Entrepreneurial Insights from Dr. T of National Instruments
That’s what the co-founder, known as Dr. T, president and CEO of National Instruments, said last week during an interview with Bob Metcalfe, University of Texas professor of innovation and coinventor of Ethernet and cofounder of 3Com.
Unlike some of today’s technology billionaires by the name of Bill, Michael and Mark, both Truchard and Metcalfe finished college and obtained PhDs before becoming entrepreneurs.
Metcalfe interviewed Truchard at 1 Semester Startup Demo Day last Thursday evening in the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium at the LBJ Library and Museum. Metcalfe said Truchard played a huge role in convincing him to move to Austin from Boston more than a year ago.
Metcalfe quizzed Truchard on his background. He was born and raised in Austin County. Neither of his parents had a college degree. He received his bachelors and masters degrees in physics and a PhD in electrical engineering from UT. And in 1976, he cofounded National Instruments, in his garage in Austin with Bill Nowlin and Jeff Kodosky. The company makes test equipment and software including LabVIEW, a graphical development program. The company just reported revenue of $262 million for the first quarter of 2012, up 10 percent from a year ago and a profit of $18.6 million. It had revenue of more than $1 billion in 2011.
“I was always determined to be successful, I never thought of any other option,” Truchard said.
Truchard didn’t have a business plan when he started National Instruments.
“We just started working,” he said.
They also never sought out venture capital. Instead, they secured a $10,000 bank loan and they ran the company by bootstrapping operations.
Truchard also read hundreds of books on entrepreneurs including Crossing the Chasm and Thriving on Chaos. He also consulted with the IC2 Institute at UT.
“Keep as much of your capital to yourself as possible.” Truchard advised the crowd of student entrepreneurs. He also told them to make sure they have a good idea and to find as many mentors as possible. And great technology is at the base of innovation.
And nothing beats dumb luck, he said. “Don’t exclude it.”
Truchard took National Instruments public in 1995 to offer liquidity to its employees, not because they needed to raise money.
The company culture was born when National Instruments started, Truchard said. He tries to make the company a fun place to work and focuses on cultivating a leadership culture as the company grows. The company regularly makes it on Forbes’ best places to work lists.
In response to a question from a student about how he communicates the company vision to 6,200 employees.
“Well, I’m very repetitive,” Truchard said.
To share his ideas, Truchard has used 1,500 slides throughout the years in presentations to employees. His employees took all of those slides, shrunk them and then they made a portrait of him out them and presented to him as a gift.