Blair students got an up-close look at the ins and outs of technology startups from fellow Buccaneer Scott Jones ’80, who came to campus on May 3 to engage with the community at an afternoon Alumni Roundtable in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration. The Austin-based marketing-and-business-development executive is a vice president at Hyliion Inc., a company that is bringing hybrid electric technology to tractor-trailers with an environmentally friendly system that saves fuel.
Mr. Jones talked about his experience in growing new technology products and service offerings in start-up organizations and large, publicly traded companies. Over the years, he has become highly respected in his industry for solving problems and developing marketing strategies that differentiate offerings from those of competitors while building effective sales and channel models. Prior to joining Hyliion Inc. in early 2017, Mr. Jones founded WaJo Technologies, a firm specializing in perimeter security and remote site monitoring.
After graduating from Blair, Mr. Jones enrolled at Colby College, where he studied economics, and then earned an MBA in finance and strategic planning at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Between Colby and Wharton, he worked as a research analyst at Wharton Econometrics and as a consultant at DRI/McGraw Hill. In 1990, he joined Dell Computer Corporation (now Dell Technology), where he held marketing-related roles. Over the years, he has held product marketing and business development roles at global companies such as IBM, Polycom, GE Security, Covi Technologies, Surgient Networks and Tait Communications as a consultant.
Mr. Jones talked about his time at Blair and urged students to take advantage of the School’s many resources, especially its expert faculty. “I came to Blair at a time when I really needed structure, and I absolutely loved it,” he said. “My teachers put demands on me, but they helped me meet those demands, too. No other school I’ve ever attended has meant more to me than Blair.”
He launched his discussion of startups by sharing his definition of the term. “A startup is more than a small business,” he explained. “We’re talking about three people in a room who pick a specific market and aim for world domination.” In his experience, that means developing a truly revolutionary technology, working hard to ensure that it receives massive market acceptance and, finally, realizing exceptional returns on investment.
Mr. Jones walked students through the phases of a successful startup and spoke about each phase in terms of Hyliion. His company has developed a hybrid electric drive for class-8 vehicles that features unique, patented technology; it has achieved product-market fit as it has been accepted by trucking fleets and received government support; and, with an experienced team in place, the company is poised for rapid growth. What remains to be seen is if Hyliion can own the market and expand its value exponentially.
After sharing a video that illustrates Hyliion’s technology in a tractor trailer, Mr. Jones fielded questions from students and faculty on the nuts and bolts of funding and the startup work environment. He cautioned that people often have a romanticized vision of casually “going to work in flip-flops” at a startup—in reality, it’s a high-risk way to make a living that requires a great deal of hard work and may leave you without a salary for a while.
That said, Mr. Jones enjoys the startup ethos because he and his colleagues are free to innovate, constantly ask questions and focus on creating value for the company and consumers. “I really like the work,” he said. “I have a broad skillset in marketing, sales and strategic partnerships, and I can be useful—and have fun—every day.” He commented that during his days as a Blair student, he could always ask Headmaster James Kelley why he made a particular decision, and Mr. Kelley would fully explain his reasoning. “At Blair, I became accustomed to being part of an organization where you could have a dialog,” Mr. Jones said. “I have never been comfortable in big companies where I couldn’t ask questions.”
Taking a moment to share additional words of wisdom, Mr. Jones again encouraged students make the most of their time at Blair. “This building blows me away,” he said of the Chiang Center. “You have so many opportunities here to create and learn, to take a trip and then come back here and write code or do a project. Tap into the expertise of Blair’s faculty, get really good at something you love, work hard and take pride in anything you put your name on. Treat others well and be around people who are exceptional and who care.”
“I ask myself every day, how do I create value and how do I help others to create value?” For Mr. Jones, this is the “bottom line” of his career.
About Alumni Roundtables
Blair's Alumni Roundtable speakers' series connects today's students with prominent alumni across industries, giving soon-to-be graduates the opportunity to learn about different fields from experienced professionals.
Instituted in 2018 by Head of School Chris Fortunato, the Alumni Roundtable series welcomes Blair graduates of all generations to campus to speak about their careers and engage in question-and-answer sessions with students. Find out more about past and upcoming speakers, and please let us know if you would like to participate in a future event by contacting Director of Stewardship E. Courtnay Stanford at (908) 362-6121, ext. 5646, or firstname.lastname@example.org.