CEO of Texas Research and Technology Foundation and VelocityTx
As a young man growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana, Randy Harig quickly learned success wasn’t going to be handed to him. After briefly attempting college at Louisiana State University, he came back home and quickly realized roughly three families controlled the wealth in his hometown, and his wasn’t one of them. Having held a variety of jobs in high school, Harig’s entrepreneurial skills began to form at an early age, and now he’s one of the nation’s leading pioneers in medical technology and research. He’s also helping to shape the future of downtown San Antonio and the culture of those who live on the city’s East Side. His talent for recognizing a need and turning it into a successful business is impressive, and his excitement for the work he’s doing demonstrates his passion for innovation.
Your career over the past 40 years has touched on pretty much every aspect of the med-tech industry. From selling medical equipment to now heading up one of the world’s leading research foundations, what has been the key to your success in entrepreneurship?
When I got out of the military, I took a job in medical sales here in San Antonio. Six months in my boss left, and I went to his boss in Houston and asked to be in charge of myself. Since then, I’ve never had a boss. I’ve been in control of every company I’ve founded since, and I like guiding my own future. Founding so many businesses primarily came from boredom. When things would start running smoothly, I’d start looking for what needs help next. Chronologically, everything I’ve done has been an outgrowth of what I was working on in the present. In the beginning, I was selling medical equipment to a new hospital, and they didn’t have the funding to buy everything they needed, so over the weekend I went to the bank and founded a leasing company and was able to them lease them everything they couldn’t afford to buy. Being successful is all about identifying a need and finding a way to fulfill it.
Currently, you are the CEO of Texas Research and Technology Foundation and VelocityTX, and with that, you’ve been responsible for transforming downtown’s East Side into an innovation hub. This has meant new development, new businesses, and opportunities for the residents of the area. Tell us more about that.
When you look at what we’re doing on the East Side, it’s so much more than providing a home for incubating companies. We’re making the area a mecca for bioproducts. TRTF is the neck of the hourglass, from research to commercialization. With this new development and research companies, we also need employees. We need hundreds of lab technicians and PhDs. Because the building development will be completed when many of these kids in school will be graduating, we’ve started some educational initiatives with the students on the East Side. If they commit to taking specific STEM classes in high school, we’ll have a job for them when they graduate. We also work closely with the military and universities in the area. I’ve watched some of the college students here bring forth impressive ideas throughout their four years, and I’ve handed my card to a few and said, “If you’re serious and committed, give me a call, and we’ll work with you on your idea.”
Instead of continually asking donors for money to fund TRTF, you came up with a creative way to sustain finances and help support legacy businesses. How does it work?
I’m not good at begging, and in the past, it was either a small group of friends funding things or me. After looking at what Santikos did with the San Antonio Area Foundation, we formed the TRTF Community House, a non-profit organization. We look at legacy companies that don’t have a family member in a position to take over. We keep the management, the name, the employees, but turn it into a non-profit for a better tax structure, and the excess funds help sustain the TRTF, and then we can continue to buy more companies. It will then go back into the community for economic and social benefit.
Before becoming a successful businessman, you served in the U.S. Air Force. Now, as a businessman, you work closely with the military and have also helped found the Clocktower Bourbon and Cigar Club. Tell us about that.
Back at the turn of the century, there were some photos of generals at Fort Sam Houston and the Mayor of San Antonio, and they would get together every six weeks or so and talk about the issues at hand. Because of 9/11, all our bases were shut down to the public, and I feared we’d have this disconnect between the military and the community, and that’s not healthy. It started with 10 of us in the community and ten generals, and it’s now up to 150 people. We meet every six weeks, and we share bourbon and camaraderie. It has been good for communication.
You and your wife Kay love to travel. Where do you hope to explore next?
We’ve spent a lot of time in France where I’m a member of a wine club, but we’d love to explore Croatia, Greece, and that region next. I’d also love to explore Northern Africa.
By Pamela V. Miller