Facing Failure, Finding Success
Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CED)
partnered with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications
(NCSA) to offer a public
forum featuring David
Brunel, renowned for his entrepreneurial leadership at Unidata
and Ardent and the resulting billion-dollar sale to Informix. Brunel
offered his insights to students, faculty, and businesspeople in
a talk moderated by Steven
N. Miller of Prairie Angels and formerly of Quill Corporation.
Brunel described the entrepreneurial venture as a process of managing
risk because "you can't take risk out of the equation."
He championed business plans attuned to the balance between the
importance of science and demand within an industry. Examples of
such a balance were a biotech venture where the market for the scientific
product is clear but the technology must be proven and a software
venture where the market is much more critical than the technology
He stressed the importance of focus and of maintaining a balance
between the "great arrogance" required to drive a new
business and the humility necessary for identifying its failures.
"When it's not working, face it," said Brunel, whose first
success was his third new venture following a failure and a break-even
Brunel applies the lessons of humility to management changes required
for ventures that have outgrown the leadership capabilities of their
entrepreneurial founders. In fact, he suggests that the CEO should
not be positioned as the true value of the business. "There's
too much fascination with the celebrity CEO. The CEO is just another
function in the organization. The best CEO's don't over-promote
themselves," he says of the top job.
Among several anecdotes used to describe his experiences and entrepreneurial
drive, Brunel quoted his wife who coments often on his approach
to business ideas. "You're never in doubt," she says."You're
just often wrong."
CED and NCSA announced in April a strategic partnership to foster
relationships between the NCSA's Private Sector Partners (PSP) program
and the local entrepreneurial community. CED management worked closely
with PSP and NCSA management to develop its 2004 Speaker Series
in Entrepreneurship around NCSA's annual PSP meeting in April. The
NCSA PSP gives Fortune 500 companies the chance to work with NCSA
research teams and to reap the benefits of technological advances
three to five years before their competition.