We are pleased to introduce Doug Juanarena, who will be a mentor for Startup Weekend Blacksburg. Doug is the VP and Site Leader of Rackspace in Blacksburg. He is a serial entrepreneur having participated in several ventures. We are happy to have such an experienced leader join to help guide teams.
What is your background in relation to startups?
I was a member of a NASA team that developed some very advanced sensing and instrumentation designed for aeronautical measurement. In the late 1970′s I obtained a license from NASA and formed PSI in Hampton, VA. Over the years our products became the world standard for wind tunnel, propulsion and flight testing. I sold PSI to a public British company in 1996. I also started an environmental sensor firm during the late 1980′s ( later sold to a Swiss company). In 2000 I moved to Blacksburg to be a co-founder and CEO of Luna Technologies. We designed and built instrumentation for measuring dispersion in high bandwidth fiber optic components. In 2006 I formed GenTek Ventures which helped raise private equity for tech startups. Additionally, we helped startups with strategic partnerships and M & A. The second firm we worked with was webmail.us lead by Pat Mathews, now a part of Rackspace Hosting.
Why are you excited for Startup Weekend in Blacksburg?
Blacksburg is a hub for R& D. Virginia Tech does approximately $500M in sponsored research each year. This research attracts many bright people- some whom want to launch a company after performing the basic research. The Corporate Research Center (CRC) is home to 140 tech firms, many of which trace their origins to VT research programs. During the past decade or so there have been a number of software and web focused startups here in Blacksburg. So it is great to be able to host an event like Startup Weekend which will further build on the excitement and momentum of the Blacksburg startup movement.
In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake a startup could commit?
Not understanding the size or potential of a market before committing time and money to the endeavor.
What key skill or experience did you lack when you started that has caused you the most problems?
I had an electrical engineering degree and little business savy or experience when I started my first company. It was bootstrapped and grew very quickly, so we constantly needed growth capital to fund our increased sales. I spent a ton of time out trying to raising money. If I had partnered with someone who had lots of business experience I could have focused more on the technology, and the sales pieces of the business could have scaled more quickly.