The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy is pleased to welcome Entrepreneurs-in-Residence to campus throughout the academic year. These accomplished entrepreneurs live in Abilene or visit campus frequently to advise ACU students interested in entrepreneurship by sharing their expertise and prior experiences. Their interactions with students include serving as mentors, advising student businesses, providing coaching for class projects, appearances in classes and working with the ACU's chapter of CEO.
These entrepreneurs come from a variety of backgrounds and bring experience from a wide range of industries.
Jim Porter has served in a comprehensive range of technology industry, community, and professional activities with a healthy mix of career advancement experience and “give back activities”. He has been a principal participant in over 30 mergers and can account for more than 26 CEO’s who have worked for him over the last 20 years. He has managed in the public company sector for most of his career and has raised over $500 million in the public marketplace.
Jim is past Chairman of CCI/Triad and, for twelve years, served as the CEO and President of Triad Systems. During his tenure, the market value of Triad Systems moved from $54 million to $366 million. His earlier career included an Industrial Engineering degree from Texas A&M, Captain in the US Air Force, faculty member at Texas A&M where he was awarded two grants for study and research, graduate studies at Harvard University, and systems engineering manager at IBM.
This early period was followed by executive roles in two successful start-up companies both of which built, sold and serviced end user software for the life insurance industry. His professional career has always been heavily weighted toward mission critical software for large numbers of customers.
Industry support activities have included several terms on the board and executive committee of the Information Technology Association of America plus leadership roles in quality management and financial practices initiatives for the software industry. Jim served for ten years on the AICPA Accounting Standards Executive Committee for the software industry.
He has served on numerous public and private company boards and most recently served on the board of SVB Financial, a 1.8 Billion Company (NASDAQ), three privately held company boards; Cardone Industries, (a $1.0 Billion Company), Genesis Network Solutions (a $10.0 Million Company), Stellar Technology Solutions (an early stage company). He also serves on one private university governing board, Pepperdine University Board of Regents, where he is Vice Chair and for many years chaired the Investments Committee which oversees their $700 million portfolio. For 20 years Jim served on the ACU Board of Trustees. He currently serves as a faculty member at Abilene Christian University where he is working to build a College of Business program in Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. He also has given back from a rewarding life by serving on the boards of two large medical centers in California and several Foundations.
Jim is a principal of Porter Capital Partners and an active investor in early stage companies including several technology companies, a community bank (Dallas) and a regional investment bank (Houston). He is also an active member of Rain Dance Capital in Abilene, Texas. He resides with Lela, his wife of 54 years in Abilene, Texas. All three of their children and one granddaughter are ACU graduates.
Chad Hutchins, a two-time winner of ACU's Springboard Challenge for business ideas, thrives on the flexibility that comes from being an entrepreneur.
"There's something about being independent that just feels right," he says. "At the end of the day, I still have a boss in the form of the client I'm doing work for and who is ultimately paying me. The difference is that I get to work on my own terms, and I get to set my schedule so that I can work on other things, such as a new venture."
Hutchins' most successful venture so far has been Sheepdog, his first-place entry in the 2009 Springboard Ideas Challenge. "Three other ACU students and myself put together this business. It was a research tool for businesses to find what social network their customers are using," he says. "We worked on it for a few years, had some good customers along the way and sold it a little over a year ago to a Silicon Valley company."
Search for ideas
Hutchins now does web development for individual clients and helps other entrepreneurs with office space he won in the 2011 Springboard competition. For a small monthly fee, people can work out of the office (http://abilenecoworking.com) with such amenities as Internet, copier/printer, desks, chairs and conference room provided.
Hutchins is also constantly on the lookout for new business ideas.
"Now that I'm self-employed, I've set myself up so that once I figure out an idea I want to put a lot of my time into, I won't have a salaried day job slowing me down," he says. "There are a lot of things about being an entrepreneur you can't control - changes in the market, your competitors, policy changes, etc. – but the one thing entrepreneurs have all the control over is their hustle. I've had to be very deliberate about finding the time and working hard on whatever the project of the day/month/year is."
While a junior at ACU, Hutchins landed an internship at Milsoft, a nationwide company that develops software for use in the electric utility industry. After graduating in 2008, he took a full-time job with Milsoft as a business development and web specialist. He worked for the software developer until July 2011, when he struck out on his own.
Foundation for success
Hutchins credits ACU with preparing him for success in the business world.
"ACU is a place full of smart and motivated people," he says. "To any college student I talk with, I'm quick to tell them that if they think they are busy now, they have no idea what's coming for them when they graduate. College is the best time to start an entrepreneurial venture, due to the time you have and the abundant resources at your fingertips. ACU had and still has these resources - smart students, faculty, staff and a well-networked alumni group - so a combination of all of those things helped me as an entrepreneur. Going through the process of Springboard helped me get comfortable in front of an investor-like group of people to pitch my idea, and the winning funds helped pay for some equipment and conferences."
Hutchins' advice to a would-be entrepreneur?
"Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and complement your expertise. Only take advice from those who have gone through whatever you're seeking advice about. Find co-founders who you trust and whose missions/intentions align with your own. Once you start a company with your co-founders, you're pretty much married to them."