By Kate Siber D’02, June 2012
Published Jun 01, 2012
Tuck entrepreneurs have astoundingly diverse interests but are united by a shared set of enduring qualities: creativity, a spirit of innovation, and a deep passion for what they do.
RICHARD TAIT T’88
COMPANY: Golazo FOUNDED: 2010 EMPLOYEES: 11
BIG IDEA: In the spring of 2008, Cranium founder Richard Tait stood looking out of his office window at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. He had recently sold Cranium to Hasbro for $77.5 million and felt lost. “Everyone was asking what I was working on and I had nothing,” says Tait. Below, tens of thousands of Mexican soccer fans had congregated outside of the stadium to support their beloved team, affectionately known as “El Tri.” Tait was drawn to the window by the sound of beating drums and chants rising up from the crowd. But as he stood there, the mood of the crowd quickly changed. Mexican forward Cesar Villaluz had just chipped the ball over the Chinese goalkeeper to lift El Tri to victory. “The place went ballistic,” says Tait, a lifelong soccer player. “At that moment, my antenna went off.” His idea: build a passion brand for soccer and call it Golazo—an emotional Spanish word for super goal. With partner Alex Rosenast, Tait started blending elixirs in his kitchen. Through research they discovered soccer players were mixing energy and hydration drinks to create a hybrid beverage that boosted energy levels and kept them hydrated. From there, they hired flavor consultants to perfect the beverage and in November 2010 launched a line of all-natural sports energy beverages in the Pacific Northwest designed to appeal to both soccer fans and the growing legions of health-conscious consumers. (The all-natural sports energy drinks have 50 percent less sugar than leading energy drink brands, non-GMO ingredients, natural caffeine sources, and electrolytes.) Barely two years later, Golazo is the top-selling energy drink at Whole Foods in Seattle.
LOOKING AHEAD: This year, Golazo is extending its sports energy line to include two additional Latin-inspired flavors: jamaica (hibiscus) fruit punch and mandarina. The company is also launching a line of non-caffeinated hydration replenishment beverages made with coconut water—flavors include mangolimon, limonada, jamaica, and mandarina. In addition, Golazo beverages will be available for purchase on Amazon.
ON TUCK: “It really helped prepare me to articulate, defend, evolve, and learn from people who had more experience than me, but the greatest gift Tuck gave me was the confidence and conviction to believe in my ideas and the ability to communicate them clearly to other people.”
SUSAN HUNT STEVENS T’98
COMPANY: Practically Green FOUNDED: 2010 EMPLOYEES: 9
BIG IDEA: An incident with a cashew spurred the biggest change of Susan Hunt Stevens’ career. While she was working at The New York Times Company as a digital media executive, her 22-monthold son ate a nut, went into anaphylactic shock, and landed in the emergency room. Soon Stevens was scouring her home for allergens, checking food labels, and Googling substances like “sodium benzoate.” Things snowballed: She started blogging, gained a following, and signed up for a sustainable-design program at Boston Architectural College. In a class on LEED, a system for rating the environmental friendliness of buildings, a lightbulb went off: “I just remember thinking, ‘Why isn’t there something like this for people?’” says Stevens. So she set about creating a digital tool that would help individuals evaluate the environmental toxicity and impact of their lifestyle and offer tools to improve. In the fall of 2010, the website Practically Green was born. The site had 150,000 visitors in its first year, and users accrue points for each positive action they take—such as switching to line-drying clothing or to an all-natural shampoo—which they share with friends on social media.
LOOKING AHEAD: In October, the company launched a program for corporate clients that is growing rapidly. Among her first customers is Seventh Generation, purveyors of green household care products.
ON TUCK: “It’s been the Tuck community that’s helped me succeed as much as what I learned in the classroom,” says Stevens, who called upon former classmates for feedback on her business plan and connections to investors. “That’s the power of Tuck, whether it’s entrepreneurship or anything else. It’s the people.”
