An Entrepreneur’s Tale: Diego Borrego and the Twists and Turns Behind Networkfleet
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out of a business plan competition at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Borrego says he went to MIT for joint masters’ degrees in business administration and computer science on a fellowship from General Motors, where he was working in the mid-1990s. He worked on the business plan, which was the runner-up in the contest, with a fellow MIT business student who had taken a similar leave from SAIC, the San Diego defense contractor. Together, they agreed to return to San Diego to start a company based on their plan.
Borrego tells me his journey to entrepreneurship had an unlikely beginning. He was born in El Paso, TX, to migrant farm workers, and grew up mostly in New Mexico. When he was a high school senior, Borrego says, “I didn’t really have aspirations for college or anything.”
He says he had intended to skate by, enrolling in just one course his senior year. But that changed when a vice principal more-or-less forced him to take a full course load—including a physics class taught by a teacher “who just kind of opened my eyes.” Borrego says the science and calculus teacher prepared him for college, saying, “The way to be successful in college is to work harder than anybody else. You have an advantage, though, because nobody else you’ll meet in college has ever picked onions before.”
Borrego attended New Mexico State University at Las Cruces on a National Merit Scholarship, studying physics with kids whose parents worked at the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories. He started working for General Motors as a student, and eventually joined the company full-time.
Borrego tells me the original idea for Networkfleet had nothing to do with GPS technology. Instead, the concept came to him in the 1980s, after U.S. automakers had introduced electronic spark control, one of the first computerized automotive technologies. Over time, as automakers added more and more computers and sensors, Borrego says their idea was to create software that would take auto sensor data and use it to see if vehicles were being driven properly.
“It sounds pretty simple today, but 10 years ago, it was advanced technology,” Borrego says. In 2000, their startup got $4 million from angels and other investors, including 10 percent from Reynolds and Reynolds, a company that provided information technology and forms to automotive dealers. Two years later—when Reynolds and Reynolds was acquiring the rest of the startup—Borrego says he learned that his trust had been misplaced. “That’s when I found out I really didn’t have ownership any more. I kind of left in a huff.”
When I later asked Borrego if there was anything, in retrospect, he could have done to protect his ownership stake in … Next Page »