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Billy Freed returns to the University to help student startups secure external funding
by Brooke Yung '20
The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is proud to welcome community figure and former professor Billy Freed back on campus as the University’s first investor in residence (IiR).
On average, Trinity students launch five ventures a year; more than 80 percent of those businesses remain active today. Once these companies get past the initial startup phase, they require additional funding to continue development. The IiR helps connect student entrepreneurs with the external funds necessary for growth.
According to Luis Martinez ’91, director for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who designed the role in 2019, “The investor in residence acts as an impartial extra pair of eyes to take a look at financials, goals, and plans for raising capital.” This position works as a counterpart to the entrepreneur in residence; while the EiR helps get student ventures off the ground, the IiR helps keep them running.
A resource of this caliber is extremely uncommon in university entrepreneurship programs. Trinity is one of the few institutions that maintain a resident investment adviser for its undergraduates.
Billy Freed is more than qualified for this task. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1981, he became a serial entrepreneur and prominent investor in the San Antonio community. Freed has extensive executive and advisory experience, serving as president, principal, or co-founder of six successful organizations over the past 36 years (including WAFCO, Inc. and Nueces Marketing Partners, Ltd.).
His hard-won expertise and enduring working relationships in San Antonio’s business community make him an invaluable adviser to Trinity’s student entrepreneurs, whom he has already impacted through his previous position at the University. Freed taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of Business Administration from 1996 to 2008, designing the very first entrepreneurship course at Trinity. This class, now the capstone course for the major, has proven formative to the entrepreneurship program. As Martinez says, “That seed became this entire university initiative.”
Now Freed is back on campus to continue what he started. “I am here to provide real-world, real-time feedback,” he says. “I am serving as a conduit from the Trinity ecosystem to the early-stage capital markets.” With his insight, the success rate of Trinity’s student ventures will surely continue to rise.