Practical Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Mark Bunting
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I began in publishing with The Wall Street Journal in Texas (and later San Francisco/Los Angeles). As a 20-something, I managed one of the largest account assignments in the country for the WSJ which afforded me the opportunity to work on with high profile accounts from HP to Apple to Intel. After a 5-year career in High Tech/Business publishing, I pursued my entrepreneurial ambitions and started the first of many high tech and media concerns in Texas.
I founded The Computer House Company (later sold to Entre Computer Franchise Group), which pioneered the direct selling of personal computers to the home market. In 1993, I launched SkyTV which rose to become the largest producer of computer and technology related television and video programming. The company was later merged in a joint venture with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures and became the genesis of G4 — the cable channel for all things “technology”. In addition, I have been involved in numerous start-ups as Entrepreneur, Early-stage Investor and Board member. A few of my ventures include: ROI Interactive acquired by PopMail. Goodguys.com, a consumer electronics retailer acquired by CompUSA. Attenza (enterprise content management solutions) sold to SkyWire.
Currently, I am a Professor of Technology Marketing/Advertising and Entrepreneurship at UT Austin. Where I also work as a mentor and career coach to the UT Longhorn football staff and student athletes.
What are your favorite courses or subjects to teach?
I have three courses and it’s very hard to pick a favorite. I love my original class on Technology Marketing and Advertising that I began teaching in 2010. It’s basically a primer for anyone wanting to enter the Tech vertical in marketing or any communications discipline. As a 3x large cap tech Chief Marketing &Strategy Officer I am fortunate to have access to a tremendous portfolio of incredibly successful peers. I rotate a series of these exceptionally talented practitioners who share insights (war stories) and more to provide my 400+ students real life practical “show and tell”. The exchange of knowledge and career insights is especially impactful to my predominately “senior” audience. It’s really rewarding to see your 30 year professional life’s practice — being exchanged to this young and enthusiastic new breed of professionals-to-be.
But I also have a large chunk of my career that has been spent as an entrepreneur and even a brief stint in Venture Capital. My course on New Media Entrepreneurship and Communications truly feeds the other side of my business soul. Having been involved in numerous start-ups the road-mapping of the steps to help frame opportunities for our Moody College students is also super fun. I even teach a class modeled after Shark Tank (ABC) — there again the hands on experience is massively rewarding to me as an entrepreneur and instructor.
I don’t think I gave an answer as to my “favorite”! Clearly I am passionate about all three and feel honored each week to drive from Dallas to spend a day on the 40 Acres with the most curious, talented and driven group of young people I am privileged to teach.
Are you currently working on a project or venture? What is it?
Currently, I am the CEO and Founder of Grata- the world’s first recognition platform designed to praise and reward 80M under-appreciated frontline (service sector) workers by creating LinkedIn-like documented work histories and communities and to provide retail and other organizations with performance data and analytics on their most important employees and drive deeper customer engagement and the ROI they create.
Do you have pointers for others looking to pursue entrepreneurship?
I’ll give you the most important one- the oft used (over used) “Burn the Ships” reference to Cortez. Destroy your options to retreat.
Listen, I have never, ever seen a part-time passive side hustle gain flight. It’s a great strategy to explore a venture while you work your full time gig. But eventually you must dive in head first. It takes the “all in with little to no room for failure” investment of time, energy (and eventually some money). I have seen the marginally gifted persevere due to effort and passion. Likewise, I have seen the very talented fail time and time again. The smartest person in the room will win 1/3rd of the time. The hardest working will win 65%. The combination of the two is the power force that drives oversized outcomes. Research, study, know your market/product/customer, and then work with bold determination and singular focus.
About the Series
Practical Entrepreneurship features faculty at UT that both teach and have real-world experience with entrepreneurship. By providing insight into each individual’s journey and passions, we are illustrating the many opportunities in academics and throughout life there are to reach fulfillment and success through the pursuit of entrepreneurship.
Lightly edited by Lydia Ward