Tre Zimmerman, Pioneer of the Smart City, on What It Takes to Be a Serial Entrepreneur
Tre Zimmerman is a man who refuses to sit still. His entrepreneurial energy has been guiding him since youth. From selling baseball cards as a kid to developing smart cities and ideating innovative money-lending platforms, Zimmerman navigated it all alone with nothing but pure entrepreneurial grit and determination. Like many self-starters, he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at a young age and nourished his creative enthusiasm into a force that would build multibillion-dollar enterprises and give birth to groundbreaking innovations that change the way we live. When Zimmerman ventured into the uncharted landscape of digital technology over 21 years ago, he didn’t have much technical knowledge in his stock of business skills. But he developed them, and soon, he was at the top of major tech companies directing key business decisions and charging toward success.
He’s held a multitude of senior-level corporate development and product development roles for global organizations, such as Ubicquia, Xaitel Communications, Nero, TvBlob Ltd., Extreme Media Pte and SID Information Technologies, building value in excess of $3 billion.
Some of his most lucrative and interesting projects include his work at Ubicquia, a company he cofounded that facilitates energy reduction and streamlines WiFi connections by using devices that are installed on streetlights. At a high level, Zimmerman essentially is building “smart cities,” a term that has emerged to describe the integration of digital systems throughout a city’s infrastructure to promote cleaner energy and faster digital services. His current project involves a money-lending platform achieved through utilizing cryptocurrency and crowdsourcing.
Zimmerman recently spoke with Worth about his fascinating development as a serial entrepreneur.
Q: How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
A: I have always had above normal aspirations for what I wanted out of life and the willingness to dedicate the commitment to hard work and long hours, to achieve the goals I set out for myself as a little boy to live the kind of life that I wanted to live. It all started with selling baseball cards and candy to other schoolmates in elementary school, and then in junior high, I began to sell hats, T-shirts and stickers. Once in high school and with the advancements in technology, I then graduated to selling mixed CDs and shooting surf and skate videos for local kids, for a fee of course, with a crew of kids from school. While I built a nice-sized bankroll off all of these pre-adolescence endeavors, it wasn’t until I was 18 when I ventured off to gain as much experience as I could with global corporations to learn about how business were ran and how and what products can be scaled that I set my sights on the technology sector and started inventing scalable products that the world needed, which is how I ultimately founded my current company Ubicquia.
What motivates you?
Simply put? Failure to provide for my family. When I set my goals as a little boy, I told myself no matter what, I would achieve what I set out for and not let all the sacrifices I made in terms of childhood years working and building my dream be wasted. I always wanted the best that life could offer and knew that I wanted to provide the life I never had for my children.
How do you decide what businesses to invest in?
I look at businesses that scale and the leadership teams behind them. Generally, I do not invest unless I am personally involved in some capacity; however, the business’ product offerings must be something that is required by the masses for daily living and can be manufactured to meet a global demand.
What makes for a good leader in business?
A good business leader is one that takes advice and listens to those that are hired to do a job. I always say, ‘You don’t hire smart people and then tell them how to do their job. You hire them so that they can help you to do yours.’ Many times leaders fail to recognize the value and insight that the team they lead can offer. I have personally witnessed leaders publicly shaming their team members and not taking the knowledge that they hired the individuals to provide, which ultimately causes adverse effects on the products and morale of the company. A good leader will work hand-in-hand with their team to identify product market fit, treat team members fairly and with respect, and most of all, listen to the advice or input from their team members.
Have you changed your business strategy in order to cope with the lingering economic effects of the pandemic?
Of course. I have had to start researching all the long-term effects, both positive and negative, that the world will experience due to this pandemic. For example, since I am currently involved in building small cells for cellular operators, I have been looking at how I could take our products and integrate them into networks’ deployments faster and more cost effectively to help densify the existing network. With more schools going virtual and more corporations having their employees work from home, the demands of backhaul capacity and latency will be a driving force for seamless remote learning and workforce solutions.
What is advanced technology?
Advanced technology is a new or developing IT innovation that still has relatively few users, yet promises to provide future, significant value to improve processes and products within a supply chain. Advanced technology, and the IT experts engaged in its creation, are needed to simplify and optimize activities and necessities like unit testing, version control, outlining and managing code. Advanced technology influences the software sector by automating and improving critical IT processes. These include checking a build, which used to be done manually, and the emergence of integrated development environments, which reduces coding errors and provides a single-view dashboard for accessing an entire suite of development tools. The future of advanced technology has no limit—and will continue to enhance the personal lives of consumers and their families. It will also make services and processes simpler and more affordable within both the software and manufacturing sectors