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June 23, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Harry Boston shares his “reluctant entrepreneur” journey, aspirations for the region

The occasion was the mostly every month edition of the “Innovation Crossroads Founders’ Forum.”

Describing himself as a “reluctant entrepreneur,” Harry Boston, Founder of Boston Government Services LLC (BGS), shared his journey since launching the company 17 years ago with attendees during Thursday afternoon’s “Innovation Crossroads Founders’ Forum.”

Later, in a humorous, passionate, and at times animated presentation, he turned his attention to two areas that are capturing a good deal of his time and attention – the new Market Square Ventures (MSV) fund and his belief that the Greater Knoxville region can be a high-tech hub that could rival Silicon Valley.

Boston now has more time for the latter two priorities after BGS announced at the end of May that he was stepping down as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and will be replaced by Doug Freund, the current BGS Chief Operating Officer. That announcement came 18 months after another in December 2022 when Bernhard Capital Partners (BCP), a services- and infrastructure-focused private equity management firm located in Baton Rouge, LA, announced that it had acquired BGS and another consulting firm in Richland, WA. They are now part of SE&C Holdings, and Boston will continue to contribute his expertise in an advisory role with BGS in addition to serving on an Executive Strategy Group for SE&C Holdings.

What was the genesis of BGS? The ”reluctant entrepreneur” told us for this May 2023 article that his previous employer restructured the company, and “I was not having as much fun as I thought I would.” So, he accepted a buyout and, as the old saying goes, the rest is history.

“I got to work with really great people and work on really important projects,” Boston told attendees before, at the end, offering two lessons from the school of hard knocks.

  • Always do the right thing.
  • You cannot be smarter than everyone of your team, but you can outwork them.
(Left to right) Bill Malkes, Nick Sokol, Daniel Lee, and Sarah Jordan listen to Harry Boston.

Having grown and exited a successful, tech-based business that had clients around the country, Boston has a grounded perspective on the opportunities and challenges the Knoxville region faces. He was also part of a delegation that the Knoxville Chamber took to the Research Triangle region of North Carolina a little more than a year ago.

“Raleigh does not have a national lab, but they come together as a region,” he says. That’s a point that others who were members of the delegation have consistently said about the region that seems to speak with one voice. It certainly helps that the North Carolina region has very well-respected universities – Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What does Knoxville need to do?

From Boston’s perspective, it is working more collaboratively – what we might characterize as focusing on what the region needs, not what is best for my organization. “It takes a group of dedicated individuals to make a difference,” he explains.

What’s holding the Knoxville region back?

He says it is more entrepreneurs, engineers, and a pipeline of talent.

Boston credits Brandon Bruce and John Bruck for their leadership in tackling the access to capital challenge that the region has. They are two of the five General Partners in Market Square Ventures, joining Boston; Marty Brown, President and CEO of PYA, the power behind; and Rosa Mar, a longtime executive with Levi Strauss & Co who retired after a 27-year career with the company.

Thus far, Bruck says that MSV has raised close to $5 million with nearly three dozen Limited Partners. Boston told those attending the Founders’ Forum that the fund has made three investments (see this May 2024 article for a list).

He had some advice for those seeking an investment from MSV.

  • Communicate the impact of the technology you are bringing to market and how far along you are.
  • Detail the market size, intellectual property position, marketing plan, and financials, adding, “Get a CPA (Certified Public Accountant)!”

“We need to believe you have done it before or you have people on your team who have,” Boston added.

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