As I was following my twitter stream today on TweetDeck, I noticed an announcement about “Mass High Tech All Stars”. What really caught my attention was the mention of Russ Wilcox receiving one of the awards. Russ is very deserving of this and the other awards he and E Ink have been amassing recently. I’ve had a number of great experiences with Russ, so I’d like to share a few here.
As you may recall from my first entry, there was a seminar my freshman year at Northeastern that included local entrepreneurs coming in to discuss their start-up experiences. Russ was one of those entrepreneurs, and to this day, I remember his presentation. He showed us his VC pitch and talked about his passion for changing the way we interact with books. The innovative nature of the technology and the passion he showed really stood out and definitely contributed to my growing interest in entrepreneurship at the time. From that day forward, I followed E Ink in the news to see how they were doing.
When I graduated 4 years later, it only seemed natural to apply for a position at E Ink; by working there I could learn more about a great local start-up firsthand. Fortunately, they hired me for a summer job that got my foot in the door. During that time, Russ was constantly being taped in interviews, interacting with employees and talking about making E Ink a success. His passion seemed to spread to others and his demeanor made everyone feel confident and comfortable. After overhearing he got to talk to one of my all-time favorite entrepreneurs, Mark Cuban, on the phone as part of something Mark’s HDNet was reporting on, I decided I had to get a chance to talk to him too.
I won’t lie…I was scared. I thought to myself, “this is a man running a 100+ employee company that is just starting to gain traction…he has no time to talk to me.” Luckily, I didn’t let those thoughts get the best of me, so I emailed him explaining my passion for entrepreneurship and asked if I could talk to him about his experiences. To my delight, he was more than happy to and we scheduled a meeting.
The meeting was everything I hoped it would be and more. He started out by telling me the story of E Ink; how they almost went bankrupt and the extreme situation he was handed the day he was named CEO (6 weeks of cash left, no established product) and how they made it to 2008. We then talked about his personal background and how he ended up at E Ink. The discussion then turned towards me and I explained to him what I hoped to do and he gave me a lot of great advice. He suggested a ton of reading and explained his philosophy for all that reading (essentially…there’s something to learn from all of them…the key is recognizing those key nuggets and combining it with the others). The meeting was scheduled to be 45 minutes, but we ended up talking for an hour and a half. During that time, he never looked at his watch or hinted at all that he had anything to do but talk to me.
It’s experiences like these that inspire future generations of entrepreneurs. I hope one day I can be the type of leader Russ is and hope he can continue to guide E Ink to a successful future.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Russ that speaks deeply to his beliefs and what I think entrepreneurship is really all about:
“You live to your fullest potential when you pursue a challenging dream that builds lasting value for others. ” -Russ Wilcox, CEO E Ink