DAN RICHARDS T’03
COMPANY: Global Rescue FOUNDED: 2004 EMPLOYEES: 100
BIG IDEA: A backcountry skier, climber, and hiker, Dan Richards has visited an impressive array of dangerous destinations. “The question, as I’ve gotten older and gone further off the beaten path, is, How am I going to get myself out of this?” says Richards. “And frequently there’s not necessarily a good answer to that.” That is why he founded Global Rescue, a crisis-response company that picks up where other travel services leave off. Employing teams of Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, and other highly trained personnel, the company extricates those in political or medical peril in a variety of remote locales. Clients have included hypoxic climbers in Nepal, a woman gored by a Cape buffalo in Africa, and some 200 people stuck in Egypt during the Arab Spring. Clients include the U.S. government, European Union governments, and even NASA.
LOOKING AHEAD: There are still many shadowy spots on the planet, and Global Rescue is continually improving the quality and quantity of services available in its forgotten corners.
ON TUCK: “Tuck gave me the frameworks that would allow me to make good decisions going forward,” says Richards. “It provided a perspective I didn’t have prior to going to business school.”
KATE REILING T’09
COMPANY: Morphology FOUNDED: 2009 EMPLOYEES: 2
BIG IDEA: Kate Reiling came to business school with the seed of an idea: a charades-like game in which players try to make teammates guess a word using props like string and beads. Even Reiling herself wouldn’t have guessed that six years later, the game, now known as Morphology, would sell out at New York’s Toy Fair in its first year, garner accolades from Games and Good Housekeeping magazines, and be named the No. 2 Toy of the Year in 2010 by Time magazine. Between 2010 and 2011, the company tripled sales, and in the first two months of 2012 sales tripled again. It can now be found in more than 350 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Reiling says games like Cranium and Apples to Apples paved the way for smaller companies like hers to break into the market. But she also credits her success to a cultural climate ripe for creative games. “There’s an awareness in our culture now around creativity and how our brains work,” she says. “People love the way this game makes them think.’”
LOOKING AHEAD: Morphology Junior, a kids’ version of the game, will hit shelves this summer.
ON TUCK: “Tuck was a life-changing event for me and not because I learned a lot about capital markets,” says Reiling. “I realized at Tuck that I was an entrepreneur.”
STEVE HOOPER T’11
COMPANY: Kigo Kitchen FOUNDED: 2010 EMPLOYEES: About 9
BIG IDEA: Kigo Kitchen started as a First-Year Project (FYP) at Tuck: a fresh and fast alternative to tired food-court restaurants. “We wanted to create an Asian version of Chipotle,” says Steve Hooper, who co-founded the company with classmates Brian Casebolt, Edgar Pastrana, and Seth Gilmore. At Tuck, Hooper and Casebolt met John Pepper T’97, founder of the restaurant chain Boloco, who hired them as summer interns. They trained as line cooks, worked cash registers, and rewrote training manuals—and loved it. Fast forward two years, and the first Kigo Kitchen will open in a Northeastern University student center in August, with Hooper at the helm of the company and Pastrana and Gilmore as part-time consultants. For between $6 and $8, diners can choose meat or tofu, vegetables, and a sauce, such as pineapple tamarind or coconut lime, and cooks will stir-fry the dish within 90 seconds.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hooper plans to license new restaurants to Compass Group USA, the foodservice management contractor that runs Northeastern’s student center. The company will open its first corporate-owned store in Seattle in early 2013.
ON TUCK: “The network was obviously key,” says Hooper. “And the way that the coursework lined up—intro to e-ship, FYP, summer internship, advanced e-ship, independent studies—there was a natural process for me to take a nascent idea and figure out over the course of 18 months pretty much everything I had a question about.”
