Brian Hemesath wasn’t far removed from the lecture halls of Iowa State University, where he graduated in 1999 with a computer engineering degree, when he took a chance by going to work for a telecom company, Raviant Networks, in 2000.
” ‘Give it a year,’ ” Hemesath recalls being told, ” ‘and you’ll either be richer than hell or be out of a job.’
“And it was a year and a week to the day that I was in the final round of cuts when they were shutting the company down. So he was right. He predicted the future pretty well.”
Whenever they waltz into a room, change and uncertainty are almost always accompanied by potential and opportunity. And Hemesath, a 36-year-old Des Moines-based entrepreneur, has made a career out of grabbing chance by the hand and twirling it around to the cadence of his own band.
“What it amounts to,” said Eric Hemesath, Brian’s younger brother and former business partner, “is that he knows how to take an opportunity and turn it into reality.”
That all started, Brian Hemesath says, with his departure from Raviant Networks. From there, the Hudson, Iowa, native founded Diligent Information Services, a web development business he ran for nearly a decade before selling it last year to Visionary Services Inc.
“I had a choice at that point to either go work for someone else or start working for myself,” Hemesath recalled. “I had a skill set that let me build websites, and I had an ability that let me sell them. So I brought those two things together, and that was the beginning of my entrepreneurial venture.”
Ten years into that venture, Hemesath has helped six companies get off the ground, and sold two more. He’s currently involved in four start-ups: Catchwind, a mobile marketing company; VolunteerLocal*, which makes volunteer management software; NotifyWorks, which makes automated notification software for lawyers and other professionals; and Tikly, an online ticketing service. (Below, Hemesath shows off an old CD collection inside the StartupCity offices last week. Photo courtesy Eric Rowley/Juice)
Hemesath’s dance card is full. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, Hemesath says, he would be bored if there weren’t so much to do.
“You know, I had corporate jobs — I had two internships — and, honestly, they couldn’t keep my attention,” he said. “I’d be falling asleep in the afternoon because the task I was given to do would be done, and it just wasn’t enough.”
Not all of Hemesath’s ventures require constant attention. There’s an ebb and flow to things, and, currently, Catchwind and Tikly are the most demanding endeavors.
In discussing both businesses, Hemesath shows that knack for finding opportunity amidst change.
Tikly has arrangements with several Des Moines-area artists, venues and events. Hemesath and Emma Peterson, the company’s founder, believe the advent of tablets and mobile devices presents an immense opportunity for Tikly.
“Ticketing is just one industry that that hardware is going to completely change,” Hemesath said. “And that’s what got me excited, is the opportunity to work with someone like (Peterson) in an industry that is going to be completely turned upside down by, essentially, the invention of the iPad.”
Catchwind, meanwhile, bases its business heavily on SMS (texting) technology. Hemesmath, who founded Catchwind with two others in 2005 and is now the sole owner, still sees potential, despite the rise of smartphones.
“I get the question a lot, ‘Will SMS be dead when all the phones are smartphones?’ ” he said. “And I’ve got a really long answer for why not. It will still exist, we’ll still need it. It will look very different, and the more integrated messaging becomes with a smartphone, the better we’ll all be.”
Despite the many roles his big brother plays for many businesses, Eric Hemesath balks at calling his brother a “serial entrepreneur.” And the elder Hemesath admits he wasn’t hard-wired to run his own businesses, which made for some tough times early on.
So, he’s not exactly the Fred Astaire of the entrepreneurial dance floor, but Hemesath has a knack for adjusting to changes in tempo and keeping up with the band.
*Disclosure: Silicon Prairie News’ COO, Geoff Wood, is one of co-founders of VolunteerLocal with Brian Hemesath.