10 success stories aim to jumpstart Clemson entrepreneurism
CLEMSON, S.C. – As a successful entrepreneur now in his fourth career, Clemson alum Greg Smith knows a thing or two about reinventing himself.
Now, Smith and nine other Clemson success stories have decided to help the next generation of students choosing similar paths, by putting their money where their hearts are – in helping Clemson University become nationally recognized as an entrepreneurial institution of higher learning.
A goal of their alumni-led challenge pledge of up to $1.7 million is for the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership to become the hub for entrepreneurial teaching and research across all learning disciplines at Clemson.
“Entrepreneurship is critical for our region, our state and our country. It is a cornerstone of our future,” said Jim Clements, Clemson president. “The Spiro Founder Society’s match-challenge gift is an example of our outstanding alumni investing with a view of generational impact at Clemson. Central to that is the Spiro Institute’s role as the hub of developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem that will benefit our students, faculty and others in the upstate.”
Through the recently formed Spiro Founder Society, the 10 entrepreneurs have made the pledge to enhance education, outreach and research by helping the institute become the support system for campus-wide entrepreneurial initiatives.
Educated as a mechanical engineer, Smith said unlike his generation, students today are expected to have more careers – not just jobs – than his generation because the pace of change is accelerating. Though Smith chose to move beyond engineering, into other endeavors, he said the engineering discipline helped him problem solve at every stop in his career.
That problem-solving ability helped catapult the 1984 Clemson graduate to one of his biggest career accomplishments in which he identified a problem in the mortgage lending industry, and solved it. His company’s efforts helped streamline mortgage processing by driving it from paper to being online.
“It’s going to be crucial for today’s student to reinvent themselves multiple times in their careers,” said Smith, who splits time between homes in Alpharetta, Ga., and on Lake Keowee in Six Mile. “In supporting the Spiro Institute with this challenge grant, the Founder Society wants to create an eco-system on campus where we can bring together entrepreneurial efforts in all of the university’s disciplines, be it engineering, English, life sciences or business, because we’re better together than we are apart.”
Smith, president of Blue Vista Ventures, an angel investor in start-up companies, said creating a single-funded institute serving Clemson as a whole, will change the face of entrepreneurship at Clemson.
“With Spiro serving as the hub of entrepreneurship, we will leverage energy and money to the fullest potential. This consolidation will bring together our many entrepreneurial efforts across campus so anyone wanting to participate knows where to go to get help.”
Founded in 1994, the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership provides an educational and research program in entrepreneurship that contributes to the economic development of the region, state, and nation. The focus is on wealth creation through entrepreneurial activity.
The Spiro Founder Society will support ongoing Spiro Institute initiatives across the Clemson campus:
– Entrepreneurship courses for undergraduate and graduate students
– Creative Inquiry Projects for Launching Startup Companies, such as the DEN
– Student Club: Clemson IDEAS (Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Among Students)
– Living/Learning Community: Clemson IDEAS
– Tiger Venture Accelerator
– Clemson Pitch Smack Down competition
– Entrepreneur-In Residence program
– First Friday Leadership speaker series
– Master Entrepreneur Speaker Series
– Clemson Innovative Spirit Awards
– Spiro Faculty Fellows program
“This investment will have a generational impact for everyone associated with Clemson,” Smith said. “We want entrepreneurship and innovation to become part of the university’s DNA. We believe the right way to making that happen is by creating a campus-wide entrepreneurial hub, under the Spiro umbrella.”
Other members of the Spiro Founder Society include:
Bachelor of Arts, political science, 1994
Former CEO and chairman, Vendormate Inc.
Bachelor of Science, physics, 1971; Master of Science, systems engineering, 1973
Former CEO and chairman, Nubridges and Harbinger Inc.
Bachelor of Science, finance, 1989
Partner, Fulcrum Equity Partners LLP
Founder, former president and CEO, Regency Healthcare Group
Bachelor of Arts, political science, 1991; MBA, 1993
Co-founder and executive vice president of sales and marketing, FineLine Technologies
Bachelor of Science, mechanical engineering, 1982
Founder, chairman and CEO, SISL Networks Inc.
Bachelor of Science, accountancy and finance, 1973
President, DecoArt Inc.
Bachelor of Science, marketing, 1992; MBA, 1993
Managing director, Four Points Ventures
Bachelor of Science, management, 1991
Co-founder, Clayton Associates; CEO, Nashville Entrepreneur Center
Dr. Buddy Thompson
Bachelor of Science, chemical engineering, 1969; M.D., Medical University of South Carolina, 1978
Founder, Easley Eye Associates; co-founder, The Reserve at Lake Keowee
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