Hunt Lambert is the Associate Provost of Continuing Education at Colorado State University and CEO of CSU Global Campus. Hunt is the former director of the Colorado State University Entrepreneurship Center and a faculty member of the College of Business. During his businesses career he was part of 25 startups. He teaches strategy and business plan development in the school’s MBA program. He has helped another 15 startups since he joined CSU seven years ago, including Solix Biofuels, EnviroFit, Abound (AVA) Solar, Keen Foods and AML.
SM: Hunt, let’s start with your background before we get to the Colorado story.
HL: I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and started doing things on my own at a very young age. I worked as a bartender in the Caribbean at age 13. In the summer I would buy old cars, fix them, and re-sell them. I also spent two summers in the Caribbean doing freelance underwater photography when I was 14 and 15. I have always had the bug to do different things.
I went off to college and graduated with four majors. I then joined a venture capital company in Boston called Schooner Capital. I reviewed business plans and did what you do as a junior analyst. I later went into one of the startups in the hydropower business that built new generating capabilities at existing dams around the country.
I played the role of assistant to the president. That is where I found my unique niche in being able to look at problems. The niche I found at that time was the intersection of rapidly changing public policy, public markets, and technologies. I built a financial model based on the Windfall Profits Ta (the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act) and a new limited partnership for alternative energy. I started doing engineering designs of hydropower sites based on cash flow returns of expected electricity output.
With that model we were able to dramatically improve the design of what we were building. The business was quite successful, so I eventually decided to sell out. I went to grad school at a place where I could learn a lot more about that intersection, particularly as it related to computing technology. I built my model on a TRS-80 and quickly realized that having a personal computer at your fingertips that did not require punch cards was the future.
SM: What did you decide to focus on for your graduate studies?
HL: I went to the Sloan School [at MIT] and also took all the courses I could find in computer science. I wanted to find the intersection of management and computing technology. While I was there I got involved as a research associate on Project Athena. That project was focused on finding a commercial path for DARPA and ArpaNet.
Back in 1984, I was working on trying to design self-building online education. I worked on the piece that involved education being delivered over the network. We had it working in 1984 and 1985. It was mainframe based, but we had a slice of the ArpaNet carved up using pre-standard TCP/IP.
SM: I would imagine that the complexity of that problem was at the software level.
HL: The complexity was everywhere. The mainframe was not designed to do it, the network was not designed to do it, and the software didn’t exist to do it. We had teams working on everything.