As a serial entrepreneur and angel investor, Kevin Bouley ’80 is always searching for the next great innovation.
But what he really seeks—which is even more rare and a thousand times more intriguing—is the next great innovator.
“I spend a fair amount of time at UConn, visiting the labs and walking the hallways meeting with faculty, undergraduate students and graduate students, looking for that spark, looking for that student or faculty member who wants to build a business, wants to launch a company based on a technology they’ve developed in a lab,” he said.
“I’ve worked with hundreds of students in a collaborative way, helping to support them as they explore their entrepreneurial path, and it provides me an immense sense of accomplishment and personal reward.”
Bouley is the president and CEO of Nerac, a global research and advisory firm for companies developing innovative products and services. Located in Tolland, it is just six miles from the UConn campus. Since Bouley acquired the company in 1999, it has achieved steady growth, more than doubling its size and earning five consecutive Deloitte & Touche “Technology Fast 50” awards, given to the most promising Connecticut companies.
UConn alumnus Mark R. Smith ’13 MS, co-founder and managing partner of Macroscopic Solutions LLC, a company that produces high-resolution images of microscopic objects, said Bouley’s mentorship has been invaluable.
“I met Kevin during the 2013 Innovation Quest (iQ) kickoff event, alongside several other successful entrepreneurs and mentors. It’s easy to say that I found Kevin to be a fantastic mentor and friend,” said Smith, whose company headquarters is located within Nerac’s building.
“Three years have passed since Macroscopic Solutions was founded and he’s still very good at listening to our challenges and achievements and responding in the most realistic and appropriate way. It’s almost as if he knows exactly what we should be doing to grow our business, but his humility keeps him quiet and focused on the task at hand. This style of advice keeps us ready and aware when we need to be, but gives us free reign to grow Macroscopic Solutions in our own way, which is perfect.”
Bouley has launched 10 companies on his own and contributed to the creation of another 50. Connecticut, he said, is where brainpower resides, and UConn is an under-recognized source of creativity and ingenuity.
UConn, Bouley said, was the springboard to his success, both career and personal. He graduated from UConn in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. At UConn, Bouley met his future wife, Lorraine Richter ’80, and the university is where their two daughters are majoring in nursing.
In fact, Nerac itself is an offspring of UConn. It was founded in 1966 through a collaborative joint venture between UConn and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It retained its university affiliation until 1985.
While Bouley’s career has been remarkable, it is his dedication to his alma mater, and his willingness to help both students and recent graduates who are seeking an entrepreneurial path, that make him highly regarded on campus. He works regularly with UConn’s School of Business and School of Engineering, alumni, and members of the local business community to bring more business-development programs to fruition by connecting entrepreneurs and potential investors.
Bouley has served on many technology and business associations, and currently serves on the UConn School of Engineering Advisory Board and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Advisory Board. He is a recipient of the UConn Alumni Association 2007 University Service Award and the UConn School of Engineering 2010 Distinguished Service Award. In 2014, he was inducted into the UConn School of Business Hall of Fame.
Without a doubt, School of Business administrators say, Bouley is one of the UConn’s top alumni in terms of what he has given back to the students here.
“The School of Business inducted Kevin Bouley into our Hall of Fame in 2014, but his engagement at UConn goes beyond the School of Business,” said Dean John A. Elliott. “He is active in entrepreneurship activity across the campus. He serves as a mentor and judge for various competitions and programs. His company, Nerac, is a cornerstone of entrepreneurship in the region. Nerac incubates start-ups and, through the “XcellR8″ program, hosts groups of entrepreneurs, angel investors and others on periodic presentations by some of the young companies being spawned at UConn. Kevin is the catalyst. He provides remarkable energy and leadership.”
Bouley, who is clearly humble and touched by such praise, prefers that the spotlight shine on others. When inducted into the Hall of Fame, he brought family and friends—but also a throng of UConn students and faculty to help celebrate the evening.
“I have reached an age where I care less about my resume and more about leaving a legacy to the next generation,” he has said. “A critical component of this legacy is to inspire, teach and mentor students and other budding entrepreneurs in Connecticut.
“I’m a huge believer in the state of Connecticut and it’s largely owing to the system of higher education here. It’s the investment we make in our students, in our future,” Bouley said. “Those students today leave college and in many cases head to Boston, Austin, Santa Clara, San Diego or San Jose, seeking out opportunities. But I believe there are rich opportunities for those students who remain here in Connecticut.
“In effect, I believe they are key to rebuilding our Yankee ingenuity roots, our entrepreneurial roots, which is what really gave rise to Connecticut, and what made us an economic powerhouse a number years ago–and what is quite likely to make Connecticut an economic powerhouse yet again.”