Hinman's Entrepreneurship Gifts Gain Value at the Clark School
When Brian Hinman, B.S. ’82, electrical engineering, recently donated $1 million to the Clark School’s Hinman CEO s (Campus Entrepreneurship Opportunities) program, he was not only adding a new international component to the renowned program that bears his name, he was acting as a savvy investor—one who expects a high return from a responsive and successful organization.
He did not always hold such expectations. When Hinman graduated, he could find no mentorship or support anywhere on campus for his strong entrepreneurial ambitions.
“At the time, there was not a culture of entrepreneurship on campus,” recalls Hinman. Even then, he recognized that “entrepreneurship is not a solo sport, it is about teamwork and finding a world-class group of similarly motivated people.”
Hinman left Maryland to pursue his master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where just two years later, at age 22, he partnered with his thesis and graduate advisor to start his first venture: PictureTel-Corp., a leading videoconferencing company. In 1991, Hinman relocated to Silicon Valley where he co-founded Polycom, Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of audio, video and data conferencing solutions. Then, in 1998, Hinman co-founded 2Wire, Inc., innovators of home networking products to distribute broadband content throughout the home.
Hinman never forgot the void that existed at the Clark School when he wanted to learn how to start companies and find crucial support. As an early member of the Clark School’s Board of Visitors, he began a dialogue with former Clark School Dean William Destler about “how a successful entrepreneurship program at Maryland could fundamentally change the nature of the student experience and make the campus and the region a center of entrepreneurship.”
The result of those conversations: A $2.5 million gift and subsequent support to fund the nation’s first living-learning entrepreneurship program. Hinman CEOs is a groundbreaking initiative that brings together entrepreneurially minded students from all disciplines in a unique community. The program is celebrating its 11th year with hundreds of graduates, some of whom have made their own gifts to the Clark School.
“The most exciting part of the program is the connections between students,” says Hinman, who remains in touch with many Hinman CEO graduates. “I take a lot of pride in our students. They are among the brightest, most energetic, articulate and well-balanced students in the country.”
Always a visionary, Hinman’s career continues to develop. A member of the Clark School’s Innovation Hall of Fame, he holds 12 U.S. patents and was honored with Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2005. He has been recognized by the University of Maryland with the Major F. Riddick, Jr. Entrepreneurship Award and a Distinguished Alumnus Award. Most recently, Hinman entered the emerging field of clean energy, joining venture capital firm Oak Investment Partners.
Hinman now sits on the board of half a dozen clean technology firms, and his work has made him acutely aware of the need to give students a more global perspective.
Hinman’s latest gift addresses that need. It realigns the Hinman CEOs to help students grasp entrepreneurship opportunities in developing countries, particularly India and China. This realignment will include adding a course in international entrepreneurship and formalized exchange programs with universities in developing countries for Hinman students to study abroad and for foreign students to join the Hinman program. The gift will also be used to bring experts in international development to campus to address Hinman CEO students.
“We need to provide an educational environment that exposes students to the changing world economy,” notes Hinman. “We need to give students access through study abroad or other programs to international markets.”
The high yield on his investments in the Hinman CEO s is not lost on Hinman. “I could have funded a new building, but I did something more creative and the outcome has been extraordinarily positive. When I look at the magnitude of my gifts relative to the outcomes, I realize how much leverage there has been.”
This article originally appeared in the Clark School's E@M magazine.
March 8, 2010