After spending seven years working at major companies like Motorola and Yahoo!, Illinois College of Business alumnus Jeff Kibler had a change of heart; he decided that entrepreneurship was where his true interests lay.
Kibler has a BS in Computer Science (CS) from Illinois and recently completed his MBA. Upon graduating, Kibler craved opportunities for professional growth and decided that a startup company was a logical fit for his interests.
“I decided to leave Yahoo! and take a position at Infobright, which is a startup that wanted to have a presence at the University,” Kibler explained. “I’ve been involved in the entrepreneurship community about six months, so I’m still getting my feet wet.”
Infobright develops and markets a high performance, self-tuning analytic database designed for applications and data marts that analyze large volumes of machine-generated data. The firm opened an office in the University’s business incubator, EnterpriseWorks, in 2010, in part to have access to Illinois student interns.
Kibler said that he sees himself as someone who “connects the dots” for people in Champaign’s entrepreneurship community, and said that he is especially interested in the economic development of Champaign and the University.
“A lot of people here have ideas but don’t know who to contact to make them happen,” Kibler said. “I have been able to introduce people who can help each other out.”
In addition to his efforts at Infobright, Kibler is a part of a group that lures big businesses to the Champaign area by providing them with human capital. For example, Kibler explained, his group would find software engineers who have an interest in joining a certain company, and then would bring representatives from that company into the area to meet with them.
“I am really interested in the economic development perspective of this group,” Kibler said. “Champaign is my home, and I want to stay here. I want to bring in as many companies as I can to make Champaign and the University look good.”
Kibler also mentors groups of local student entrepreneurs to help them develop stronger pitches and business plans. These skills came in handy during Champaign’s Startup Weekend in November 2011.
Kibler, fellow MBA alumnus David Hoffer and local entrepreneur Dave Rodgers joined forces with Illinois undergraduate students Kevin Verre (CS), Hugh Sato (New Media), Harsh Singh (CS) and Philip Hann (CS) to form the competition’s winning team.
“[Hoffer’s, Rodgers’ and my] expertise from a business perspective melded with some Illinois students’ ideas really nicely,” Kibler said. “Knowing that our final pitch had to include a full marketing strategy, to address competitors and have product differentiation put our team at an advantage. A lot of the other pitches were missing those things.”
Kibler noted that the group’s collective Illinois Computer Science experience played a big role in its Startup Weekend success as well.
“Developing our idea took us about 12 hours (overnight), during which we sat around the table and talked about the “how” of our idea,” Kibler explained. “All of the engineers in our group who are CS students were already used to working all night to get something done, so that part was easy.”
Kibler’s team placed first out of 12 teams in Champaign with its pitch for a new counterfeit-spotting technology. The team then placed 18th out of 50 teams in the November/December 2011 online global Startup Weekend competition.
Though Kibler noted that the global competition relied on popularity and the social push more than each team’s core concept, he said that Startup Weekend was a great learning experience overall. Kibler and his team are still pursuing their business idea, but are finding that time is a scarce commodity.
“Some of our team members are students who are home for break after finals, and some are people like me who work full-time,” Kibler said. “Our team is burning the midnight oil to solidify our message and figure out an audience.”
And if they continue to burn as brightly as they did at Startup Weekend, it is no doubt that Kibler and his team members will be successful in their entrepreneurial endeavors.