Posted by: Mark Sorenson | February 11, 2009

Lecture Lesson

Yesterday I talked about how I’m doing on my goals. The only one I didn’t report on was the goal of getting involved with a start-up company. With everything going on with school and work, it seems like such an impossible thing to add to my plate right now. After listening to Greg Warnock, (the co-founder of vSpring Capital) I have thought up a plan, and here it is:

I have two uncles and a great uncle who have been talking about starting up a company that makes a better, more efficient wind turbine. I have always tried to keep updated with what they are doing with that company since I not only want to get involved, but I’ve developed a real fascination and interest in renewable energy. So far nothing has come of their talks of starting a business. From what I understand they have a business plan that is all encompassing but they lack funding. They have expressed that they don’t want to get VC funding since they want to keep control of their business. They don’t like the fact that a VC firm will require too much ownership/ROI for them to fund the project.

Now, Greg Warnock talked about how he got started as an entrepreneur. I’ll try to re-tell the story but I might get a few details wrong. (Greg if you read this, and you probably won’t, sorry if this isn’t accurate.) Greg had gotten his undergrad in computer science but didn’t want to be a programmer. He was going to the University of Utah for his PHD in entrepreneurship. At 27 years old, he had about a year left in school. His father-in-law was a lawyer there in Salt Lake City who represented a very rich German man who was interested in purchasing a company in the U.S. Greg’s’ father-in-law was leaving to serve a service mission for the LDS church and would be gone for two years. To tie up loose ends, he asked Greg if he would be willing to meet with his German client and see if he could help him out. Greg accepted.

Greg met with the German and told him that he would research some companies that were for sale and help him purchase one of them. Greg spent all summer researching companies that were for sale. He narrowed it down to three, and used all his new-found knowledge from the U of U to analyze each company so that he knew every detail about them.

After the summer, he met with the German man again and spent 45 min on each company, explaining everything about them. He was very thorough with his analysis and said that each one had equal potential. After finishing his presentation, the German man thought for a second and said, “Hmmm. Let’s buy that one,” as he pointed to one of the companies. Greg said okay.

“Can you buy the company for me?” the German man asked.

Greg said he would. The German man wanted to know what Greg wanted in return for helping him purchase the company. Greg said that he would buy the company, run the company as CEO and grow it until the company had paid off all of the German mans’ initial investment, and in return, Greg wanted half of the company.

“Deal!” the German man said.

So Greg moved to California where the company was located, bought it, changed the locks and took over. It took Greg about three years until he had paid off all the initial debt. As a present the German man bought Greg a Mercedes Benz. After five years Greg decided to sell his share of the company for 2.5 million dollars. With his money he then started a small fund and began investing in start-ups. The rest is history.

I heard that story and thought that if there was ever a way that I would want to become an entrepreneur, it was like Greg. Yeah, it’s nice to be a millionaire that 32, but more than that, I love the initiative that he took to create an opportunity for himself.

So here is what I plan on doing. I don’t know if it will work, but I know the experience will be a blast. I am going to learn all about my uncles’ business plans and go around until I find someone who will fund his company. I think it would be such a fun and rewarding experience.

So, thank you Greg Warnock for your inspiring story. It truly helped me see that I can become an entrepreneur, even in college.

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