Tufts has a storied history of successful startups with some of the most well-known companies being founded by Tufts alum. Today we are going to look at a few of these success stories and the incredible alumni that started them.
Let's kick it off which one of Tuft's finest, John Bello. Bello, a Connecticut native, graduated from Tufts with a Navy ROTC scholarship in 1968. After serving for 4 years with a tour in Vietnam, Bello went on to attend the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Bello then joined NFL Properties where he eventually became president in 1986. There Bello transformed the licensing for apparel and is credited for creating the business model by which every sports league follows today. After briefly working for Ferolito, Vultaggio, and Sons, the makers of Arizona Iced Tea, Bello went on to start his own beverage company, SoBe. The company became so successful that in October of 2000, PepsiCo bought the company. Following his career with SoBe, Bello went on to become the Chairman of IZZE Beverage Company and Chairman of the Board of Reed's Inc., a beverage company that brews drinks under the Virgil's brand. Bello truly embodies what it means to be a Jumbo, having given back in so many ways, including funding Bello Field!
Pierre Omidyar is another notable alumnus, and the founder of a "small" company called eBay. In fact, eBay is by no means a "small" company. Pierre, born in Paris, moved to the United States at a young age due to his parents’ jobs. He graduated from Tufts in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in computer science. In 1995, at the mere age of 28, Pierre began to write the code for the platform for what would become eBay. On September 4th, 1995 Pierre launched the first version of eBay, and by 1998 after great success, the company went public and Pierre became a billionaire at the age of 31. Pierre and his wife Pamela have used their money for philanthropy, founding the Omidyar Network: an investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create an opportunity for people to improve their lives. Pierre is a prime example of the innovative and divergent thinking preached at Tufts and in the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center.
The final Tufts alumni story we will explore is Bill Cummings. Cummings, a 1958 graduate with a bachelor’s in economics grew up locally in Medford, Massachusetts. In 1996, Cummings went on to found his own real estate company, Cummings Properties. The company has grown to include over 11 million square feet. Cummings has been a strong alumnus, having previously donated $50 million to the Tufts Veterinary school, and recently donating what will become the Bill and Joyce Cummings Center. The building, to be completed in the fall of 2021 will be home to Economics, Data Science, and the Entrepreneurship Center. Cummings and his wife Joyce are big advocates for philanthropy, establishing their own foundation, the Cummings Foundation in 1986 with the pledge of 10% annual income and eventually most all of the family’s real estate holdings over time. In 2018, Cummings wrote the book Starting Small and Making it Big, a fantastic book full of wisdom. If you would like a copy, you can find it here or check out the Tufts Venture Lab for a hard copy.
So, what can you take away from these success stories? For starters, Tufts is home to many successful companies, but you can also learn from these success stories. Keep in mind that statistically, 90% of startups fail and do not end up like the stories you read above. It is important to hear both sides of the story, the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, in order to gain perspective. I recommend using these stories as guides, a road map so to speak, for your own ventures in life. One of the golden rules from the Director of the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center, Jack Derby, is that we all have the responsibility to continue our education and never stop learning. With that being said, find other success stories, learn from them, and then go write your own success story!
A great way to start your story is by entering the Tufts 100K competition! This competition is a great way to showcase your venture, get coaching from Tufts certified coaches, and win money that can be used towards growing your startup. Applications are open now until January 25th.