As director of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the CSUF Startup Incubator, John Bradley Jackson ’77 is on the front lines preparing today’s business startups to succeed and grow. Through the incubator, which embraces a lean startup methodology, Jackson has been a part of 60 startup launches.

He was named one of the 500 most influential personalities in Orange County in both 2018 and 2019 by the Orange County Business Journal. He is also one of the Journal’s 2020 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award nominees for his work in the startup community. The final honorees will be announced in March 2020.

Jackson is an entrepreneur himself, having founded The Bird Dog Group, a company dedicated to helping small- to medium-sized businesses with digital marketing and sales strategy. He is also founder of Titan Angels LLC, an investment fund for early-stage companies and concepts. And he has decades of experience in many aspects of the business world – knowledge he’s imparted through the four books he has written.

Known affectionately as JJ, Jackson shared a little about himself, his experience and his thoughts on entrepreneurship.

What is the one attribute an entrepreneur needs to succeed?

Creativity may be the crude oil of entrepreneurship, but to succeed as a founder of a new venture, you need incredible persistence. The path of the entrepreneur is paved with boulders and potholes; the entrepreneur must persist by avoiding these obstacles and not giving up.

What is one of the most exciting things in business you have been a part of?

In my Wall Street days, I led a business that helped startup companies go public with initial public offerings (IPOs). This was during the dotcom boom of the mid- to late- 1990s and early 2000s. We managed a process that helped turn startup founders into millionaires (and sometimes billionaires) while making them brand names. One such company was Pixar. The Pixar IPO was a key part of Steve Jobs’ professional turnaround. On Nov. 29, 1995, capitalizing on the success of “Toy Story,” Pixar sold 6.9 million shares on the stock market. The IPO made Steve Jobs, who owned 80% of the company, a billionaire. I was a witness to this event.

John Bradley Jackson on his horse, Brett, at Hidden Valley in Riverside, California

John Bradley Jackson and his horse, Bert, at Hidden Valley Nature Preserve near the border between Norco and Riverside. A hiking, bicycling and equestrian destination, this undeveloped stretch of the Santa Ana River Basin was once home to grazing sheep, which this author fondly remembers from his millennial childhood.

You are a horse owner in Norco, a town 27 miles from campus in Riverside County. How long have you owned horses? What do you like best about being an equestrian?

I have owned horses for nearly 40 years. As a kid, I was enthralled with the western TV shows and movies; I desperately wanted my own horse but my family could not afford the luxury. I vowed to have my own herd someday. There is something very special about horses; they are very powerful but extremely sensitive animals. Horses are constantly monitoring their environs. It is a great privilege when a horse trusts a human; that bond is earned over time. While riding a horse can be an athletic event, such as roping a cow at a roundup, there is a powerful meditative effect when your only focus is on riding and communicating with the horse. While horseback riding is a great exercise, there is a real benefit in the connection with the animal and the peace of mind that comes with every ride. There is an expression that the outside of the horse is good for the inside of the man.

What do you like most about teaching in the classroom? 

I love the students’ creativity and energy when applied to solving real life problems. Essentially, that is what entrepreneurship is all about: people making changes, big or small, to make the planet a better place. What could be better than that?

Who is the most inspiring entrepreneur you have ever met?

I most admire the entrepreneurs who give back. In our Titan community, I admire Steve Mihaylo, Dan Black, Paul Wasserman, Janet Steiner, Jerry Conrey and Jeff Van Harte. On the global stage, the pivot of Bill Gates from a work-obsessed tycoon to a philanthropist devoted to helping the poor is a joy to behold, though I have never met him personally.

For More on Entrepreneurship

For more on the Mihaylo College Center for Entrepreneurship, which supports business startup education for students and the broader Orange County community, visit them online or at SGMH 3280.