2023 TAB Hall of Honor Recipient

Speech by: Ken Stauffer

Ken Stauffer, Past Chair, IEEE Entrepreneurship | Inducted into the TAB Hall of Honor

By Ken Stauffer

[*Note: Ken Stauffer is a serial entrepreneur with 30+ years in the telecommunications industry and Past Chair of the IEEE Entrepreneurship Steering Committee. He is the 2023 Technical Activities Board (TAB) Hall of Honor Recipient. Interested in learning how he earned this honor? Read the original acceptance speech below.]

Thank You Hall of Honor committee, and TAB for this Great Honor

I am amazed that a child, born and raised in Tanzania, who grew up in a house with no electricity or running water, lit by kerosene lamps, cooking on a wood stove, and running to an outhouse could receive this distinguished award! I know it takes a village to achieve this honor, so let me thank the village who made this possible

A big thank you to Roberto De Marca who had the vision in 2014 to create the IEEE Board ad hoc on Entrepreneurship, to Tom Rowbotham, the Chair of that ad hoc, who asked me to join his committee, to Vin Puri, who as IEEE TAB VP, led the creation of the IEEE Entrepreneurship Initiative, to Rakesh Kumar who was our first Vice Chair and who also nominated me to this honor, to Mary Ward-Callan, Randi Sumner, and Tom Monaco who supported our start-up from day one until now. And to my wife, Carol, who stood by me, inspired me, trusted me, and put up with all my adventures.

And a big thank you to all the great volunteers since 2015, who either led or served in IEEE Entrepreneurship and helped grow our ecosystem.  Like a start-up, it has been a journey– we started with nothing and grew our ecosystem to approximately 20,000 people in 65 countries in 6 years. 

We also developed significant global and regional sponsorships for our IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops with the UN-ITU, UNESCO, the Global Sustainable Technology & Innovation Community, FIOCRUZ, SmartAfrica, Afretech and the UN Major Group on Children and Youth. 

Entrepreneurs are very special people because they risk a lot to follow their dreams. They give up a life of 8am to 5pm for a life of 7×24 and they often risk their own and their family finances to follow their dreams. Why do they do it– I’ll give you 3 quotes from an Entrepreneur Magazine article about why people become entrepreneurs.

  1. Their creativity doesn’t fit the corporate environment. Steve Jobs perhaps summed this idea up best when he said: “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is … Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it … Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
  2. Their ideas are unconventional. Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”.
  3. They want to change the world. Mark Twain explained the lure of entrepreneurship best when he wrote, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This last idea about changing the world to make it better is the one I want to emphasize. It is one of the reasons we put so much emphasis on the UN-Sustainable Development Goals in our IEEE Entrepreneurship Workshops. That is what I think makes entrepreneurs truly special! We can build a better world!

As an Actor’s Equity Stage Manager in the professional theatre in the 1970’s, I used to think about this quote from Roosevelt every night of the show as I climbed to the stage managers booth high above the audience.  It sums up the quest of actors, directors, writers, poets, musicians, entrepreneurs – all of us involved in the creative process of telling or selling an idea.

“It is not the critic; not the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends themself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least they fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Let me close with this final thought.

After giving a lecture on astronomy, the famed philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, was refuted by a person in the audience, who claimed that the earth was situated, not in space, but on the back of a large turtle.

When Bertrand Russell asked what that turtle was standing on, the person replied that it was “turtles all the way down.”

And that’s the way it is with our IEEE Entrepreneurship ecosystem –it stands on the backs of entrepreneurs “all the way down”.

They make up 70% of our IEEE Entrepreneurship ecosystem and they remain our best hope for continued growth.  Entrepreneurs are our bedrock; all the rest in our ecosystem is “accoutrement” as the French say.

So, as IEEE Entrepreneurship goes forward, embrace those concepts of dreaming, of imagining, of making the world a better place, and of throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from the safe harbor. 

Asante Sana!
Thank You again for this wonderful honor!