A Window Into the Mind of NC Serial Entrepreneur Aaron Houghton

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the man himself.

—Midwest roots: Houghton was born in Oconomowoc, WI, and moved to Madison while his dad finished a PhD in curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin. For the first seven years of Houghton’s life, his family lived in Wisconsin. His grandparents lived in the Baraboo area in southern Wisconsin, and his family often vacationed in Door County, the gorgeous tourist destination in the northeastern part of the state.

After Wisconsin, his family moved to Arkansas, where his dad taught at the flagship university there. They moved to western North Carolina in 1997, where Houghton finished high school. He went on to study computer science at UNC and graduated in 2003.

—Closet songwriter: It’s not likely to make him quit his day job, but in his spare time, Houghton likes to write country music songs on his guitar.

“I’m not actually that good at it, but I love doing it,” Houghton says.

Houghton has never played in a country or rock group, but while growing up, he played trombone in the school band. “I did once go to band camp,” Houghton says. He also sang in choir at school and his church, took some music theory classes, and took piano and percussion lessons for several years.

He says he plays guitar “not well, but efficiently.” “Just like an entrepreneur would play guitar, I know enough of it to do it, but I’m not great at it,” he adds.

OK, so he probably won’t become a touring musician when he’s done running tech companies. But he says he would consider being a “small-time music producer.”

—Aspiring investor, kind of: When he calls it quits as an entrepreneur, a more likely path than professional musician would be formal investing, despite his earlier comments. He has made $25,000 investments in a handful of companies, including Chicago-based SimpleRelevance and Durham-based Argyle Social, he says.

He has also toyed with the idea of starting a small VC fund focused on software companies that sell to small businesses, which would draw on his experience and passion for small businesses.

“That’s one that I would do,” Houghton says. “The small business market has always fascinated me.”

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