Tag Archives: How They Did It

Rich Meeusen Helping Solve the World’s Water Supply Shortage

While I was working on How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America, I was asked, why focus on entrepreneurs and why the heartland?

Entrepreneurs are the engine that fuels the world’s progress. Progress does not come from bureaucracy. I wanted to learn from the 45 founders I interviewed and present their advice, insights, and inspiration in their own words, because great ideas and great effort never stop – regardless of economic conditions.

After speaking with the founders, is was clear that some of the most remarkable companies now in existence were launched and grown in the American heartland.

And the need for great entrepreneurs has not diminished. Take the issue of the world’s supply of potable water, for example. Research shows the existing water supply is insufficient to quench the thirst of the current population of the planet. According to The Netherlands’ recent 2030 Project, the world’s supply of potable water is 4.3 trillion cubic meters (TCM), whereas the world’s need at present is 4.5 TCM. Due to this shortage, five million children die every year. By 2030, the world’s need will total 6.9 TCM yet the supply will still be 4.3 TCM. Entrepreneurs, I predict, are going to solve this problem. And there is one location worldwide that has a clear lead, supply of talent, and expertise in water technology. Where is it—Palo Alto? London? Boston? Moscow?

According to Rich Meeusen, chairman and CEO of public company Badger Meter, Inc. (BMI), and co-founder of the Water Council, the answer is Milwaukee. Born from a 100-year history of industry on the Great Lakes, manufacturing in Milwaukee revolved around “wet” industries like tanning and breweries. Of the 11 largest water-related manufacturing companies in the world, five are headquartered or have significant presence in Milwaukee. More than 100 of the leading water technology companies are located in Milwaukee, working on all aspects of quality, desalination, access and use.

The world isn’t making any more water – what we have is what we have. Big issues like these can only be solved through creative new technologies, ideas and processes. Companies being launched and grown right now are our best hope to solve these challenges.

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Steven Berglas Says Purpose is the Secret to Serial Entrepreneurship

I recently read the Forbes article “Why Serial Entrepreneurs Can’t Stop”, by Steven Berglas.  Berglas points out that many entrepreneurs become less likely to take risks once they move out of the startup years because of fear that they will lose what they built.  However, he points out that the “rare breed” of serial entrepreneurs seem to grow bolder with each venture (whether a success or failure).   The secret?  Purpose.

Berglas says that while money may be part of it, above all, the serial entrepreneur wants to change the world.   In good times and bad, they stay relatively calm.  Why? It’s not about a single victory. “Changing the world is a quest. And that work is never done.”

I found many of the founders interviewed to for How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America to be serial entrepreneurs.  Mahendra Vora, for example, has started 18 companies all around IT and IT services. Howard Tullman has started or co-founded at least a dozen. Scott Jones and David Becker are up there as well. All mission-driven people.

Who do you know who’s most prolific, most mission-driven?

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Precise Path Robotics Inc. Secures Private Funding

When I interviewed Scott Jones at his home in Indiana for How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America, I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand the simulated Mojave Desert that had been built in his back yard to test the robotic car that the Indiana team (Purdue University, Rose-Hulman, Indiana University) designed for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency competition. That robotic car research eventually led to Precise Path Robotics Inc. – an Indiana based maker of robotic lawn mowers. Last week it was announced that Precise Path Robotics Inc. has secured $4.5 million in private funding. Congratulations Scott, we wish you continued success!

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How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America is Available for Pre-Order on Amazon

How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America is now available for pre-order on Amazon.


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Eileen Gittens and Blurb: The Starting Point for How They Did It

I think the starting point for How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America is to talk about Eileen Gittens, founder and CEO of Blurb. Blurb is the best example of self-publishing now available online, at The reason is that Eileen is part of the inspiration, how the book came to be.

My friend Jason Apple, formerly of Hoolihan Lokey, invited me to their early stage tech conference in San Francisco. I attended and heard Eileen, one of the presenters that day a couple years ago. Eileen’s talk was a revelation. If you’ve seen Jake and Elwood in The Blue Brothers, this was my moment:

Jake: The band? The band.
Reverend Cleophus James: DO YOU SEE THE LIGHT?
Reverend Cleophus James: DO YOU SEE THE LIGHT?
Elwood: What light?
Reverend Cleophus James: HAVE YOU SEEEEN THE LIGHT?

I realized I could host an event and then publish one copy of a book! So I cornered Eileen and started thinking about publishing the book. I ended up with a big print run and a design from scratch, but Eileen’s inspiration lived on! Thank you Eileen –

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Now on Amazon

How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America is a book of thoughts, ideas, and inspiration from 45 of the most successful living company founders ever to come out of the heart of America. The book is now available on Amazon,, 800CEORead, and in select book stores.

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How They Did It is a site for people with big ideas, projects, and companies, who have found themselves, at one point or another, under the gun, facing obstacles or challenged to push themselves way beyond what they thought they could do. Sometimes it helps just hearing from those who have come before and done what seemed impossible.  Share your experiences, learn secrets, and be a part of the ongoing conversation at

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$41 Billion Worth of Inspiration

How They Did It tells how, in their own words, 45 of the most highly successful company founders from the Great Lake states created their combined $41 billion in value, starting literally from zero. You’ll learn the secret sauce for companies like Biomet, Capella, Groupon, TomoTherapy, Feedburner, thinkorswim, and ChaCha.

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