Posted on May 25, 2006

Union College students, some of them would-be business owners, gathered Wednesday at the school's F.W. Olin Center to hear what it's like to succeed — and fail — as an entrepreneur.

Bo Peabody, a venture capitalist from Williamstown, Mass., who owned a high-flying Internet start-up during the 1990s, appeared there before the student-run Entrepreneurship Club.

He said almost every successful business was once on the verge of failure. So he told the students to brace for it.

“Google went through some very, very difficult times, and nobody tells that story,” Peabody said. “These businesses are always, always on the brink just before they become successful.”

Three students in the crowd are working hard on their own businesses already, so Peabody's comments were especially important to them.

Brian Selchick, a senior, established eWired Auctions LLC of Albany, which conducts online auctions for charities. Two sophomores, Josh DeBartolo and Steve Walker, have created a Web site — — that allows college students to buy and sell used textbooks from each other.

Selchick said he looks up to Peabody, who graduated from Williams College in 1994, especially since he found success in business at an early age.

At Williams, Peabody created the Web site company Tripod Inc., which later was sold to Internet search engine Lycos Inc. for $58 million in stock. He now is a managing general partner of Village Ventures, a network of venture capital funds. He also owns two restaurants and a catering business in the Berkshires.

“A guy like Bo, for me, is a role model, a success story, all of that,” Selchick said. “We can point to guys like that and say this happens.”

It was Peabody's second speaking engagement in the Capital Region in the past year. Last June, he spoke to the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce about his book on being an entrepreneur, “Lucky or Smart?” Peabody said he has sold 50,000 copies of the book since it was published last year.

He said the book is also being used as reading for classes on 50 college campuses. He was invited to speak at Union because his book is being read in a history class about entrepreneurship in medieval Europe. Peabody's uncle is a Union graduate.

Jay Shah, a Union sophomore who is president of the Entrepreneurship Club, said the group has about 25 members, so he was glad that about double that number attended the event. He said he tried to launch an online dining business as a freshman that eventually failed, so Peabody's comments about success and failure hit home. He said Peabody energized him.

“I need to get a business going,” Shah said. “I need to come up with some innovative idea.”