ANDREW SMITH T’07
COMPANY: ATDynamics FOUNDED: 2006 EMPLOYEES: 35
BIG IDEA: Andrew Smith’s interest in green transportation technology started when he picked up a copy of Car and Driver magazine in sixth grade. In seventh grade, a teacher he respected told him Ferraris had terrible gas mileage, and by eighth grade, he declared he would start an electric vehicle company. While his focus on green transportation never wavered, Smith has ended up tackling transportation fuel economy from another angle. He knew that long-haul trucks account for a large portion of the country’s oil demand, and that their boxy shape is horrifyingly inefficient from an aerodynamic standpoint. Smith found that an attachable tapered tail could decrease drag behind a semi-trailer and improve long-haul tractor-trailer fuel economy by 5 to 7 percent. “The idea had been considered by many aerodynamicists but no one had successfully engineered a commercially viable product,” says Smith. “When I saw this $2- to $3-billion per year fuel-saving opportunity, I got a cardboard box and started building little prototypes on the floor in my living room while at Tuck.” In 2010, after three years of engineering and market development, and input from dozens of Tuck faculty members, students, and alums, one of the top 100 U.S. trucking companies, Mesilla Valley Transportation, retrofitted 3,500 trailers with aerodynamic “TrailerTails.” The move started a chain reaction in the industry. ATDynamics is now experiencing rapid growth with more than 50 additional trucking companies launching TrailerTail programs of their own. “We offset more fuel consumption than the entire pure electric passenger vehicle industry in 2011,” says Smith.
LOOKING AHEAD: There are currently more than 5,000 TrailerTails in circulation on U.S. highways. ATDynamics’ mission is to put tails on 2 million trailers to save $20 billion in fuel over the next decade. The company is also consulting on a Department of Energy project that aims to design a “supertruck” that will be 50 percent more efficient than current models.
ON TUCK: “My classmates who teamed up with me on business plan competitions and all of the faculty were tremendously supportive,” says Smith. “The best thing about starting a business in business school is you have two years to test every concept and to apply everything in classes to that specific business model.”
GAIL GOODMAN T’87
COMPANY: Constant Contact FOUNDED: 1999 EMPLOYEES: About 1,000
BIG IDEA: Soon after signing on in 1999 as CEO of what was then a new small-business email-marketing company, Gail Goodman promptly broke a number of rules. One of them had to do with customer service: at price points of $15 or $30 a month, it was unheard of for a company to provide live support. But Goodman had already learned that time-starved small-business owners needed more than just a product. So Constant Contact gave every customer a real, live marketing coach, one that was focused on educating rather than selling. It didn’t take long for the company to reap the rewards. Though Goodman admits that not all of Constant Contact’s tests have panned out as well—door-to-door sales and endorsement radio are two such examples—the company has seen enormous success in the subsequent years. It went public in 2007 and has since introduced a range of online marketing tools, including online survey, event marketing, local deal, and social media marketing tools. Now the company has more than half a million small-business customers, 70 percent of whom have fewer than 10 employees, and has doubled its customer count since 2009.
LOOKING AHEAD: Constant Contact is focused on making the latest marketing technologies simple for small businesses. The company’s recent acquisition of CardStar, a mobile loyalty app, opens the door to both mobile and location-based services.
ON TUCK: “Tuck’s emphasis on teamwork—with shared team grades—was a cornerstone of my learning,” says Goodman. “I remember a team when I was sure I had the best answer to the business case. I could not, however, persuade the team to go forward with my approach. Much time was wasted in debate. Our end product suffered. I would have been far better served embracing the other approach and polishing our response. The lesson I took away was that an OK strategy with great execution beats a perfect strategy with no execution—every time.”
DAVID MURPHY T’84
COMPANY: Better World Books FOUNDED: 2003 EMPLOYEES: 400
BIG IDEA: Judging a University of Notre Dame business-plan competition in 2003, Murphy came across one entry that stood out: Three recent grads had gathered old textbooks to sell on Amazon—at the time, a new practice—and gave a portion of the proceeds to literacy charities. Murphy helped them with their business plan, they won, and then they hired him as CEO of the resulting company, Better World Books. The company started by running book drives on college campuses, promising donors that they’d sell the book and donate a percentage of the sale to a literacy nonprofit, donate the book directly, or recycle it to keep it out of landfills. Since then, the company has become one of the country’s best examples of a profitable social enterprise. Murphy helped the company expand book drives to more than 2,000 college campuses, start selling all types of books, and convince 3,000 libraries to donate discarded titles. Now the company processes upwards of 150,000 books every day and is one of the top three online sellers of used books in the world.
