Bill West serves as the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Ellipsis Technologies Inc., which has developed a leading edge web and eCommerce security technology which allows a website owner to invisibly detect human traffic while quarantining all suspicious visitors. But that is only the latest part of the Bill West story. A New York native, West has done a little bit of everything before coming to Greenville. He played professional soccer after college (Fordham for his MBA and Manhattan College for bachelors). Worked in bank. Jumped to telecoms. Rose up through AT&T. Took Dial Page from a small Greenville company to the fifth largest paging company in the world. Then he got into the mobile phone business with Carolina Phone in the late 1990s. All of that has created a list of boards that he serves on that could have filled a phone book back in the day. He graciously answered our Least Asked Questions and left us smarter for it.
Who was your first hire? Why?
For this company, Ellipsis Technologies, we operated with contractors and part-timers for the first year, our first full time hire was our CTO who is invaluable as our underlying technologies were in fairly constant need of upgrading and streamlining.
What was it like the first time you had to fire someone?
A long time ago, I was 23 years old and a branch manager of a bank in NYC, we had major issues with one employee and we needed to fire her.........I didn't sleep at all for the two nights prior and of course, she came to work that day with a plate of cookies for me. It was a horrible day.
People say that at the end of the day, being the head of a startup is lonely because you don’t have someone to actually relate to. Do you feel that is true? Why?
I don't think that is true, when you have a team, everyone has their specific skills and value to the business and I theoretically have a skill set that adds to the mix, we are all in it together.
What is the worst part of starting your own business?
There are far more positives than negatives in starting a business but raising money is time consuming, often frustrating and an uncomfortable process in general. Actually building a business with a strong team is fun every day.
A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in the worrying about things like logos. What is your best advice for them to be really worrying about?
I think a single focus of building asset value is the best advice so that you are 100 percent aligned with the shareholders. While logos are hugely important, it’s usually not just artwork, it’s the message it sends. There are many early expenses that I have seen that are not focused on building asset value, I always question company t-shirts for a pre-revenue company for example.
What is the one company that you wanted to start, but never did?
In retrospect, probably Amazon, although that business concept never entered my mind until they were a billion dollar company.