We had the chance to sit down and have coffee with our CEO, Eric Hoopman, to hear some of his life experiences that led him to start Lincoln Labs, which Truss is a part of.
How did your career in tech begin?
Eric Hoopman and Julia Collins having a chat…
Eric: My career started with somewhat of a rude awakening. After graduating from the University of San Diego with degrees in French and Finance, I came back to Wisconsin to kick off my career. With an essentially non-marketable degree (French) and mounting student loans I stumbled across a job posting looking for Y2K programmers. After passing a rigorous set of aptitude tests, I scored a job offer from a company in Milwaukee that had a start date in the fall. I made (what I thought was going to be) a last hurrah trip exploring some of the culture-rich cities of Europe and beautiful islands of Greece – falling in love with the people I met along the way. I arrived back stateside for my first day of work, suited up and took the elevator to the top floor of the US Bank building, I quickly realized corporate America wasn’t for me. Although I accepted the position and quit my first day, it gave me the confidence to pursue a career in technology. My new life goal was to get a job in tech that enabled me to continue exploring the world but also support myself by just connecting my laptop to the internet.
Eventually I made my way back to San Diego where I got a job with a startup that allowed me to do just that. I joined a company called Sitematic, working in tech support. The team and culture in the early years was gold. The leadership made a push to expand into Europe, I quickly packed my bags and became an ex-pat in Munich. One day, I got a call that the company was laying off 90% of the company and I did not make the cut. At that point, I had a new skill of building custom websites and a love for travel. I continued doing both of those things over the next 7 years, until eventually tiring out, coming back to my home-base in Oshkosh, Wisconsin to officially launch and grow DealerFire.”
Why did you start Lincoln Labs?
Eric: “Quite frankly I missed the energy, challenges and camaraderie that came from growing a tech startup. After the acquisition of DealerFire, I continued to work in real estate and other local business ventures but I missed solving challenging and complex problems using technology. I was eager to get back in the game.
Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be at home with my kids during their early years before they started school. I became worried that if I continued life as it was, my children would view adulthood as a semi-permanent vacation.”
What are the core principles of Lincoln Labs?
- Build sustainable companies that people love to work for and add value to the customers they serve and the communities they live in
- Build both a platform and a playbook to enable each new lab to move through the startup phase more efficiently
- Build a lifelong annuity for the stakeholders of the business
How would you describe your leadership style?
Eric: “Full contact. Hype man. Eternal optimistic. Never satisfied. Working on being a better communicator.
“I am constantly thinking about and looking for ways to improve not only myself but the businesses I get to be a part of. I am just like anyone else who sometimes encounters depression or has an overactive mind – keeping busy helps keep any symptoms at bay.”
What advice would you give to a future-founder or entrepreneur?
Eric: “It’s hard. It can be very isolating. But worth every moment if you can fight through the struggles. Even with all the right things in place, Lincoln Labs has been a struggle and has given us the full startup experience. We had an A-team right out of the gate, but still we continue to fight through the growing pains.
“If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you’ll have to do hard things. Sometimes, you’ll have to do the things nobody wants to do. Deliver bad news. Pound through mountains of paperwork. Clean-up the office.”
It’s worth it though. I can’t think of a more rewarding professional achievement quite like someone giving you a yes and becoming a new customer and entrusting their business with you. It’s a cool moment.
The biggest lesson our team has learned so far with Lincoln Labs, is taking for granted our talented team and starting off with connections thinking that businesses would throw work at us to do, when in reality we need to dig in and ask for the sale.”
Read More: Our Co-Founder’s Perspective on Global Remote Hiring
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When looking at your life, what are some of the major pillars?
Eric: “Education & Sports, Travel & Adventures, Startup World, Father & Husband, Investor.
Each stage has been full of amazing stories, new people and experiences. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
What are some of your interests or hobbies?
Eric: “I love water and snow sports. I enjoy good food & wine but also learning new languages and experiencing new places. I am motivated by conquering challenges someone doubts I can do.”
What is your favorite snack?
Eric: “Coffee…. but also granola and yogurt.”
Do you have a motto that you connect with?
Eric: “Do what you say you will do, when you said you would do it. “
Where do you find inspiration?
Eric: “Two places. Number one, traveling with my kids Sam & Lucy. I get to see the world innocent and for the first time again. Secondly, Driving. Lots and lots of windshield time is my best thinking time.”