Where Are You Now?
In this series, The Quill interviews former Brandon University students who have gone out into the big, wide world and have done things. What have they found? Let’s find out!
Name: Dan Ile. Bilshnoi
Graduation Year: 1999
Department: Business & Leadership
Major: Technological Studies
Currently: CEO and “Innovation Champion” of Omni Consumer Products
The Quill: How did you get where you are today?
Dan Bilshnoi: As you know, having certainly read my best-selling autobiography A Modern Daedalus, I came from a humble small-business-owning family in Glenboro. I had but one dream throughout my childhood: to go out there and bring something to the people of the world they never dreamed of. I scrimped and saved all my life, worked my hardest throughout school, and was finally able to meet Brandon University’s high admission standards. The rest, as they say, is history.
TQ: They most certainly do. How did your time at BU help your eventual rise to the top?
DB: Of course, being a poor student, I wasn’t able to really work on the kinds of things I’ve been known for since. I had to use BU’s computer labs to plan, design, and network, as I could not afford the massive rig I would need for that. Not that it mattered – the computer lab’s hardware was more than up-to-date. It seemed like there wasn’t any new innovation in technology BU wasn’t first in line to get. Money was no object to them, and so I got lots of time with what was just coming off the conveyor belt, and with a little encouragement and assistance from my professors, I was able to find my way into consulting jobs with few start-ups right after graduation.
TQ: But you actually had started your own before graduation, correct?
DB: Oh, yes. eXtremeXperts.com, which I started with an old friend of mine…unfortunately, I can’t remember his name. Yes, we literally ran that out of our dorm with computers we salvaged from businesses around town. It was a great experience: it certainly gave me a lot of insight into how the web works. I left to pursue other ventures eventually, right before it went into bankruptcy when the dot-com bubble burst. My stocks were long gone by then, though. I kind of guessed that was going to happen. You could say I had an inkling, that a little bird told me, that…
TQ: What became of your old business partner?
DB: My what?
TQ: So how did you jump from consulting to your own company?
DB: At first I thought I would just try to work my up within one of the smaller firms, motivating execs and developers using the oratory skills I acquired during my time in the BU Debate Society, and eventually show them the plethora of ideas I came up with during my school days. While consulting, I was able to look at what they were putting out, figure out how to strengthen what worked and retire what didn’t, and bring a whole new vision of the oncoming digital age. Most of the guys in charge weren’t listening, so I decided to use the capital I gained at these companies to start my own. Now most of those execs are working for me, and some of them just aren’t around anymore!
TQ: How do you pay homage to your roots at BU?
DB: I am unfortunately unable to come back and visit my alma mater – so sorry! I’m a busy guy, and always seem to have a product launch, or jetpack test run, or dreadfully dull swank celebrity party on my own private yacht to attend. But I wouldn’t be where I am today without the old place, I always keep it in mind. I’m sure I mentioned it in the book somewhere.
TQ: What kind of advice do you have for students hoping to pursue a similar path in life?
DB: If you’re a competitor, don’t expect any help from me! Ha ha ha, just kidding! The most important thing is knowing the right people. It’s a good thing the right people are already there at BU – the profs in the ol’ B&L department can really help you out. Just get on their good side, show them that you have what it takes to succeed, supply them with a steady stream of cigars, and they’ll surely help you help yourself. The second important rule, and I’m sure most students will agree with me here, is that everyone else is your enemy. Do whatever you can to strangle them in the cradle, so to speak. The third important thing is not to let the real world get in the way of your imagination. Even if it seems your idea is untenable, just remember that we live in an age of wondrous possibilities, and in the digital age of innovation, there is no one who can stop you from putting yourself and your best ideas out there for the world to see!
Next issue: we interview the BU alumnus who could have been Pope!
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 27, April 2, 2013.