Editor’s note: In the second part of his ‘Breaking Glass’ interview with Local Tech Wire, Donovan Moxey talks about seizing and creating opportunities. Jennifer Tilden writes about success stories and challenges facing women and minorities in the high-tech industry each Tuesday. What a person looks like or whom an entrepreneur knows is not important to Donovan Moxey.
“I don’t believe in giving people something simply because of who or what they are. But I do believe in providing people who are serious about their success with the opportunities to leverage,” he says.
Moxey takes his own advice to heart. He not only knows how to take advantage of opportunities — he knows how to create them.
Moxey commercialized the technology he and his group working on in the NC State College of Management’s Technology Education and Commercialization (TEC) Program and eventually used it to form LIPSinc. He enrolled in the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s (CED) Fast Trac Tech Program to develop his business plan and eventually won the CED’s Fast Tracker of the Year and Up & Comer Awards. He has also earned media recognition and a seat on the CED’s Board of Directors. He is also an active speaker and advisor in the technology and education communities.
Dr. Moxey, holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from NC State University as well as a Masters and Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University and Tennessee State University respectively. Prior to founding his own company, his corporate experience included stints at Synergistic Technologies and AT&T Bell Labs.
Raised on a small island in the Bahamas, Moxey cites the importance of the education provided for him by his parents and a family environment that fostered improvement.
“My parents were always very committed to education. All my siblings and I went to the best private schools and are college graduates,” says Moxey. “We all believe in continually challenging ourselves.”
CED starts new outreach program
His most recent challenge for himself, and one he feels very strongly about, is spearheading a newly developed outreach initiative for the CED. As chair for the Community Outreach and Development Committee, Moxey is leading an effort to provide opportunities to “underrepresented” groups of would-be high-growth entrepreneurs, i.e. minority groups, women, people in more rural communities, etc.
“The purpose of the committee is to establish linkages between these groups of people and the entrepreneurial resources that already exist; resources they may not be aware of,” Moxey says.
He is not alone.
Fellow committee member and entrepreneur Donna Peek of Peek Performance says, “This initiative is important because we found there was a real need to widen the aperture in terms of soliciting speakers, exposing the CED and its resources to a wider audience, and expanding the constituency of business leaders and entrepreneurs involved.”
Moxey concurs. “This is a way to establish linkages between the resources that exist and the people who need them but may not currently be aware of them,” he says. “The way our society operates here in the US is that, for whatever reason, people run in their own individual circles — and there are all different types of circles. Sometimes these circles just never cross each other.
“This (initiative) is a way to develop bridges and linkages between some of these circles. Some people know they want to be entrepreneurs but don’t know where or how to start. I believe it’s important to identify these underrepresented groups and target them. This is not to give them anything or do anything special for them, just to make them aware of what opportunities exist out there.”
Should entrepreneurs recognize that their race or culture could create a challenge for them?
“The way I see it, there are two categories of barriers any entrepreneur may face. First, there’s the comfort barrier. People like to do business with people they are comfortable with — regardless of the reason. If something is unfamiliar, they may be uncomfortable. Second, there’s the preconceived notion barrier.
“Many people have the mindset that something can’t be done if they’ve never seen examples of it before. The way you overcome both these barriers is with success. The more examples of successes that are created, the more comfortable people become with the notion. If you already had a couple of black Bill Gates’, it wouldn’t seem unusual or impossible. And the way you create successes is by providing people with opportunities to succeed”.
Start the training young
“I would like to see entrepreneurship presented as an option to young people — as young as the high school level. It’s important to know that there are a lot of career path choices and that starting your own business right out of school is one of them. You don’t have to follow that traditional career path” Moxey says with conviction.
And what advice does he have for those looking to follow a path like his own?
No. 1: “You need to really be committed to your own success before anyone else will commit to you. You have to have that fire in your belly. Entrepreneurs need to be the light that shines when nothing else is around.”
No. 2: “Be humble and always be willing to learn. Recognize that you don’t know everything and that regardless of where you are in your career, there is always someone out there who can teach you something”
No. 3: “Being an entrepreneur is hard. Be patient. Recognize that your first effort probably won’t be successful.”
Unless you’re Donovan Moxey.
Have a story idea for ‘Breaking Glass’? Contact Jennifer Tilden via email (email@example.com)