Five Questions For … Austin Serial Entrepreneur Higinio “HO” Maycotte

Austin—Family lore holds that HO Maycotte’s great-grandfather shot off the leg of Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary.

Maycotte, a serial entrepreneur based in Austin, grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in a military-turned-entrepreneurial family. His family established the first hotel there as well as arts schools and a golf course. “It was an idyllic place to live,” he says.

He learned to speak English fluently in his teens when he moved to the United States to attend high school and later earned a computer science degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Today, Maycotte’s revolutionary fervor is confined to technology and founding startups such as fintech company RateGenius, Flightlock (purchased by Control Risks), Finetooth (a contract management company now doing business as Mumboe), data science company Umbel, and analytics startup Pilosa.

“Our time here is finite; we’ve got to do the most with what we have,” he says. “My ambition used to be from the outside in—to have a broad impact. Now, if I can make life for my employees better, support the next generation of entrepreneurs and founders in Austin, make my investors invest in more companies, that’s important.”

In this week’s “Five Questions For … ,” Maycotte speaks about living a paper-free existence, lessons from a grandfather, and how he misses working with his hands. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: What’s the most embarrassing thing about yourself that you’re willing to admit publicly?

HO Maycotte: I don’t know how this will [come off] in print but I was on the golf team in high school and when I was at a golf tournament, no one could pronounce my name. An announcer called me “Ha-gina” [i.e., rhyming to a woman’s body part], that was pretty embarrassing. But it was probably the best golf shot of my life. I recovered really quickly. So I guess anybody’s welcome to call me the wrong name because it turned out well in the end.

I don’t think they’d ever heard of my name. Ever since I started coming to the States, it’s been like this. I’m Higinio the 7th. It’s an awesome name! I have two daughters so I didn’t get to pass it down.

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

HO: Travel as much as you can while you can. Avoid overhead as much as you can. I think millennials do a good job of that. I think it’s really important early on to decide if you are individual contributor or if you want to do something more broad in terms of career path. A lot of people aren’t sure if they want to be managers in life, or if they want to do one thing really well. Obviously, if you have an entrepreneurial bug, the key is to dive into something that you can never turn back from. The key to making it really work is to have no choice but to make it work.

Even as I dive into new [startups] time and time again, I always put it on the line. I’m lucky that I have a wife who supports that. My headline [in his LinkedIn profile] is “ambassador to the future.” I try to pick things five to 10 years out and introduce the future to the present. It’s always technology that isn’t quite mainstream; it’s not even in most people’s minds just yet.

X: Tell me about your early influences.

HO: Probably my grandfather. He was a total rags-to-riches story in Mexico where you have a lot of class differences. He’s a stellar example in any society. The way he treated his people; it was the key to his success. It was about empowering people and, as a result, he did amazing things. He never treated us any differently than his gardeners at the hotel or cooks or his driver. I try to do the same as an entrepreneur and boss to many.

He also showed me a third category in being a leader. Being a great leader doesn’t mean you’re a great manager. He was an amazing leader and manager, and I still struggle with my ability to manage people versus lead them. Someone’s more likely to follow me off a cliff than enjoy a performance review; both are really different. I always work really hard to have great managers around me to execute the vision. Someone has to believe you can do the impossible.

X: If you got stranded on a desert island, what’s the one thing you would have to have with you?

HO: [My wife] Meredith and I could get out of anything. We’re both eternal optimists. I’m the lead that has the vision; she has got the steadfast work ethic and dedication to solving problems and it’s a really good combination.

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

HO: I don’t read. The world is my book. I’m spookily good at ingesting data in my environment, the input I get from the environment around me. I pick up on little queues, the tremendous information flows in my e-mail. I notice things others don’t notice. It strikes people as creepy, they say, ‘How did you know that?’ I say, ‘I picked up on the clues.’ I haven’t read a book in 15, 20 years. It’s an ADD thing.

I don’t believe in paper currency; everything is electronic.

X: What did your 25-year-old self know that you have forgotten?

HO: I think doing things with my hands. I used to love making things and taking things apart. The instant gratification of doing things with your hands and seeing them come to fruition. The world now is so virtual, the assets we collect so intangible. The businesses I build, you can’t really touch the servers. It’s so amorphous. I miss the days when it was a much more tangible approach to the world.

Really, if I think about it, I’d love to make my next startup something tangible: drones or robotics where you actually have that connection with materials and things. I love that and used to be great and do that stuff all the time. Now, it’s much more virtual.

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