We’re pleased to introduce Jennifer Fox from Autodesk as this week’s Sponsor Spotlight.
What’s the role that you and your firm play in the entrepreneurial community?
I’m Director of Autodesk’s Technology Centers Network. Autodesk has a long tradition of building technology centers within Autodesk facilities around the world — San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, and Birmingham, England. We invite startups, entrepreneurs, university partners, and others to apply to both our in person and virtual Tech Center community. Benefits of partnering with Autodesk Tech Centers include free access to machine shops with fabrication equipment like CNC mills, 3D printers, complex design and manufacturing equipment, working space, and free access to our Autodesk software. What Autodesk asks in return is partner feedback: how are folks using the software, is there other functionality they’d like, or is something not working well for them. Entrepreneurs can provide new ideas because they’re not tied to how they think our software is supposed to work.
What type of entrepreneurs are you best suited to support?
Autodesk has three main focus areas: Architecture & Construction, Design & Manufacturing, and Media & Entertainment. Our flexible design software can be used to design anything from a new building, to a medical device, an iPhone, or special effects renderings for movies. Everyone from startups to small businesses to giant corporations have used Autodesk software for the past 40 years. As we know, startups are often working at the intersection of two convergent fields — like “health” and “design” or “cleantech” and “buildings,” so there are some fascinating mash-ups that happen thanks to creative startup teams.
What are your most common recommendations to first-time entrepreneurs?
“Talk to other entrepreneurs who have done this before,” is my best advice, although sometimes it can be really discouraging. I believe people should know the truth about what this life choice really means. Experienced entrepreneurs may say, “This was another half-time or full-time job on top of my other full-time job,” or, “I wasn’t able to pay myself for the first two years.” I don’t want people to be discouraged, but I don’t think people should just be enamored by the romanticism of startup culture or think it’s a rocketship to the moon. Hearing from other entrepreneurs about the highs and lows and going into it with open eyes is really important.
Also think about your personal life. Does it fit with who you are and what you’re able to take on? There are different phases of your life during which this may be easier to take on than others. So you see a lot of entrepreneurs who are either pretty young or have established their careers and have more freedom to focus on a startup. People say it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s really like running a marathon when you’ve never even jogged before, so it helps to have a sense of what you’re really getting into.
Where is there opportunity for this community to grow?
I think we’re doing a stellar job as an entrepreneurial community, but I’d like to see more student entrepreneurship, and more opportunities for students to intern or work with startups. That was something I liked about working at Oregon Bioscience Incubator (Jennifer was formerly the OBI Executive Director) because we brought interns in to work with startups and they get really embedded at a low risk. They see the day to day highs and lows and successes. Students who do that have an incredible advantage if they go on to become entrepreneurs themselves because they know the commitment it takes to succeed.
Why do you think OEN has an important role to play in this entrepreneurial community?
OEN has this incredible history and credibility of being on the side of the entrepreneur. There’s no other motivation, and it’s really wonderful to see because most other organizations have an agenda in some way (even if it’s a good one). For example, at OBI our “ulterior motive” was spinning off and keeping bioscience companies here in Oregon. So we’re helpful and that’s great, but there’s this underlying feeling of “but we really want you to stay here” and show results to the State. OEN has always been for entrepreneurs without having anyone else to satisfy but entrepreneurs. And that’s rare.
Also, OEN is bridging all stages of entrepreneurship, from people who are just curious about what it might be like to be an entrepreneur, to very successful founders who are coming back and mentoring and contributing. That’s an incredibly virtuous cycle.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
People can probably tell that I’m Southern, but may not know that I come from a really rural place. I’m also not from a family of PhDs or entrepreneurs, and I have my PhD and I’m an entrepreneur. So I’m kind of a fledgling in my family. We’re from Louisiana, right on the gulf of Mexico where the land breaks up. In the old days you were either shrimping or working on oil rigs, and my dad worked on an oil rig for awhile. I have a poster on my office wall of Louisiana’s Shrimp and Petroleum Festival that takes me back and brings me joy.
To learn more visit: www.autodesk.com
What does Autodesk do?
Autodesk’s mission is to empower innovators with design and make technology so they can achieve the new possible. Our technology spans architecture, engineering and construction, product design and manufacturing, and media and entertainment, empowering innovators everywhere to solve challenges big and small.
What do Autodesk Technology Centers do?
The Autodesk Technology Centers catalyze new possibilities for making through the power of connection. We bring together a global network of innovation leaders, data-enabled fabrication workshops, curated experiences, and forward-thinking ideas to empower innovators in achieving the new possible, together.