Entrepreneur in Residence – I really wasn’t sure what that meant when I wrote the job description. I didn’t know the responsibilities, the metrics for professional success, or even what the person holding that title did day to day.
I’m just glad Stephen Hug’s on the job.
A veteran software executive, a dedicated leader, mentor, and professional – Stephen is a person brimming with singular warmth and humanity. Stephen subjected himself to several interviews, inspired by the world class healthcare from UNMC and Nebraska Medicine. Stephen just wanted to work at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He was inspired the quality of care given to his loved ones he wanted the next stage of his career to be at the UNMC. I was sold.
We just had to figure out what he was going to do.
An entrepreneur in residence is a common job title but I defy anyone to give me a categorical explanation of what they actually do. It can describe entrepreneurs looking for their next gig, investors looking to source deals or some combination of the two. I only wish I would’ve figured out the Stephen Hug take on the title a few months sooner.
The walls of UNeTech are embarrassingly thin – sometimes I hear Stephen coaching entrepreneurs, explaining in excruciating detail how to Google the corporate phone directory of a publicly traded company. With sainted patience, he will repeat the instructions more than twice. Stephen will show up for a Zoom demonstration with a potential strategic partner 30 minutes early to make sure a prototype is in the frame of his Dell laptop. The man brought three different varieties of soda to a student pizza social, and (curse his generous soul) always have a sleeve of Biscoff cookies in his (unlocked) filing cabinet.
Whatever it takes to keep the project moving – that’s what he’ll do. I only wish I had appreciated that dedication sooner. Once I did, with haggard relief, I commended two critical projects into Stephen’s capable hands.
Foremost: Stephen has leveraged his impressive social network to identify, mentor and support potential entrepreneurs. I have heard otherwise rational people tell me entrepreneurs are some genetically distinct versions of humanity. Superhumans, deviants or folk just touched by genius — I have little patience for people who don’t see entrepreneur for what it is: a job. Stephen’s committed to a similar vision of entrepreneurship and has dedicated his new career to that belief: it’s just a job and it can be taught. From inspiring students to build business strategies around UNeTech concepts or veteran executives looking to make a change, Stephen is as credible as he is generous in supporting the people that lead the companies that make UNeTech… UNeTech.
Nextmost: Stephen has taken the lead on one of UNeTech’s most critical projects. For all its brilliant innovation, inventive strategy, and eloquent communications – UNeTech’s startups need money. Money builds products, pays for experiments, or is the fuel to launch them into the world. Stephen has forgotten more about finance than I’ll ever know. He was a natural to lead on UNeTech’s efforts to leverage the federal opportunity zone program to create durable funding opportunities for new startup. His approach is new and interesting and tax advantaged – a great opportunity for individuals with capital gains to do something interesting, impactful, and fun with their success.
The opportunity zone program is a complicated, slightly frustrating but ultimately compelling program with enormous opportunity to bring so much capital off the sidelines and into the innovation economy. I am so enormously relieved that Stephen is leading the effort to package, solicit, and close investments in UNeTech’s amazing startups
So… have you met Stephen? Are you a professional looking for an inspiring and impactful next act in your career? He’s already made a transition and can help you do something amazing for your next thing. Are you an investor who wants to find something new to do with your successful investments? Stephen can make angel investing worth your while and wring every tax benefit out of the amazing (and slightly misunderstood) opportunity zone program.
Those are fine reasons to seek him out but, ultimately, Stephen has taken residence to heart. From his well-treated Costco houseplants to inevitable offers (to everyone in earshot) to join him for Friday pizza lunch, Stephen has made the incubator home to every entrepreneur willing to do the work – work they won’t have to do alone so long as he’s around.