FAU alumnus Scott Adams attributes his core values to his upbringing in Keystone Heights, Fla., a speck on the map northeast of Gainesville, with a single traffic light and fewer than 2,000 residents.
Adams has given generously to his alma mater, both in time and money, as an eight-year member of the FAU Board of Trustees and endowing The Adams Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business.
“I’ve been fortunate to be an entrepreneur, and my education helped me figure things out,” he said. “I want to start a culture of giving back to entrepreneurs who have the same dream I did at their age, especially against all odds.”
Adams played football at Georgia’s Valdosta State University but soon “realized I was too slow and small and thought I better start worrying about school.”
He transferred to FAU, where he and a roommate paid $600 a month for a dilapidated apartment, an amount Adams’ IBM salesman father thought seemed steep. My dad “thought we were living on the beach,” Adams recalls.
Adams graduated in 1987 with a finance degree. Along the way he realized his affinity for formulas, programming, math and most of all, computers.
“I’m an average student,” he said. “I had to take some classes more than once. My strength is not my IQ but my common sense, my persistence, stubbornness and drive to win. I may not always win, but I will never lose.”
In his first job, he devised a job-costing system to figure out how much his boss should charge clients. He moved on to a copier and computer software company whose products never worked properly, landing Adams in the Mr. Fix-It role. He did such a good job, one customer hired him away.
All the while, Adams supplemented his income with side jobs at Sears and painting houses while returning to school at night. He was a class away from earning a second degree in accounting when he serendipitously became a millionaire with the sale of an internet company he launched on the side.
Hiway Technologies was born when a pager company Adams consulted for in the mid-1990s wanted a website during the internet’s infancy. Adams and a partner invested $4,000 apiece to buy a computer to host websites, operating it out of a spare bedroom.
When Adams asked his dad for a loan to get it off the ground, his fiscally conservative father deemed the investment too risky and told his son to go to the bank.
Within three years, Hiway Technologies became the world’s largest web hosting company and, following a merger, was sold in 1999 for $352 million. Adams was 35.
“I was happy when the money hit my bank account, but a short time later I realized I can’t play golf every day,” he recalls. “I was depressed. I had no reason to wake up before the alarm clock. I realized I’m not driven necessarily by money, and money isn’t going to make me happy.”
So he launched a startup business incubator, just before the 2002 stock market crash. The venture failed, dealing Adams a humbling blow.
“I wasn’t a Boca hotshot now, which was good,” he said. “It brought me back to my roots.”
He beat himself up for creating an unsuccessful business model and for not anticipating the market change.
“I learned what it was like to have failure. I had to let go of 35 employees. It was painful for me. I also lost millions.”
But he dug deep, tapping into the tenacity that made the kid from Keystone Heights a multi-millionaire three years earlier.
He and two partners formed Mobile Help, a cellular and GPS-driven wearable emergency response system for seniors. It became an industry leader and sold in early 2017.
When his former company passed on Adams’ next idea — a bracelet to track Alzheimer’s and autism patients — he forged ahead solo, this time at FAU Tech Runway where he was a key advisor.
There he and his partners built hardware and a software platform they named STRAX, which lets law enforcement, military and security firms manage real-time intelligence aggregated from drone cameras, fixed and streaming cameras, IoT devices and other data sources.
EagleEye Intelligence is helping to create safer communities, changing the crime-fighting landscape, protecting property and saving lives. Adams anticipates 2018 to be a big year.
The company has grown to 31 employees and raised $14 million in capital. His dad didn’t miss the boat on this one.
“My dad’s favorite story to tell his friends is how much money he could’ve made in Hiway Technologies,” Adams said.
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