College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Entrepreneur Looks Back at High-tech Start-up: Kuck & Associates


11/8/2005

At the second high-tech startup workshop hosted by the Chinese Entrepreneur and Professional Club (CEPC), Kuck & Associates co-founder Bruce Leasure discussed the development of his software company from an entrepreneurial start-up to a firm that was purchased by Intel in 2000.

A graduate student in computer science at the University of Illinois, Leasure, along with Michael Wolfe and David Kuck, a computer science professor, formed Kuck & Associates in 1979 when computer manufacturer Univac contracted with them to produce computer evaluation software. From that beginning, Kuck & Associates became a leading provider of performance-oriented compilers and programming tools used in the development of multithreaded applications until the company was acquired by Intel.

As Kuck & Associates grew from a staff of three to 50 employees, Leasure recalled how he had to assume different roles in the company. “As an entrepreneur, you have to wear many hats,” he said. “Someone has to be the secretary, the hiring manager, the treasurer, and perform many other small, but crucial, tasks.” He found that as the company grew larger, he was able to delegate these tasks to employees, who focused on specific goals, making the whole development process more efficient.

Leasure also discussed his role as a manager, and how he dealt with employees. “Let them find their own path,” he said. “Give them different tasks according their skills, and tell them were you want to go.” As a manager, Bruce advocates a hands-off approach towards employees. In his line of work, training employees can take up to a year, so he makes sure they feel comfortable. “It is difficult to just order them around, so I give them responsibilities instead of work.”

During Leasure’s time on campus, no program were in place for students in non-business disciplines to learn basic business concepts, something he regrets. Today, the College of Business offers a Certificate in Business Administration that targets graduate students in the sciences and provides an overview of core business concepts.

Leasure also discussed a few business maxims that he believes. “Know who you are selling to, understand how the customer will use your product,” he said. “Ask yourself, ‘Where do you find the buyers?’” As the co-founder of a small company, Bruce also gained insight in dealing with big companies. “In a market dominated by bigger businesses, you have to find a niche. Provide something that they don’t.”

At the end of the lecture, he gave some advice to the CEPC participants hoping to start their own businesses. “One has to decide between job security and freedom,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, you have to always be thinking of what you do next. Be very honest to yourself, and don’t forget to have fun.”

--Lane Song
November 2005

UIUC College of Business