How’s this for impressive? Digital guru Howard Tullman has a technology career spanning over four decades. He recently retired as chairman of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, Chicago’s premier digital media arts college, and became CEO of 1871, the co-working center for digital start-ups. And he did it for fun.
“The good news I didn’t need this job,” says Mr. Tullman candidly. “So I have a unique opportunity to be completely focused on making 1871 successful for the city and to get a national presence that attracts talent from all over the country, not just Chicago. I have a very clear field to go forward. I don’t have another agenda.”
When summing up his lengthy technology career, Mr. Tullman says, “Work trumps everything else.” He continues, “If you get up in the morning and think this business is just about owning a lot of cars or making a lot of money, you just don’t understand this business.”
Starting in high school as a programmer, Mr. Tullman’s role in the digital world has evolved as technology progressed. “If I look back 20, 30 or 40 years ago, everything we’ve done the last 10 years would almost seem like the era of the Jetsons. It sounds like science fiction. I mean, we just made a Coke bottle play a video! For 10 years, Coke wanted to put music in a bottle – and we’ve done that for him. It’s really exciting.” You’ll hear more about that after the Sochi Olympics.
Back to 1871, Mr. Tullman is quick to point out that his involvement doesn’t take away any of the excitement of what’s happened before he became CEO. “My job is to make things even better…to keep moving forward. There are a lot of things we hope to do; one is having a video studio. We want the ability to create our own web materials so we can promote our companies and help them make their own promotional videos. This way, we can gain an even bigger national presence.”
That said, you might be surprised to learn that 1871 doesn’t just help Chicago start-ups. “People are coming in from all over the world,” affirms Mr. Tullman. “Techstars has people from Europe. They’re doing a good job of attracting people from all over. 1871 has already become diverse, but we want it to be a place where people from all over the world actively hope to get into because they’re going to get the ‘secret sauce.’ That extra attention and emphasis. Plus, they’ll be introduced to major corporations only based in Chicago.”
And when it comes to being successful in the digital world, Mr. Tullman suggests it’s not all about talent. “If you can’t out-smart some people, out-work them,” he says with a smile. “Ultimately, hard work and preparation trump raw talent. The truth is there are many creative, talented people that can’t even get out of there own way. They don’t have the discipline to open up to other possibilities. Every day I think, ‘How can I do something better and move the ball forward?’ It never stops – it’s a full-time job. And that’s the strategy for success.”
Matt Ferguson Photograph / ExecPIX.com