By Kate Toporski, CFE Content Development Intern
Dick Beedon isn’t your average entrepreneur.
Maybe it was his various successful ventures that have changed online platforms across various fields, or maybe it was his straight-out-of-Michigan job at IBM…or maybe it was the strength that he acquired after a complete organ failure, open-heart surgery, and nearly six months in the ICU.
CFE had the opportunity to sit down with Beedon this week to discuss his upcoming speech at the Michigan League on Tuesday, September 27, as well as his successes and struggles as an entrepreneur.
Q: Tell us a little about your background. What’s your connection to the University of Michigan?
Dick Beedon: I was born in Holland, Michigan on the west side of the state. I came to the University of Michigan and was a General Studies major. I loved General Studies. It allowed me to be who I really was, and I was able to grow my skills in every area.
I also met my wife here– at a Michigan Football game!
Q: When did entrepreneurship come into play in your life?
DB: Right out of college, I started with IBM in ’77. I worked in Silicon Valley for 28 years, doing enterprise work. But it was evident that I was addicted to the rush of a new venture. Ever since, I’ve been in love with the pace, the risk, the impact.
In 1993, I began my first venture- collegesports.com. It’s a cloud-based, technology platform that gives D1 college sports teams the tools to build their official websites (including mgoblue.com). We went public in 1999. The platform was acquired by CBS Sports in 2005. After that, I moved back to Michigan where I began three other technology ventures.
Q: The past two years have really been a whirlwind for your ventures and your health. Do you see similarities between your perseverance through your health problems and the problems that young entrepreneurs face?
DB: When I was in New York on a business trip in 2014, I had a fever that spiked to 104 degrees. I was immediately rushed to U of M’s hospital, where I entered an 18-hour heart surgery. Two days after the surgery, all of my organs began to fail. My family and friends were all called to Michigan to come say their goodbyes.
After 10 days, I was taken off of life support, but miraculously, my organs started working again. That wasn’t the end of my medical emergencies and surgeries, but basically, I was never supposed to live; I was in the hospital for nearly six months, five of those being in the ICU.
Throughout the past two years, I’ve surely learned that you’ve got a lot more fight in you than you think. And that directly correlates to entrepreneurship. There’s so much more to each venture than you could ever imagine.
Q: Can you give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be speaking about at your speech next week?
DB: You’ll have to come to hear the whole story, but I’ll be talking about some of life’s gifts that we often overlook. I’ll talk about the lessons that I’ve learned, over my years as an entrepreneur, but also as I’ve survived the past two. Community will be a big focus as well.
You’ll want to stick around for the Q&A session. I’ll speak whatever’s on my mind.
Q: What’s the best advice you can offer Michigan’s current students?
DB: You’ve got a choice. You can choose to focus on what you’ve got, or you can choose to focus on what you don’t have. It’s up to you. Will you choose to focus on the gifts that life has given? Will you focus on your friends, family, community, team? It’s all about the positives. Recognize what you’ve got, take it, and do something with it.
If you’d like to hear more about Dick’s story, RSVP to his speaking event “The Heart of an Entrepreneur” for Tuesday, September 27 HERE. Join the Center for Entrepreneurship and ReNEW Michigan to honor one of our most prestigious graduates and successful entrepreneurs in the Michigan League Ballroom at 7pm.