Fueling your entrepreneurial spirit

Students Ryan Miller, left, and Michael DePorte, right, speak with Jeff Hoffman, a founder of Priceline.com.

February 26, 2013

By Frank Radosevich II

When Jeff Hoffman realized he was a baseball player in a world of golfers, his career goals finally clicked.

A serial entrepreneur who has launched seven startups to date, Hoffman said friends, family and coworkers called him crazy for quitting his corporate job and lighting out on an entrepreneurial path. They said he was impatient, unfocused and insolent.

But the thrill of breaking new ground, working as his own boss and seeing his dreams become reality proved to Hoffman that he’d made the right choice. While everyone else was busy putting in life, he just wanted to swing for the fences.

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Highlights from Jeff Hoffman's Lecture

“If the people you’re telling your entrepreneurial plans to are laughing at you, the problem is not you,” he said. “The problem is you’re asking golfers to judge your baseball swing. … If you want to play baseball, quit listening to golfers.”

Hoffman, a founder and former CEO of Priceline.com, kicked off the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s inaugural Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series Monday night with stories from his entrepreneurial journey. Passing up a chance to attend the Academy Awards, the Chicago-based mogul spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of students and faculty.

During his address, Hoffman encouraged Bradley’s budding entrepreneurs to seek out new people, information and opportunities every day. He said being an entrepreneur is not about getting rich but about fulfilling dreams.

“A sense of purpose is the fuel in your tank,” he said. “When you find your purpose, it will drive you on those nights that it doesn’t feel like you are making money.”

Hoffman also underscored the importance of taking the first step toward turning a business idea into a reality. He told students there was no shame in failure, only in not trying. It was a message that resonated with students.

“I really connected with him because I want to take a similar route,” said Shiv Patel, a junior studying mechanical engineering and business administration who hopes to open and run a nonprofit organization one day. “I am scared to fail but, at the same time, I won’t stop myself and just be satisfied with where I am.”

Since he was in college, Hoffman has launched, grown and sold companies spanning multiple industries that include e-commerce, entertainment and tourism. After Priceline, he founded and served as chairman and CEO of Black Sky Entertainment, an independent production company, and currently is the founder and partner in ColorJar, a firm that helps launch and grow new ventures from entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“Take advantage of the resources you have here,” he said. “You are very lucky to be here now with the Turner School.”

The Turner School, one of only three such schools in the nation established as a standalone academic unit, is named for Bradley alumnus Robert Turner and his wife Carolyn, long-time supporters of the University.