Faction CEO Luke Norris has executed a tremendously effective Bootstrap First, Raise Money Later strategy from Colorado.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Luke Norris: I was born in Nevada.
Sramana Mitra: What’s your background vis-a-vis education?
Luke Norris: I’m a high school graduate. I was lucky to go to private school from K through 12. I was able to graduate rather early in high school.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do after that?
Luke Norris: At 15, I had my first company. It was a computer refurbishing business helping small to medium-sized businesses upgrade the computers they had. Soon thereafter, I got a full-time job at the age of 17 working with US West in their rollout of DSL.
Sramana Mitra: What timeframe in the history of the technology industry are we talking about? What years are we talking?
Luke Norris: I graduated in about 1997. I would have gotten that job right around 1999.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay there?
Luke Norris: I stayed there for about two years. Then I transferred to another high-tech company that did HIPAA compliance. That brought me out to Denver, Colorado. In 2001, I accepted a job with SGI. They were the technology company for the early ‘2000s.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for SGI?
Luke Norris: I was a Sales Engineer helping them sell and implement their largest supercomputer and web interfaces all over the world. I did work with government. I did work with large universities building supercomputers. I was the guy in the back-end building out all the network.
Sramana Mitra: How did that happen? Given your background, how did you manage to weave your way into this kind of an environment?
Luke Norris: It was my second attempt at bootstrapping. Instead of the traditional college route, I immersed myself in the technical certifications – mainly Cisco networking. Right around 1999 to 2000, that was the hot thing to have.
Not only did I get three to four of the more advanced Cisco networking degrees, I also was able to get the security degree. I got that at the age of 19. They changed the requirements to have five years of work experience after I received it. With all those certifications, SGI was interested.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay at SGI?
Luke Norris: I stayed there until 2003 to 2004. The economy had collapsed in late 2001. Although it still had a great balance sheet, SGI was definitely in rapid decline. That allowed me to go over to a company called Factual Data.
As the economy goes down, people are able to take advantage of rebuying homes. I worked there as a security officer. Over nine months, it got acquired by a security company called Kroll, and then got acquired by Marsh.
I rapidly moved through the ranks of both organizations doing some of the corporate security for Marsh. A tremendous level of exposure was given to me in the New York high financial scene at that time.