PubTalk hosts veteran entrepreneur

He will draw on vast experience to offer advice on startups

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

 

Starting a new business is never easy, no matter how many times you’ve done it or how much success you’ve enjoyed in the past.

“It’s a lot harder than people think,” said Steve Hix, 74, founder of projection company InFocus and other successful technology start-ups. “Emotionally, everyone has the tide come in and out. You get excited about a new product and a new company. You forget how hard it is to get (investment) money, and to make money once you do have it.”

Hix, a longtime Clark County resident who currently lives in Camas, is the featured speaker at this Wednesday’s Clark County PubTalk scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. at the Fort Vancouver National Site Artillery Barracks, 600 E. Hatheway Road. He’s been here before: Hix spoke at the first-ever Clark County PubTalk in December 2009, when organizers expected a couple dozen attendees and wound up with almost 100 spilling out of a restaurant banquet room.

This time, Hix will make the first public presentation of his latest venture, called Circle Technology. The company has developed an Android-based portable presentation system for use in sales calls, conferences, and meetings. Using the technology, a “host” could manage the event on a central computer, while other participants using nearby displays could be connected through a private network connection. The group could review and modify documents such as sales reports from the display terminals, while the host would organize and control the flow of the discussion and revisions.

Hix plans to publicly launch Circle Technology in April and he intends to establish the company’s base in Clark County. He’s hoping to raise about $600,000 over the next several weeks. “The biggest thing I can say is that I’m an old man and I’ve been through it many times, and this is probably the most exciting thing I’ve brought out,” he said.

But while Circle Technology is a showcase for the evening, Hix said the upshot of his PubTalk presentation will be to draw on his own experiences to offer advice and direction to local entrepreneurs. He believes people who have good products and a willingness to work hard can succeed even in tough economic times, and he dismisses a fear of failure.

“I define success as post-failure,” Hix says.

Still, there are plenty of ways to move more quickly through failure to success, he said. Red flags for entrepreneurs include taking on too big a task or failing to recognize a fundamental flaw with your business strategy.

“We blindside ourselves by not being truthful to ourselves,” Hix said. “You second-guess yourself, and you need to go out and talk to more people. That will make your product stronger in the marketplace.”

Hix advises entrepreneurs not to set out on a startup simply to get rich.

“I’ve started quite a few companies, and I never thought about it from the money standpoint,” he said. “You never take it out just to make money.”

So why, at his age, is Hix pushing himself through the pain and exhilaration of starting yet another company?

“I like to start companies to have jobs for people,” he says. “I know that sounds corny, but that’s the way it is.”

Also on the PubTalk agenda, a panel of experts will offer advice on structuring a company to take full advantage of funding and growth opportunities.

Panelists include Lisa Lowe, attorney specializing in business development issues at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt; Nathan McDonald, chapter president of Keiretsu Forum Northwest, a large angel investment fund; , Kathy Sego, co-owner of Sego’s Herb Farm and chief financial officer for several local business startups; and David Uslan, a tax shareholder with Perkins & Co, who leads the company’s technology/emerging growth specialty arm.

Also, an open mic session will allow local entrepreneurs a chance to make a 90-second company pitch.

Registration is $20 in advance and $25 at the door, and includes light refreshments and a cash bar. In order to comply with state liquor control rules, the event is now open only to people age 21 and older.

Registration is available online at http://bit.ly/FOamfl or by phone at 360-567-1070. PubTalk is sponsored by the Columbia River Economic Development Council and the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council.