sites, and developed products like SiteScope, which keeps the powerful Web servers running, SiteSeer, and Global Site Reliance. Clients use our Web-monitoring tools to make sure that their systems are up and running 24 hours, seven days a week, Auguste explained to Black Enterprise. They can download SiteScope from our Website and install it on their local server and configure it easily to monitor their systems internally within their own data center. They can also opt to use Global Site Reliance to have our network operations center monitor their sites around the clock.

A steady stream of client referrals kept Freshwater growing, and between 1997 and 1999 it emerged as the Denver areas second fastest growing private company. It began attracting some top-shelf clients as well, including,, and Merrill Lynch Online. A lesson that I have learned again and again is that delivering value for the customer is pivotal, Auguste told Black Enterprise. It determines your relationship with that customerwhether or not they will come back or recommend us to another [potential] client. By the fall of 2000, Freshwater had a client base of 2,300 companies.

A Well-Liked Boss

Auguste is considered a dynamic, but down-to-earth boss with admirable people skills. All desks at Freshwater have fish tanks, employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work, and there is an on-site fitness center and even a billiards table. We want them to be comfortable in their work environment and help make the environment fun for the employees, Auguste told Amy Breyer in the Denver Business Journal. One of Freshwaters other founders, John Meier, who knew Auguste from both U.S. West and Apple, told Breyer that Augustes focus is usually on the interpersonal at the workplace.

I find it unusual; other companies spend time on it, but she spends time on it at the expense of other things, Meier said of Auguste. Raw sales numbers are clearly not the most important thing to her. They are important to her, but not at the expense of having a good culture.

Auguste is the recipient of numerous professional honors, and is a member of Colorados Commission on Science and Technology. She is single and lives in Lyons, and is an active member of her parish, Cure dArs Roman Catholic Church in Denver. A talented musician, she plays in its gospel choir and serves as co-director of the childrens choir. Her day begins at 4:30 a.m. with prayer and a meditative walk; she then practices the piano and bass guitar before going into the office. In her spare hours she gives music lessons, and heads part of her churchs global outreach program, which in 2000 was working to establish solar-powered electricity and e-mail communication for schools and hospitals in remoter areas of Tanzania. Its something Im really excited about, Auguste told the Denver Post. Its a real concrete use of technology that can really make a difference in peoples lives.



Black Enterprise, November 2000, p. 65.

Denver Business Journal, September 8, 2000, p. 3B.

Denver Post, March 23, 2000 p. C1.

New York Times, January 2, 1994, p. F6.


The Freshwater Software website,

Carol Brennan

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Auguste, Donna M. 1958–

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Auguste, Donna M. 1958–