John Duffy, small business leader, Palm Beach County

John Duffy sold his first company for $100 million before he turned 40. But success at such a young age hasn't gone to his head.

"John has a unique way of making everyone feel respected, like he's just their colleague and at the same time offers nurturing advice," said Susan Amat, executive director of a student mentoring program that Duffy supports.

Today, at 46, Duffy is the chief executive officer of 3Cinteractive, a Boca Raton-based mobile software company that is expected to generate revenue of more than $40.5 million in 2012. Last year Forbes named 3Cinteractive one of the most promising American companies, and the year before 3Cinteractive ranked 28th on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States.

For his continued success, Duffy was named the 2011 winner of the Sun Sentinel Co.'s Excalibur Award as Small Business Leader, Palm Beach County. The award was presented Thursday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Duffy began his career in online technology in 1994 when he created Internet Billing Co., an Internet-based payment processing company. He sold the company for $100 million in 2002.

3Cinteractive came shortly after and is now one of only a handful of mobile platform technology businesses in America today, said former Apple Inc. CEO John Sculley, an original investor in 3Cinteractive. Revenue has doubled each year since the company began in 2005.

"John Duffy is well on the road to building what could be a very, very successful idea," said Sculley, "There are not many companies like this in the world."

3Cinteractive has more than 150 customers, including blue-chip names like Disney, Walgreens and Best Buy.

The company's platform enables Disney's hotel reservation systems, Walgreen's prescription services and ESPN's fantasy alerts to work with any mobile device.

In mobile, the company manages Disney's hotel reservation systems, Walgreens' prescription services and ESPN's fantasy text alerts. Duffy has hired industry professionals with experience in financial services and healthcare to better assist clients from those fields

Duffy's company runs a patient text reminder system for Boca Raton Regional Hospital. The hospital uses 3Cinteractive technology to reach patients through their cell phones to remind them about appointments and other services and to give advice about their symptoms.

"We give clients the tools to reach their own (clients) through mobile devices," he said.

Duffy said he believes that mobile applications are the next wave after the Internet. "I want to be a part of this next great thing," he said. "Be on the tip of that spear."

3Cinteractive has 102 employees and expects to hire at least 50 more this year. The growth the company has seen in its six-year existence is only the beginning, Duffy said.

When Duffy isn't on the job, he spends time with young South Florida entrepreneurs to help them cultivate business ideas.

"He gives (the students) so much more time than any of us thought he would," said Amat, co-founder of the Launch Pad Entrepreneurship Program at University of Miami.

Duffy said working and investing in young entrepreneurs brings him back to the fundamentals. "It's easy to get distracted otherwise and forget where you came from," he said.

Originally from a suburb of Washington D.C., Duffy came to South Florida after graduating from Ohio University in 1988. He followed an old college roommate to Pompano Beach.

"He's just having a ball with this company," Sculley said. "If he reaches his target profit margins, this company will become one of the real star companies of Florida."

jusgriffin@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4528 or Twitter: @SunBizGriffin