As Commercialization Network Manager at Tech Launch Arizona, Eric Smith focuses on building and leveraging TLA's network of domain experts and business drivers who consult on University technologies to help reveal their commercial relevance as they are prepared for the market. After graduating from Eller with a BSBA in Business Management and Entrepreneurship, Eric decided to sell Revolution Entertainment, his company of 5 years. With a successful sale behind him, Eric took his knowledge to industry as the Business Development Manager for Aztera, a technology development and engineering company in Tucson. His role was to not only bring in business, but he was also heavily involved in project management, HR, Operations and the creation of Aztera’s startups from idea to funding. In 2013, he was selected as the ambassador for a partnership between Aztera, the City of Tucson, and Tech Launch Arizona. Eric's role was to represent the city in commercialization efforts at the UA. Eric stays active in the community as the Board President of the Tucson Manufacturing Group, a long-time member of the Idea Funding Committee, a member of the Eller College Associates, a member of the Tucson Metro Chamber’s Emerging Leaders Council, and an Arizona Advisory Member for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.
5 Questions with Eric Smith
Q. What is most surprising about being an entrepreneur?
A. The most surprising thing about being an entrepreneur is the day-to-day logistics behind your actions. Most people know that it takes money. Most people know that you must breathe your venture, dream about it and wake up thinking about it. Though those things were adjustments. The big surprises came when I had to ask things like: What are the tax implications of certain business formations? How do I pay employees? How do I structure contracts? What insurance to get (you mean there is something called "Terrorism Insurance?!)? How do I protect myself from a law suit? How do I protect my intellectual property? Wait, how much do lawyers and accountants charge per hour?
Q. What was the most important lesson you learned in the entrepreneurship program?
A. Team is everything. Investors invest in teams. Things get done when teams are efficient. After all, in a startup, you practically live with your team. Having comparable skill sets and advisers to fill in the gaps, goes a long way.
Q. What impact has the Entrepreneurship Program had on your career or life?
A. Because of my experience in McGuire, I restructured the business I had at the time, sold it, and went on to be a part of four more ventures. I now work for an organization that launches startups and I use what I learned in McGuire, daily.
Q. What do you consider your biggest entrepreneurial success?
A. Failing. I learned more from the failed experiences more than my successes. Some of my success was luck and timing. When it came to the failures, hindsight gave me the ability to know exactly where I went wrong and how to adjust it for the future. ...there was also that time I sold my company and received a check every quarter for years after. That was nice too.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
A. In the words of a startup mentor/investor I work with, "ARE YOU CRAZY?" Seriously, if you are ready to give up sleep, face rejection, eat lots of ramen, face rejection, put your personal life on hold and face rejection... do it. After all, there is nothing more empowering than starting something from scratch and watching it grow. Just make sure you have a solution for a problem, and not a solution looking for problems.