Innovation Hub mentor Todd Knowlton shares his passions for his startup company and mentoring young entrepreneurs
The road to entrepreneurship began early in Todd Knowlton's life. The passion to become a business owner started at a young age.
"I always knew I would probably be an entrepreneur," said Todd Knowlton, CEO of Smooth Fusion. "I grew up on a dairy that my dad had founded. I always liked business and the idea of building a company myself."
After earning a bachelor's degree in computer science from Texas Tech University, Knowlton's dreams became a reality when determination met innovation.
"Back when the web was just getting started, I was actually a fulltime author writing about computers and computer programming," Knowlton said. "In the mid '90s, I wrote a book to teach high school students to program in a language called C++. Microsoft became interested in that book and based a Microsoft K-12 initiative on it."
"Internet access was just beginning to spread to individuals, businesses and schools, and even though most K-12 schools did not yet have internet access in those days, Microsoft wanted to have a website available to schools to make more teaching resources available to schools. In 1996, Microsoft asked me if I would build them a website for their academic initiatives. I had never built a website because it was all so new, but I said yes, and the first website I ever built was for Microsoft."
Following this project, Microsoft kept asking for Knowlton's help with different projects. The workload led Knowlton to hire additional help. During the dotcom boom in 1999, he participated in a merger with several other similar companies to form a company called Full Moon Interactive. But in late 2000, he was ready to start something new again. So in January of 2001, he and some partners and founded Smooth Fusion.
"Smooth Fusion designs and builds custom software and web applications for sophisticated organizations all over the United States," Knowlton said. "Our customers are primarily enterprise-level companies who have significant budgets for their websites or other custom software. We design and build corporate websites, marketing campaign sites, e-commerce sites, mobile apps and enterprise business applications. We have a team of about 25 people, most of whom are based in Lubbock."
Smooth Fusion will celebrate its 20th anniversary in January 2021. The business was founded, three years before Facebook, five years before Twitter and six years before the iPhone. A lot since the company's start in 2001.
Knowlton has made it a priority to give back to aspiring entrepreneurs by volunteering as a mentor at the Innovation Hub at Research Park.
"I believe that entrepreneurship is a critical component of what makes this country great," Knowlton said. "I was involved in entrepreneurial initiatives while I was in college, but there wasn't an ecosystem to provide support, education, encouragement and mentoring. I love the energy many of the young entrepreneurs have, and I want them to succeed. Even if their current venture is not ultimately a success, I hope these young entrepreneurs will learn a lot and never quit striving to lead a startup."
As a member of the founding mentor group at the Hub, Knowlton has had extensive experience in witnessing ideas grow into businesses.
"When entrepreneurs come to the Innovation Hub for the appropriate support and mentoring but retain the understanding and attitude that this is their venture and their hard work, then the formula works and successful startups result," Knowlton said.