LOOKING AHEAD: Two years ago, Better World Books planted 600 bright-green book donation boxes in Georgia and Indiana and plans to set up more this year. “Our big vision is we’ll have as many drop boxes as there are Starbucks,” says Murphy.
ON TUCK: “If I was going to get involved with something entrepreneurial, I wanted it to be something that could scale— something that could be big, that could change the world, that could change an industry,” says Murphy. “At Tuck I was never taught to think small.”
DANIEL VITIS T’04
COMPANY: Tamaya Gourmet FOUNDED: 2004 EMPLOYEES: 20
BIG IDEA: Chile is a trove of fresh-grade exports, shipping grapes, plums, blueberries, raspberries, apples, and innumerable other types of produce all over the planet. Former corporate banker Daniel Vitis once financed these profitable fruit companies, then it dawned on him: perhaps he should start one himself. Vitis arrived at Tuck with more than a half-dozen product ideas but settled on a unique and delicious variety of Chilean papaya. Soon after, he ran into a roadblock: High-end chefs weren’t interested in it because they associated papayas with dull flavors and too-soft flesh. In a brilliant turnaround, Vitis renamed his product: Chilean Carica. Now a foodie can find Carica in martinis and paired with lobster in top restaurants in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. Building on the success of Carica, which can be found on Amazon, Vitis launched a new product in 2009—melt-in-your-mouth Chilean baby pears.
LOOKING AHEAD: In July, Tamaya Gourmet will launch a product they expect to transcend the niche gourmet market and enter the booming natural-foods market: freshly-pressed, 100-percent pure and natural juices in blueberry, Carica, raspberry, and winevariety grape flavors. They’ll appear first in restaurants and high-end hotels, then at natural and premium retailers and online.
ON TUCK: “My plan for the MBA was to focus on learning entrepreneurship; the final outcome was that I was fully transformed into an entrepreneur.”
STEVE TRAN T’98
COMPANY: Gring.me FOUNDED: 2012 EMPLOYEES: 2
BIG IDEA: Steve Tran has kept busy since selling the automated call-system company BeVocal, which he founded with Amol Joshi T’97 and sold for $190 million in 2007. He spent some time in Paris while his wife studied at Le Cordon Bleu, had twins, did some angel investing, and waited patiently for inspiration. In November 2011, it arrived with a bang. Frustrated by cumbersome conference calls, in which callers must phone in using complicated dial-in numbers and access codes, he envisioned an app that would connect multiple mobile phones with a single tap. He saw not just mobile professionals using it, but also emergency room doctors consulting with teams of specialists to make triage decisions instead of fumbling with archaic paging systems, or teenage girls gossiping en masse from the comfort of their bedrooms. Assembling engineers formerly employed by BeVocal, Tran mocked up a raw app within a few weeks. In January, he had a prototype app and Gring.me was born.
LOOKING AHEAD: The iPhone version is slated to hit the app store later this spring and one for the Android platform is also in the works.
ON TUCK: “Without Tuck, I never would have met many of the fantastic people with whom I have collaborated closely over the years,” says Tran. “I never would have met Amol Joshi T’97, who was my co-founder at BeVocal, or Vipul Vyas T’99, who I worked closely with at BeVocal to sell and close hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Fortune 500 enterprise contracts. For me, Tuck has always been about the people."
JOHN PEPPER T’97
COMPANY: Boloco FOUNDED: 1997 EMPLOYEES: About 300
BIG IDEA: It didn’t take long for John Pepper to realize that he wasn’t passionate about working at finance firm Montgomery—80 days, to be exact. It took him even less time to figure out what he was truly passionate about: burritos. However, after he and three friends opened their first restaurant, Under Wraps, in Boston in 1997, it took a while before locals felt the same way. “It was a little ahead of its time,” says Pepper. In many ways, it still is. The company is committed to positively impacting local communities and the lives and futures of its employees—a rarity in fast food—by offering benefits like free English classes, leadership training, health and dental insurance, and matching 401K plans. Boloco is also known for its unusual take on burritos, inspired by culinary traditions from all over the world, including Mediterranean, Memphis BBQ, Cajun, and Tikka Masala varieties, and for its use of fresh ingredients like grass-fed steak and organic tofu.
