Ask the Chair

Ken Stauffer

Ask the Chair with Ken Stauffer

By Ken Stauffer

The Ask the Chair segment provides the audience with a voice and communication channel to Ken Stauffer, 2020 Chair of the IEEE Entrepreneurship Steering Committee. Ken is a serial entrepreneur in life!  His professional career spans 16 years at AT&T Bell Labs and then another 20 years as an entrepreneur—first with a $480M startup in Florida and then with several other start-ups that took in venture capital funding. Stauffer is currently the CEO & Co-Founder of Technology Assurance Labs.

What is your vision for IEEE Entrepreneurship in 2020? 

We need to understand our IEEE Entrepreneurship ecosystem and be “relevant” to our members. I stress the importance of “relevance” because I was a Senior Member of IEEE, but after leaving Bell Labs in 2000 to become an entrepreneur, IEEE wasn’t relevant to me as an entrepreneur for 14 years, until we started IEEE Entrepreneurship in 2015. “Relevance = membership,” and the membership in our community consists of people both inside and outside IEEE.

As a seasoned founder, is there anything in particular that keeps you up at night? 

Creating value for our customers — the IEEE Entrepreneurship community. It is just like a business in that aspect. If we can’t create value for our customers, then we might as well go out of business. We have a survey going out in Q1 2020 to the 17,000+ members of our virtual community to ask them to describe themselves and to tell us what products or services would be valuable to them. Please answer the survey when you get it! It will help me sleep better at night. 😊

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who are at different stages in the process?

Remember the vision that launched you in the first place. It gets tough at times and sometimes you might feel as though you are swimming upstream against the current.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get a nice job in academia or industry, where you don’t have to work 70+ hours a week with sleepless nights?

But there was a reason you took this path, and that was your vision. I like to say that the spirit of entrepreneurs is curiosity, creativity, courage, and hard work. So, stick with making your vision happen even if you have to pivot. As Yogi Berra used to say, “Its 50% mental, half of the time!”

Where can your audience access the most useful information?  

It depends on what you are looking for — technical information, start-up information, mentoring, networking, investors, etc.  IEEE Entrepreneurship provides some useful information via our products such as Xplore Downloads, Founders Office Hours, IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops, IEEE Entrepreneurship Stars competitions, etc. Start by checking out our website.

How can I engage with IEEE entrepreneurship?

Well, first of all, IEEE Entrepreneurship membership is free, whether you are in IEEE or not. So, sign up on our website, get our newsletter, and join the entrepreneurship community on IEEE Collabratec. Also, each year we post openings for our Steering Committee on our website. So, if you are interested in being a leader, let us know. We are a diverse, global community and we look for diverse representation from all regions of the world.

IEEE Entrepreneurship wants to hear your questions!  Send your questions for the next Ask the Chair segment here!