Editor’s note: Each Tuesday, Local Tech Wire’s “Breaking Glass” column examines issues facing minorities and women in the tech business. Today, “Breaking Glass” author Jennifer Tilden interviews entrepreneur and LIPSinc founder Donovan Moxey. Webster’s Dictionary spells the word “moxie” with an “i-e” and defines its meaning as “having vigor, courage and nerve”. Donovan Moxey may spell his last name a little differently, but he certainly exemplifies the meaning behind his surname.

Best-known locally for his success as the founder of Morrisville based LIPSinc, a technology provider of facial animation and lip synchronization technology, Moxey has become a mentor, role model and leader for African American entrepreneurs and for aspiring entrepreneurs in general — although he may not realize it himself.

“I am my strongest critic”, says Moxey. “I probably don’t enjoy my successes as much as I could. I am still hungry and always looking for more. Once I reach a goal, I say to myself ‘Okay, that’s done — what next?’ “

Bahamian-born Moxey founded LIPSinc in February 1998 while in the Technology, Education and Commercialization Program at North Carolina State University. During that time he saw commercial potential in the lip synchronization technology he was analyzing which had been developed by researchers at the university and he eventually struck a deal to license it.

Coming from a techie background in engineering and science, Moxie let it be known when he started LIPSinc that he did not want any part in the technology end of the business.

“I wanted the challenge of starting a company from scratch. I also wanted to transition from being a technical person to a businessman. If I stayed on the technical side of things I feel like I wouldn’t have grown.”

When asked what specific challenges have been the most memorable to date, Moxey says, “Once you first get started, there’s a real challenge of convincing people to have faith in your abilities. As you become more experienced and successful, it gets easier and the doubts fade away.”

Success comes in ‘steps and stages’

So how does Moxey define success?

“From the business perspective I believe success comes in steps and stages. First, there’s getting buy-in for your idea. I told the mentors I turned to that if I thought I didn’t have a viable idea I wouldn’t have gone forward. Second, there’s the accomplishment of selling that first product. I remember how great it felt to have someone who didn’t know me from Adam to write me a check.”

On the personal level, Moxey says “I haven’t gotten there yet, but there’s a point where I think I will feel like I don’t have to push quite as hard. Right now I’m still in learning mode. I think I always will be to some degree, but right now my funnel for learning is huge. I think when the funnel gets smaller and I get to a level where I feel like I can talk to someone with some knowledge and perspective on the full life cycle of a business, then I will feel like I have achieved a level of success. When I’ll get there though, I don’t know”.

As an entrepreneur, Moxey, feels his ethnic background has not been an issue and has actually been a positive factor for him.

Race ‘not an issue’

“Race was never an issue for me. The more I demonstrated my own level of commitment to success, the more support I got. At the least, I think it’s helped people remember me. In my personal experience I feel as though the people I’ve worked with who have guided me have seen an entrepreneur and a guy committed to success — and that’s it.”

Don’t let Donovan Moxey’s humble, easy going and affable demeanor fool you. Underneath his soft-spoken voice and bright Bahamian smile is hard-driving, fearless and ambitious over achiever. That said, it’s easy to understand why he sees the possibility of people pre-judging him based on his culture as a potential advantage.

“I do know that there are groups of people out there who, for whatever reason, may have preconceived notions about me because of my background, so I know that for me, the bar is always a little higher in terms of what people may expect from me. That’s helped me to work harder and be prepared. I’ve anticipated questions and have been ready with thought out answers for them. That’s helped me in business. I’ve always worked hard for what I have because I know that some people may be skeptical.”

However, Moxey’s success and accomplishments to date would quiet even the strongest skeptics.

More advice and insight from Moxey on Wednesday.

Previous ‘Breaking Glass’ stories:

Is Perception Reality? Study Dispels Myths Around Women-Owned Entrepreneurial Firms: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=227

IBM Exec: ‘Gender Doesn’t Matter If You Know What You’re Talking About’ (two parts): www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=264

www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=270