Published: Sept. 26, 2018 By
walter werner

Meet Professor Brad Werner. Brad is a commodity futures trader, angel investor, and an experienced CEO. He also actively consults seed stage startups. Brad teaches both undergraduate and graduate students how to take a business from concept to reality.

A seasoned trader, Brad wanted to learn how to build and grow companies. His first experience co-founding a company started as both an intellectual and practical exercise. As a board member of Chicago House, an organization that helps individuals who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS in Chicago, he noticed they relied on the same donor base for funding. Brad wanted to ensure the organization didn’t tap out their resources. After meeting the people they served, he realized the social impact they were addressing was just as important as the bottom line.

“I was looking for the organization to create a revenue stream while also making a difference. At the time, we created one of the most impactful back to work programs in the United States. We broke the cycle and within a year, placed over a 100 previously homeless people into full or part time positions.”

Brad has led a number of early growth ventures through initial risk stages and is using what he learned to guide his angel investing. “Even when companies have a validated idea,” Brad says, “the odds are in favor of the current idea failing.” His investing strategy weighs heavily on the team. “The right team can pivot and figure it out and occasionally they’ll stumble upon something else.”

One of the biggest obstacles Brad encounters with founders is how emotionally tied they are to their ideas. He looks for those that are coachable and that have both self and situational awareness. Brad believes entrepreneurs can change the world and has identified four key traits that shape a successful entrepreneur: courage, strong ethics, a clear vision, and a concept based in reality.

His best advice for founders? Be honorable and transparent. Back in 2008 Brad stumbled into a real estate investment and overcommitted. It was a bad deal and the venture eventually fell apart. What did he learn? Everyone will take a hit at some point. Be respectful and keep the hard decisions above board, and you’ll draw respect from those involved.

Brad says he’ll never retire—working keeps him sane. He’s a serial entrepreneur and just started an investment company with his son. As long as he can make a difference at Leeds, he’ll keep teaching.

“I get more out of my classes than my students. They are inspiring and they provide me with relevancy and meaning to my entrepreneurial journey.”

Click here to learn more about Brad.

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