Five Questions for Steve Guengerich, UT-Dallas Innovation Institute CEO

Dallas—In addition to founding tech startups such as mobile e-retail company Appconomy, entrepreneur Steve Guengerich has simultaneously focused on teaching young entrepreneurs and taking on roles that can help build an innovation ecosystem during his years in Austin.

So it’s fitting that this experience has culminated in an actual full-time teaching position. Guengerich this month packed up and headed north to become the executive director of Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“We’ve got this amazing university that is ‘crushing it,’ to use startup language,” he says. “I’m very excited to create bonds between these groups and where the action is happening in the private sector.”

This week’s “Five Questions For …” visits with Guengerich, who speaks about the advantages of working for a big company, his love of books, and lingering lessons from the ’90s dotcom bust. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: If you could go back in time and get five minutes with any major historical figure, who would it be, and what would you want to say to them?

Steve Guengerich: The first one that occurs to me would be Teddy Roosevelt because if you’ve ever read much about his life, he accomplished so much as a person at such a young age. It’s just phenomenal. On every front, in business, physically as an athlete, as a family man, a leader of the country, it’s just extraordinary.

I’d want to spend a few minutes with him, How did you do it? One, how hard was it to sell his ideas on the National Parks System? It was not easy. What did he use beyond his strength of will to make that happen?

X: What’s your favorite book? Or maybe one you’ve read recently?

S.G.: My favorite is the “Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” by Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist. I love that book; it has everything in it. It’s sort of similar to “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” It’s in that spirit with a distinctly Asian and, particularly, Japanese lens. I really have a deep love for fiction. I’m a big public library fan. I’m at the library all the time. I check out five books a week.

X: What career advice do you give to new college graduates?

S.G.: I strongly advocate that they work for somebody else in a real quote unquote job when they come out of school. I urge them, depending on the degree, to really take a strong look at large and very large companies and a role within a big institution of some kind. It’s like anything else in life. Even if they decide to go on a path like I’ve gone, more on entrepreneurial ventures, that experience in a large institution will serve them well. I tell them, interview with bigger companies.

Big companies still to this day have resources that small companies don’t have. They … Next Page »

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