Presley a mentor, entrepreneur, and hustler!
Technology strategist and innovator Anthony Presley began mentoring Texas Tech University entrepreneurs long before the Innovation Hub opened in 2015. Since then, he's helped many startups– and the Hub itself– achieve success.
"I've had several influential mentors during my career. I like to think I'm paying it forward a bit," Presley says.
From zero to one, and beyond
"When you see someone with an idea which becomes an actual product or service, that's exciting! It's not just what each of them is doing now, but the things they're going to do in four, five, or even 20 years. There's a lot of teaching and learning that goes on throughout that process. As one of the first mentors with the Hub, I've seen the Hub do its own 'zero to one.' I think its future is exciting, too. It's incredibly rewarding to pass along some knowledge and to witness the growth," he says.
Presley's entrepreneurial journey began in the mid-1990s. "My dad told me to get a job when I turned 16. In his mind, that meant flipping burgers. That didn't sound as much fun to me as doing software coding. So in high school, I ended up writing, trademarking, and selling security software for school computer labs. Soon after that, I was hired by a small company in Virginia that built software for people all over the United States."
When he came to Texas Tech as a freshman in 1998, Presley's goal was to become a biomedical engineer. While he was still a student, Presley founded two startups developing diverse technology solutions for a variety of industries. "I got plenty of hours during the six years it took me to not get a degree," he laughs. "Ultimately, though, I had 30 employees who were not interested at all in what grades I got on my finals. They were interested in whether or not we got the next contract. Once my business took off, I didn't have time for college anymore."
Presley's skill set and client base continued to evolve around his passions: emerging technology and the growth of big and small businesses. He co-founded human capital management product company TimeForge in 2007, serving as its President/CEO. After realizing 4x growth, TimeForge was acquired by TRUNO, an international retail technology solutions company, in 2016. Presley became TRUNO's Chief Products Officer at the same time.
Presley started entrepreneurial mentoring about 15 years ago. "There wasn't an organized mentoring entrepreneurship program at Tech back then. The College of Engineering had some opportunities it would bring up from time to time," he says. "Once the Innovation Hub was created, I got involved. It was a lot of fun being part of the mentor program's founding group. Todd Knowlton (iTTU Mentor), Kimberly Gramm (Associate Vice President of Innovation and Entrepreneurship), and I managed to gather most of the mentors we still have."
Presley is one of 37 professionals currently volunteering in the Hub's Innovate Texas Tech Mentor Program (iTTU).
"What I look for in a mentor is someone who has 'been there and done that.' They've gone through the various phases and stages of business. They also need to be a good teacher. By that, I mean they will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. And we've certainly got a fair number of those in the program," Presley says.
Presley's pride in the success of entrepreneurs he's mentored is obvious. "Some especially great stories have come from startup teams involved in the Texas Tech Accelerator program. Recently, I was the lead mentor for VxMED. They went from having no money in the bank to having six or eight customers. That's pretty exciting! Another big success story is NemaLife. They went to a trade show and sold six figures worth of their intellectual property in something like 24 hours. Both teams took the corporate curriculum, were coach-able, and then knocked it out of the park," he says.
Presley says he looks for other attributes in fledgling entrepreneurs, as well. "Hustle, to me, is a component of grit. I think hustle is teachable; grit is not. Hustle is going out and trying something. It's quickly making a decision on only 20% or 30% of the data available (which means you're wrong 80% or 70% of the time), but then being able to change and go a different direction. A willingness to do that all the time and while you're under fire? That's grit," Presley says. "And it's a lot harder to develop."