LOOKING AHEAD: Boloco currently has 18 locations in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts—five new stores are planned for the Eastern Seaboard, including Washington—and has introduced flatscreen ordering kiosks in restaurants along with online ordering systems.
ON TUCK: “The most valuable course that I ever had was The Art of Modeling,” says Pepper. “I went into Tuck with no financial experience. Knowing those basics was so important in the early years. But just as importantly, it allowed me to raise large amounts of institutional capital because I better understood what our investors were looking for and could create structures that made sense for all parties.”
LARS ALBRIGHT T’05
COMPANY: SessionM FOUNDED: 2011 EMPLOYEES: About 30
BIG IDEA: There are some 650,000 apps available for mobile
phones, which means that the vast majority are summarily ignored. Lars Albright, the co-founder of Quattro Wireless, a mobile-app advertisement company that Apple bought for close to $300 million in 2009, has come up with a solution to help software developers retain users. “A lot of the potential for applications starts with an engaged and active audience, and there’s a lot of work to be done there,” says Albright. In March, his new company, SessionM, launched its platform, which will help developers include video-game-like features like points systems. It works like this: Users will earn points for certain actions, like watching a video, liking a company on Facebook, or clicking on an advertisement. They can then redeem points for gift cards or discounts in the app’s Rewards Store. “It blends the use of game mechanics and rewards to help motivate people to come back,” says Albright.
LOOKING AHEAD: Since launching in March, companies such as Viacom and The Weather Channel have already signed on with advertisers like Honda and Volvo.
SAM HAYES T‘99
COMPANY: SharesPost FOUNDED: 2009
BIG IDEA: Once upon a time, a $200 million company with three or four years of operating experience could go public. Those times are long gone. “The average time from a company’s being founded to going public has changed dramatically,” says Sam Hayes, co-founder and executive vice president of marketplace development of SharesPost. “In the mid-1990s, it was three or four years, and now it’s more than 11 years.” That means that midsize companies need alternative ways to access capital and liquidize employees’ equity. Enter SharesPost, the secondary marketplace that Hayes and fellow entrepreneur Greg Brogger founded in February 2009. The website connects fast-growing pre-IPO companies such as Facebook with accredited investors and streamlines the research and purchasing process. Four months after launching, SharesPost had 1,000 investor members. Now it has nearly 100,000 and up to 150 vetted companies to invest in, such as Twitter and Etsy. Says Hayes, “Three years later, the doubting voices have not been silenced, but there’s a widespread understanding that a market like this not only does exist but should exist.”
LOOKING AHEAD: SharesPost recently started raising primary capital for companies such as TrueCar and plans to expand international operations this year.
ON TUCK: “Tuck was critical to my success because it provided what was then a unique insight into the world of private equity,” says Hayes. “It introduced me to all the concepts I apply in understanding the larger industry and was critical to building this business.”
LOUIE CHENG T’03
COMPANY: PureLiving China FOUNDED: 2010 EMPLOYEES: 6
BIG IDEA: When Phong Nguyen T’00 moved to Shanghai, he rented a beautiful high-end apartment—and found mold. But a local environmental testing company only offered him a confusing report and zero solutions. Meanwhile, fellow Tuckie Louie Cheng was looking for a new opportunity. “A lot of foreigners are moving to China, and they’re understandably concerned about their health,” says Cheng. On a golf trip to the Philippines, Cheng and Nguyen hatched an idea: an environmental testing company that would cater to the healthconscious expat community. What Cheng didn’t expect was that the Shanghai-based company the duo founded, PureLiving China, would also appeal to commercial companies and affluent Chinese; commercial clients now account for 70 percent of the company’s business. “In some ways the awareness and concern level here is way higher than it is in the U.S.,” says Cheng. “In China, there’s so much renovation. We have a lot of really bad construction materials, and particulate levels are generally two to four times higher than the U.S. standard.”
LOOKING AHEAD: To date, the company has performed some 150 projects and is expanding services to address other environmental problems, such as mold, lead, asbestos, and contaminated water.
