Robert Loughan, B.A.’87

High-Octane Entrepreneur

By Jim Sciancalepore, M.A.’93
Robert loughan

Robert Loughan never slows down.

Through the Loughan Group Inc., his capital-investment firm, he helps identify and nurture businesses with growth potential. He founded INCROUD, a social-commerce platform he recently sold to Veriown (where he is an executive board member). He owns Thistle Hill Winery, an award-winning organic winery and vineyard in Mudgee, Australia. Collaborating with a friend who works at NASA, he co-founded Flawless Photonics – a startup focused on manufacturing in space. He recently sold his ownership position in Baldface Lodge, an iconic ski resort in British Columbia.

On top of all that, Loughan is helping to manage his sons’ Hollywood careers – 15-year-old twins Max and Jack are executive producers for a science-based TV series with a major network. He also serves as an adviser for Max’s energy startup, which is developing a patent-pending ionic-energy system.

So what drives this self-described serial entrepreneur and proud UAlbany alum? An unquenchable desire to break paradigms and create success.

“I love to have a hand at bringing new technologies and business models to the world – big ideas that are disruptive and far reaching,” explained Loughan. “I have a healthy disregard for conventional wisdom.”

Loughan is best known for co-founding Octane Software, the world’s first cloud-based customer-relationship management (CRM) application, which sold – at the very peak of the dot-com boom in May 2000 – for more than $3.2 billion. He would later create the first-ever mobile CRM solution, which also grew at industry-record speed.

From his humble beginnings in rural Granville, N.Y., to his enormous success as a globe-trotting business maverick, Loughan’s career arc is a story of vision, risk-taking, tenacity, and hard work.

“It’s about being at the right place at the right time, but it’s also about being willing to capitalize on your opportunities,” said Loughan. “If you are going to do something never done before, there is only shooting for the fence.”

Though he would become one of the nation’s most successful and influential technology entrepreneurs, Loughan ironically never even intended to enter that industry. He had planned to attend law school in Michigan after earning his UAlbany degree in political science, but he lacked the funding to pay for tuition. Looking for a way to earn money quickly, Loughan deferred his law-school admission and applied for work at a growing Boston, Mass., software company – where he hustled his way into a job.

Clearly unqualified for the available positions (“I wasn’t even sure how to turn on a computer!” joked Loughan), he did not get a job offer. Loughan, however, would not take “no” for an answer. That evening, he waited for the company’s president in the parking garage. When the executive finally arrived, Loughan confronted him and told him, “You just made the worst mistake of your life!”

Though he acknowledged that he “probably scared the man half to death,” Loughan received a call from the firm the following day: They offered him the job.

That same moxie would later lead Loughan and several colleagues to develop the then-revolutionary concept for a cloud CRM platform. They had pitched the idea to their employer at the time, but received no interest. Certain that they were on the verge of a big idea, they decided to pursue the product on their own – working in their basements and garages to form what would ultimately become Octane Software. A few years later, Octane was sold in one of the largest non-public acquisitions in the history of the software industry.

Remember the software executive Loughan had confronted in the parking lot? He was one of Octane’s first investors – providing $7 million in seed money, and declaring it the best investment he ever made. “I guess he was right,” noted Loughan.

Though he has achieved remarkable success, Loughan acknowledged that not all of his at-bats have been hits. He believes that every experience, even the failures, has been valuable for him. “I learn from the wins,” said Loughan. “I learn even more from the losses.”

Loughan attributes his success to his ability to identify opportunities and his willingness to take risks – something he acknowledges is “not for the faint of heart.” He also credits his determination to always out-work the competition. He said that he learned this valuable lesson as a student at UAlbany.

“In college, I learned that you have to work for everything ... you get what you earn,” said Loughan, who greatly appreciated the challenging and competitive environment at his alma mater. “Without UAlbany, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

He believes that his UAlbany education helped instill a “hungrier” mindset, which gave him an edge over graduates from perhaps more prestigious institutions. “I have hired and fired many people from Ivy League schools,” said Loughan. “I prefer employees who are ready to work hard.”

These days, Loughan is particularly inspired by two young people close to home: Max and Jack. Following in their father’s footsteps, both young men are already taking college classes from universities that include Stanford and MIT, while pursuing their own entrepreneurial goals.

“For them, it’s about more than making money – they want to make the world a better place,” said Loughan. “They want to make their own mark.”

Just like their father, they never slow down.