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This is the third part in a series called The Exit Interview featuring life-long entrepreneur Bill Hinchey. Read part one and part two here.
For Bill Hinchey, his entrepreneurial journey was one of rapid growth. Just not in the way he initially hoped for. In just 13 years, he saw the sun care product company he started with two partners in a Pennsylvania basement develop into a worldwide leader in the medical device industry.
By the early 2000’s, the company, OraSure Technologies, was at the top of its field. Hinchey had survived through embracing innovation rather than resisting it and always keeping a lookout for the next big thing. In 2001, it was time for Hinchey to make his boldest move yet. He got out.
Hinchey sold his business, bought his family a farm and took on the greatest challenge of his life in becoming a fulltime father to his young children. “It was a great opportunity to do things most dads only wish they could do,” Hinchey said. His hiatus from the business world lasted about 10 years. Hinchey says he “found a lot of peace” in his decision, especially since it gave him some time to recharge his battery after working so relentlessly early on in his career to develop his brand.
But while this may seem predictable, Hinchey, like most entrepreneurs, can only be kept at bay for so long before that drive comes back. And so about five years ago when he was invited to judge a business competition at his alma mater, West Virginia University, he found himself being taken “back to where I was 20 years ago.”
There before him were young students with startup passion, much in the way he did when he first entered the marketplace. In particular, there was one presentation that dealt with mobile apps that blew him away and got his motor running once more. On the six-hour drive back to Pennsylvania that night, Hinchey admits it was “all I could think about.”
Already having found success in a market that Hinchey initially had little passion for, this time around he decided to enter one he could relate to. He couldn’t stop thinking about a recent football game he had went to where he looked up from his seat to notice most of the people sitting in his section were zeroed in on their mobile phones.
Hinchey remembered thinking, “The game’s on the field, not on the phone.” But a little more digging revealed a different reason for what at first seemed very bizarre to him. “People want to share the experience,” he said. “That’s what it came down to.”
And living five hours away from his native Pittsburgh, he could relate. Too many times, he thought, he’d just be sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon watching his beloved Steelers with no one to talk to other than some friends through text messages. A social network for sports fan to interact while watching the games seemed like a perfect idea to him. Sure, Hinchey wasn’t versed in social media or app creation, but the same could be said for his venture into the medical device industry as well. Hinchey went to work, began seeking out the right partners and funding sources and before he knew it, Steel City Buzz became a reality.
Having been out of the game for so long and then rushing back with a vengeance, Hinchey said that while the terminologies and players are now different, being a successful entrepreneur today still “takes the same as it did in the old days.” A good team, strong commitment and positive outlook are all keys to success, he says. “Always find the positive in every situation because you’re going to have a lot of negatives,” Hinchey said. The app is healthily growing and Hinchey says he’s not ruling out expansion either. Best part about it, he says, is he’s having fun building it everyday.
From the start, it’s always been about innovation for Hinchey. Sunscreen, medical devices and now internet apps. He says he’s fully committed right now but given his track record, he has no idea where his entrepreneurial spirit might lead him next. “Based on history, I wouldn’t be surprised when I’m 62 if I’m in a completely different business,” he laughs.