Wired-In: Tim Hoerr

Wired-In: Tim Hoerr

On Sundays, staff writer Paul Wood spotlights a high-tech difference maker. This week, meet Tim Hoerr, 54, founder and CEO of Serra Ventures, which offers professional advisory services in business strategy, capital formation, business and organization development. The firm specializes in serving high technology enterprises, managing over $30 million in micro-venture capital.

Who else is on the team?

Other managing partners are Dennis Beard and Rob Schultz.

You come from Peoria. How did you get to this town and this business?

I went to Illinois State. I moved here in 1983 after my brother-in-law set me up with a job interview at McGladrey (now RSM). I spent the next 15 years at the company on the management consulting side. After 12 years here, I moved to San Diego with my wife and three daughters. After three more years, I left to form a consulting firm of my own.

And?

It was a pretty spectacular failure. It was called Live Vision Inc., a professional speaking and leadership development firm. As successful as I felt I'd been in my previous career, the next two years were spectacular failures.

Where do you think you went wrong after all that success?

That's a great question. Being in a larger firm for a long time, I drew on a lot of infrastructure and support for any number of things. I didn't have that any more. It was an incredibly competitive environment; I was attempting to become more of a professional speaker as opposed to a consultant. If you haven't endured some significant tragedy or you're not a celebrity, you're one of the also-rans trying to get $3,000 to $5,000 a speech. I had a book and I was going to be quite famous. (Laughs). The book is "Thank God It's Monday." It was a bestseller for a day after my publisher made me buy 2,000 copies.

So how did you transition into the tech world?

I sort of stumbled into it when a friend who ran a company called SourceGear talked to me and I became their president. We roughly doubled our employee count and grew revenue. That was about 2000, 2001. Along the way I met a guy at the University of Illinois, Gary Durack (CEO of SIMnext and TEKMILL). Gary and I created iCyt, one of the first companies in the Research Park. We moved into our own building, and kept expanding. I never intended to be at iCyt more than a couple of years, and ended up being CEO for 7.5 years.

And 2008 is when you started Serra Ventures?

One of the things I had noticed in the iCyt tenure was a lot of professors and folks from the UI would come visit us to learn about how we created the company, and why was it successful. Why had it grown to 50 people? I figured that there was a need for a more professional approach to help start-up companies.

Why the name?

It's named after Father Junipero Serra, who was an entrepreneur in a way — he started the Catholic missions in California. He taught practical life skills. He had all the elements of a big vision and a great work ethic.

Why here?

It's got a really unique set of ingredients in this community. Over the last 15 years, when the university made this commitment to tech commercialization or economic development, and put its money where it's mouth is, all of that has been maturing really nicely and it's starting to produce some really stellar companies. It's a terrific environment for companies to be incubated and created in. At the same time, Champaign has all those wonderful things you like about a micro-urban community. Being of the middle of that is nirvana; it's a great place. (The University of) Illinois has done a wonderful job of building this ecosystem, and other Big Ten communities are scrambling to catch up.

How many hours a week do you work?

Fifty to 60. I jog, ride a bike, I'm a big reader, like to garden a bit, my wife and I like to take walks — and now I have four grandchildren to run around and chase.

And you have another book?

"Risking It." A memoir about my entrepreneurial experiences. Actually, entrepreneurship is my hobby.

Social media? We tweet, have Facebook, I have a blog called timhoerr.com.

Book or Kindle? Yes. I love both.

What are you reading? I have five books on my nightstand. I read a lot about entrepreneurship.

Wearable electronics? I don't, but I should.

Sections (2):News, Business
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