The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Chicago Booth

Q&A

Bob Gillespie
Current part-time student
Cofounder and CEO, In Context Solutions - 2nd place (tie) at the 2009 New Venture Challenge

1) What was your background before coming to Chicago Booth?
I have a technology and consulting background, building software and designing several large scale systems. Between 2001 and 2004, I ran the day to day operations of a start up software and services company and loved it. Although I ran the operations, I wasn’t an owner. After experiencing that, I knew that I wanted to start and run my own company.

2) Why did you come to Chicago Booth?
After leaving the startup in 2004 I went back into consulting, but I was really just searching for the right idea at the right time to start my own venture. I didn’t feel like I had enough experience to start and run a company from scratch, including raising capital, structuring the deal, bringing an offering to market, and managing growth, and Booth has a respected entrepreneurial program where I could get the knowledge I needed, while also getting valuable contacts.

3) What have been some of the most impactful entrepreneurial learning experiences for you at Chicago Booth?
In the fall of 2008, I began working with a few others on a business idea that would be a more effective way for consumer goods manufacturers and retailers to do market research on their products. So we created In Context Solutions, a software platform that provides highly realistic 3-D virtual stores online that allows them to test consumer behavior at the point of sale, as well as provide important visualization capabilities to view different store layouts, displays, signage, and product designs.

We took the idea through the New Venture Challenge, which gave us the resources to build the business. Throughout the NVC process every assumption is challenged and questioned, your business plan is torn apart, and as a result, every aspect of our business improved throughout the process. By the time we reached the finals, we had had the opportunity to present to real investors multiple times and paved the way for interest from several angel groups. Today, In Context is the only true 3-D Internet delivered research platform available in the market, and another example of how the NVC process can catapult a company to success.

4) How have you been able to balance student life with building your business?
In addition to building the business and taking classes in the evening, I am married with a four year old son, so it is a challenge. I have to really make sure I manage my time, so I try to set aside time for my two classes each week and keep to that so I can get my coursework done. One advantage to running a business is that I can make my own schedule if needed. I am having more fun than I’ve ever had professionally and am thoroughly enjoying the Booth experience, so it’s much easier to deal with the time crunch and strain when you are enjoying every minute of it.

5) How have the Polsky Center’s resources helped shape your career progression as an entrepreneur?
Over the course of about 15 months, we went from just having an idea to projecting 2010 revenue of over $5 million, and the Polsky Center was with us every step of the way. The entrepreneurship faculty provided invaluable guidance in the early stages about company structure, potential clients and partners, angel funding contacts, understanding of the market, and financial projections, and continue to be a resource with strategic growth issues and creating our board of directors.