Joe Colopy is a technology entrepreneur and investor. In 2002, Joe co-founded and bootstrapped Durham, N.C.-based Bronto Software as its CEO to 300+ employees before becoming part of Oracle. Through his work with Bronto, Joe was a past winner of Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Carolinas.
After selling Bronto, Joe started several entities including GrepBeat, an online media property covering the Triangle tech community, and Jurassic Capital, an investment firm that invests in regional software companies. Among his current ventures is an entrepreneurship fellowship program at the North Carolina School of Mathematics and Science.
Earlier in his career, Joe worked at Red Hat and served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Harvard University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He originally hails from Akron, Ohio but now happily lives in Durham with his wife, four children, dog, gerbil, and an ever-changing number of ducks and chickens.
Here is our Q&A with Joe Colopy:
Q. I see from your LinkedIn profile that you are involved in three ventures — Jurassic Capital, Grepbeat and Colopy Ventures. Is it difficult having so many balls in the air? How do you manage to keep on top of everything?
A. Life is busy but not as busy as when I was running the tech company Bronto Software and my four children were younger. Through that experience, I learned how to delegate and prioritize. Most importantly, I am not a one-man band. I have a great team that helps me keep everything running. Without them, I would get very little done.
(Note: Colopy Ventures is the holding company for everything that I do, including Jurassic and GrepBeat. It also includes seed investing and real estate.)
Q. From your profile, it looks like you started or helped start two companies (Colopy Ventures and Oracle + Bronto) after working for Red Hat. Why did you start your own businesses rather than continue working for a large company? I’d imagine that was risky to some extent — what motivated you to take the risk?
A. I started Bronto Software after a short stint at Red Hat in the late 90s. I have always had a strong entrepreneurial bent so it wasn’t surprising that it would start something. I was at a stage of my life and scrappy enough to give it a go. It wasn’t easy but it was the right move for me. They say entrepreneurs are the only people who work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40. I definitely fit in that mold.
Q. What lessons have you learned from being an entrepreneur? What advice would you give to a high school student or college student thinking about a career as an entrepreneur?
A. I learned many lessons from being entrepreneur. One, you can’t do it alone. There’s an African proverb that says something like, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That’s true for entrepreneurship.
Also, entrepreneurship is not easy but worth it if you are willing to give up a lot to build your vision for the world. To prepare, I encourage high school and college students to practice building and trying new things, especially when the path to doing so is ambiguous. Bronto was the first company that I started but was one of many software products that I had created.
Finally, be scrappy, be resourceful, and be persistent. Successful entrepreneurs always are!