Innovative Spirit Award goes to entrepreneur Larry Blackwell
Larry Blackwell has left an indelible mark on the upstate as a business leader and mentor to entrepreneurs who have fueled the regional economy as leaders of their own ventures.
For his many accomplishments, Blackwell ’71 has been named the recipient of Clemson University’s 2017 Innovative Spirit Award. The recognition is bestowed by the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership to an alum who exemplifies the spirit of creativity and innovation in their fields, and demonstrates a dedication to the advancement of Clemson University.
“The trickle-down effect Larry has had on the economy and people’s lives in the upstate can’t be overstated,” said Matthew Klein, director of The Spiro Institute. “Beyond that, he’s generously shared his knowledge and invested in many entrepreneurs’ start-ups that today are having a significant economic impact and making a difference in people’s lives throughout South Carolina.”
An engineer by training, Blackwell is credited with spawning numerous businesses in South Carolina through the success of Datastream, one of the most well-known companies he founded. The very people Blackwell inspired at the computerized maintenance software management company he launched in 1986 are now providing jobs and pumping money into the upstate economy. Fifty-six companies were launched by his former employees, and many others moved into C-suite level positions at other firms.
Blackwell, who studied at the University of Mississippi and Georgia Tech, received his Ph.D. from Clemson in 1971 in environmental engineering.
His entrepreneurial mindset was instilled at an early age growing up in Mississippi.
“I came from a long line of small business owners, both on my father’s and mother’s sides of the family,” he said. “I guess the entrepreneurial spirit was woven into me by them. All of their career choices reflected the opportunities that were available in Mississippi back in the day. They just took advantage of what was available to them.”
Likewise, Blackwell had the vision to recognize opportunities that were available to him, and he took advantage of them.
Datastream, his most high-profile business venture, was launched from a basement in Greenville with $155,000. The software company grew to provide more than 1,000 jobs and reached a valuation of $1 billion at its peak. In 2006, the company was acquired by global software provider Infor.
“The IPO was one of the proudest moments of my career,” Blackwell said. “It was the culmination of a lot of hard work by an extremely talented workforce we were able to recruit to Datastream. That achievement had been a goal of mine for a long time.”
Beyond Datastream, Blackwell has invested in and advised a laundry list of start-up and established companies for more than 40 years. Some of those included Servosity, GreenWizard, Dealer Ignition, TerraStride and Yardstick, Dannar Corp., Anytime Sports Franchise and The Iron Yard.
Blackwell’s advice for the 21st century entrepreneur is to seek out advice from people “who have been there and done that” in the business they are passionate about.
“Absorbing as much information as you can from people who run similar businesses is really important. They have encountered and overcome problems, and can point you in one of two directions. Either they’ll convince you that you’re cut out for the business, or send signals that you are not.”
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