Angel investor Matt Given  speaks to entrepreneurial students at Clemson.

Angel investor Matt Given speaks to entrepreneurial students at Clemson.

Matt Given is living proof that a career path is oftentimes determined more by life’s twists and turns than by a specific course of study.

A two-time Clemson graduate who received a marketing degree in ’92 and an MBA in ’93, Given has served up drafts of beer and slalomed slopes in Colorado as a member of a ski patrol on his journey to becoming an angel investor.

“I learned many of life’s lessons along the way, including how to live below the poverty line. It made me realize being poor was not going to be my lifestyle choice,” said Given, who has been investing in Denver, Colo., start-ups since 2008.

Today, Given of nearby Boulder, invests in the early stages of entrepreneurs’ companies. The nine start-ups he’s currently invested in are in the business and financial technology sectors through his company, Four Points Ventures.

“When you get out in the real world, you’re exposed to opportunities, and the type of degree you have becomes more about what you choose to do with it,” said Given. “In truth, engineers become marketers and accountants become sales people. I was not one of those folks who knew early on what I wanted to do.”

Given, 47, discovered his entrepreneurial path while working for a firm in the payments business. “I figured out the business and learned leadership skills from some really seasoned professionals. I realized then that if I had my own company in that space, I could make three times what I was making.”

From there, Given rolled one business into another. His investments turn into paydays when the start-up becomes profitable and pays dividends, or when a private equity or venture capital firm buys out his investment.

Four Points, named after a Steamboat Springs ski lodge where Given met his wife, Tasha, has a geographical footprint in the Denver area and bankrolls start-ups primarily in the banking software and mobile-based payment platform sectors.

Today, Given is the CEO of one of Four Points portfolio companies, an online Video on Demand firm called Intelivideo.

One of the roles an angel investor oftentimes assumes with a start-up is that of a mentor, providing guidance to ensure the company has an appropriate business plan and financial model to enhance its prospects for success.

Those mentorship tendencies and generosity in sharing his financial success have trickled down to Given’s alma mater. He recently returned to Clemson to speak to more than 140 students in entrepreneurial undergraduate classes on angel funding and what investors consider when deciding to help fund a start-up.

“There are many variables ‘angels’ consider before investing in a young company. Near the top of my list is fully understanding the business so that it makes sense to me. Also, I need to know where my dollar is going, so I must have a sense for how close the business is to having its first customer,” Given said. “I also have to trust the person and know whether they have the skill sets necessary for the business to succeed,” he added.

Given has maintained close ties to The Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership on his career climb and is one of 10 alumni who comprise the Spiro Founder Society, which recently committed $1.7 million to inspire the next generation of Clemson entrepreneurs.

“In my mind, giving back to Clemson is a good investment in where it all started for me. The MBA program, in particular, developed my critical-thinking skills and really helped prepare me for life in the business world,” Given said.

“Sharing my experiences with business students, and donating to Clemson, are time and money well spent in helping others get started on their career journeys. I love Clemson and, I’m so grateful for my time there. When I talk to these students, one thing I want them to understand is that Clemson prepares them as well as any school out there, bar none. They should enter the business world with that kind of confidence.”

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