PETER SISSON T’94
COMPANY: Line2 FOUNDED: 2007 EMPLOYEES: 30
BIG IDEA: A self-described geek, Peter Sisson took apart phones when he was 10 and had one of the first computers available in the 1970s. So it should come as no surprise that he is a serial tech entrepreneur—Sisson founded WineShopper, Mixonic, and Teleo. His latest project is Line2, formerly known as Toktumi. The app adds a phone line to a tablet or smartphone or a second line with its own number to a mobile phone. The line works over Wi-Fi or mobile networks and has regular features like call waiting, caller ID, and call screening. After launching the app in 2010, the company experienced its best and worst days simultaneously: The New York Times favorably reviewed it; they became the most downloaded app for a day, surpassing Angry Birds; and their system crashed. Luckily a debug code salvaged some email addresses, and in a matter of months 15,000 people were using it. “It was like…boom…instant company,” says Sisson, who credits its continuing success to a growing market of mobile workers who want separate personal and business lines. Now, Line2 has well past 60,000 subscription-paying users.
LOOKING AHEAD: Line2 will be rolling out a series of new features, such as picture messaging and Call Queue, a way to line up phone calls like a Netflix queue and dial them through voice activation.
ON TUCK: “Selling is essential in almost any job, and it requires good communication skills,” says Sisson. “Although Tuck doesn’t teach sales, it teaches communication. All the management communications skills I acquired at Tuck have been essential.”
LISA CONTE D’81, T’85
COMPANY: Napo Pharmaceuticals FOUNDED: 2001 EMPLOYEES: About 12
BIG IDEA: The best news of Lisa Conte’s career arrived on Halloween 2010. An anti-diarrhea drug that she, as CEO of Napo Pharmaceuticals, had been developing for 21 years had not only cleared a trial testing for efficacy, it had exceeded the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements by more than an order of magnitude. “That was a heart-stopping moment,” says Conte, who also has a degree in biochemistry from Dartmouth and a master’s in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California, San Diego. “We knew we had a product, we knew we would have hundreds of millions of lives we would influence and save over the years, and we knew we had a business.” In June, the FDA will approve the drug, Crofelemer, to treat chronic diarrhea in people with HIV and AIDS who take retrovirals. But Napo expects the drug, formulated from an obscure, sustainably sourced rainforest plant, to be developed rapidly for acute and mild diarrhea because it has few side effects and can save the lives of millions of children who die from diarrhea annually.
LOOKING AHEAD: The company is developing other products related to the plant base in Crofelemer, such as a diagnostic for environmental toxicity.
ON TUCK: “My favorite course at Tuck was Entrepreneurship, and that’s where I got the bug,” says Conte. “I got everything I could out of the schooling, then life experience and business experience came thereafter.”
ANDY PALMER T’94
COMPANY: Vertica Systems FOUNDED: 2005 EMPLOYEES: About 100
BIG IDEA: One glance at Andy Palmer’s resume and you’ll see he’s a classic serial entrepreneur. Together with renowned database computer scientist Mike Stonebraker, he co-founded Vertica Systems, which pioneered innovative database systems that could crunch monstrous volumes of data, or what is referred to today as “big data.” Palmer also helped start CloudSwitch, a cloud-computing software company recently sold to Verizon. “I’ve always had career attention deficit disorder,” he says. That seems to work in Palmer’s favor. His latest project, Recorded Future—co-founded with friend Christopher Ahlberg—is a search engine that disambiguates references to time on the Web in order to harness its predictive powers. The company is backed by Google Ventures, Atlas Venture Partners, IA Ventures, and In-Q-Tel, and its first clients include the federal intelligence agencies, large hedge funds, and banks.
LOOKING AHEAD: Palmer has an interest in the intersection of computer science and the life sciences and is exploring ways to innovate big data systems for life scientists.
ON TUCK: “Phil Anderson was a Tuck professor teaching tech strategy and e-ship in 1994. He introduced me to Peter Barris T’77, who now runs New Enterprise Associates. Peter and Phil truly changed the direction of my career by encouraging me to take risks and follow my passion for software. Peter’s mentorship over the past 18-plus years has been one of the most positive influences in my career.”
