It sounds a little cliché, but tech entrepreneur Chris Lynch says he learned everything he needed to know about business as a 7-year-old paper boy.
Chris Lynch has a Napolean complex.
“I learned more from that paper route that’s affected my personal and professional life than anything I learned in school,” said Lynch, who has an MBA from the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley University.
Lynch, 56, is the executive chairman and CEO of AtScale, a data analytics firm founded in San Mateo, California, in 2013. AtScale streamlines the “complex task” of storing, securing, modeling, querying and analyzing big data, according to its website.
The company opened a second headquarters in Boston last year, after Lynch was named CEO. Lynch lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, where he and his wife raised five children.
AtScale’s customers include Toyota, Wells Fargo and Allstate. The company, with 150 employees, will generate about $25 million in revenue this year. Lynch predicts in five years, AtScale will be a billion-dollar company.
“The reason it’s going to be a billion-dollar company is because we’re a virtual data warehouse,” Lynch said. “We create one logical view of all an enterprise’s data. Today, there are islands of data. They don’t have big data. We make big data.”
Lynch started his entrepreneurial career as a teenage punk rocker with a lime green mohawk.
“My dad is Irish, my mother was Sicilian, it’s a fiery combo,” Lynch said.
Lynch jokes that on top of that, he’s a “manic depressive with a Napolean complex.”
“I’m 5 foot 7,” Lynch said.
Unable to get a proper job, Lynch started selling financial forecasting software on the phone.
“I couldn’t be a credible punk rocker, but on the phone I could sell myself,” he said.
But Lynch traces his true beginning as a tech entrepreneur to a scheme he and his brother, an early computer savant, put together to help a Harvard economist. The professor was renting time on an IBM mainframe to crunch numbers he used to pick stocks, selling his research to hedge funds.
AtScale is growing quickly. CEO Chris Lynch predicts it will reach the billion-dollar mark in five … [+]
Lynch and his brother offered the professor the same data analysis capabilities he was getting from the IBM mainframe for half the cost, and soon were making $5,000 a month, Lynch said.
“I think as a 17-year-old boy to have the chutzpuh to see the opportunity and understand what the economic driver was, I think that was instinctual for a guy who wasn’t particularly business oriented,” Lynch said.
Lynch went on to start or invest in a series of tech companies, including Vertica, which was acquired by HP in 2011 for an undisclosed amount. Lynch says that over his career he has raised more than $150 million in capital, and returned more than $7 billion to investors.
And just how did that paper route prepare Lynch for all of this?
Lynch recalls the persistence it took to actually collect the money he was owed as a paper boy. He remembers distinctly that he would always make his collection rounds at dinner time.
“I could smell food and I’d knock and knock until they answered the door,” Lynch said. “They’d be pissed off but they’d pay me. It developed my social intelligence at a young age. There were good adults and bad ones. There were generous people, nice people and then there were (expletive deleted). I dealt with drunks and womanizers. I dealt with life.”