Friday, January 31, 2014

1871 CEO Howard Tullman at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

1871 CEO Howard Tullman at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

We had a great time sitting down with Howard Tullman, the new CEO of 1871 and an accomplished entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He’s held the title of CEO or Chairman of a number of companies, including, CCC Information Services, and The Cobalt Group — and that’s just the beginning of the list. And believe it or not, his first ten years in the professional world years were actually spent practicing law.

Though we wouldn’t have argued if Howard spent the whole evening telling us the intricate details about every one of his ventures, we did keep it to a select few, and he regaled us with stories of brilliant success, monumental challenges, and his endless love for big ideas. You can see the video of the whole evening below.

Chicago Founders Stories: Howard Tullman from Chicago Founder's Stories on Vimeo.

To give you a taste, here are five tips straight from the source. It’s why we love Founders’ Stories: you just can’t get great ideas like these anywhere else.

1. You don’t need to invest capital to have “skin in the game”.
As Howard broke into the auto insurance technology business, he was asked to give a lot — his time, his “sweat equity”, and, later, his cash. But he doesn’t think that you need all three in order to have a stake in a company. “It was a huge and very important thing to say, ‘I’m just not doing that. I don’t think I have to mortgage my future and everything else to start a business.’”

2. Don’t underestimate the value of hard work.
When asked what Howard looks for as a sign of success in young entrepreneurs, he believes that endless passion and a strong work ethic are most important. “Hard work eventually wins over just about everything, including native brilliant and fabulous ideas. We always say ‘we may not have outsmarted everybody, but we can outwork them.”

3. Reach further.
Howard’s move to 1871 seems fitting with his serial enterprises. But the buck doesn’t stop here. Even a community as innovative as the one that hosts our Founders’ Stories events has room to grow.  “I think 1871 is one of the most important things that Chicago can be focused on right now. We’ve become an attraction, we’ve become a place, and I really feel…that if we stopped, if we rested on our laurels…that we’d lose our primacy and we wouldn’t be a special place. And I think that 1871 is a completely special place.”

Be a great storyteller. Push the market. And “if you don’t think things should get better, then you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.”

4. Look ahead.
One of the interesting aspects of Howard’s time at, is that it started as one idea (a source for concert webcasts) and ended up as something completely different (a provider of online digital music). “The real content was not the webcast. The real content was the digital music and all the information associated with that.”

When an idea starts to move in a different direction, move with it. Seek out demand. “The real magic of being an entrepreneur is you barely remember yesterday because you’re so focused on tomorrow.”

5. There is no such thing as ‘failure’.
In some ways, Howard Tullman has never failed (nor have any of us). “Whatever mistakes we made – as long as we learn from them, and as long as we didn’t take advantage of people or treat people poorly, I don’t think it’s a failure. It’s an analytical process and you learn from every single thing, every single day.” Even failures bring us new sets of applications that we can use for future ideas. Hungry for more words of wisdom?

Check out the recording of the video here:
Chicago Founders Stories: Howard Tullman from Chicago Founder's Stories on Vimeo.

Chicago Founders Stories: Howard Tullman from Chicago Founder's Stories on Vimeo.

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Howard, and look forward to the next Chicago Founders’ Stories@1871 with BigMachines founder Godard Abel, TONIGHT (January 30)! Click here to sign up for the event now. We’ll learn about his rise to success as he recently sold the company to Oracle for a pricetag of almost $500 million.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

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