DAVID BREWSTER T’02
COMPANY: EnerNOC FOUNDED: 2001 EMPLOYEES: More than 600
BIG IDEA: When David Brewster graduated from Tuck in 2002, green tech was not a particular focus for venture capitalists. “We got rejected 36 times,” Brewster says of EnerNOC, the green-energy IT company he founded with T’02 classmate Tim Healy D’91 in their first year at Tuck. “We were bootstrapping the company on credit cards.” Times have changed. Now the company serves as a platform between businesses and some 100 utilities. When the electric power grid is overtaxed, EnerNOC coordinates the shut-off of nonessential power consumption to decrease demand as an alternative to increasing supply—which has been the status quo for more than 100 years. (For example, Stop & Shop, an EnerNOC client, might temporarily reduce lighting and shut off heaters that prevent condensation on refrigerator doors.) In turn, the utility companies pay EnerNOC, which shares the revenues with businesses. The result is that utilities can manage high-demand days without having to fire up costly generators—or, in some cases, build new power plants. “At the core, we feel we are fundamentally changing the way the electric power industry works,” says Brewster. Now EnerNOC can make more than 7,000 megawatts of electricity demand disappear from the grid—the equivalent of 70 fossil-fueled peaking power plants.
LOOKING AHEAD: EnerNOC is increasingly offering a suite of energy management services, helping businesses maximize energy efficiency and strategize the purchase of natural gas and electricity.
ON TUCK: “We really tailored our whole MBA experience around this venture and took courses to gain experience in different areas of running the business,” says Brewster. “That kind of applied learning really made the most of the MBA experience.”
BILL ACHTMEYER T’81, founder of The Parthenon Group, a Boston-based consulting firm
BEING NICE: "A lot of time and effort in the recruiting process for consultancies is spent trying to understand how smart the individual is, whether it’s by looking at their grades, their GMAT scores, or some other quantitative measure. And my observation is that if that’s the only thing you look at, you can get some pretty hard-edged people. The reason we instituted 'nice' on an equal basis to 'smart' [in our recruiting qualifications] is because, in this business, you have to form relationships—generally with clients who are older than you and, almost by definition, more experienced. You’re not going to win the day by making that individual feel like they’re not as smart as you or, worse yet, like they’re dumb. Hiring people who are not only smart but nice has helped us a lot as we’ve grown. It’s taken the edge off."
ROGER MCNAMEE T'82, founder of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm focused on media, entertainment, and technology
THE POWER OF INTROSPECTION: "When I think about entrepreneurship, when I think of doing startups, the thing I find troubling is how little planning goes into it before people jump. And how many people are in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur but don’t have the patience necessarily to do the preparation that ensures success. A lot of great technology entrepreneurs are very thoughtful, introspective people. One of the things I’ve noticed about folks like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and even Steve Jobs is that the setbacks that inevitably come are followed by thoughtful analysis and even more thoughtful response as opposed to their fighting back immediately."
SHERRI OBERG D’82, T’86, founder of Acusphere, the pharmaceutical company behind Imagify, a drug used to detect coronary artery disease
THE POWER OF OPTIMISM: "One of the great things about entrepreneurs is that they’re very optimistic. It’s what enables them to go after incredibly difficult challenges that people with lots of experience would think are too difficult. And if we didn’t have these people who are very optimistic and high energy, who believe they can do anything, we really wouldn’t make very many breakthrough inventions. Looking back 20 years, I certainly have a different perspective now than I had then, but if I had known what I know now, we would have never invented a drug that makes such a huge difference in cardiology. This is a drug that can save people’s lives."
I’m just wondering what vitamins and food supplements do visionaries take?
Kidding aside, I understand these parts: shared set of enduring qualities like creativity, a spirit of innovation, and a deep passion for what they do. But there must be something more which binds these people to be such positive influences to others and be able to think beyond normal thinking.
Is it because of their past experiences? Role models and different outlook in life? Positive vibes? Good karma? I am really perplexed and deeply wondering.
By S.A. Walker on 2013 08 02