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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Co-founder and Managing Director of Avego Corporation Named 2011 William F. Glaser '53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year

September 16, 2011

Co-founder and Managing Director of Avego Corporation Named 2011 William F. Glaser '53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Alumnus Sean O’Sullivan ’85 — Engineer, Inventor, Venture Capitalist, Former Rock Singer, and Filmmaker — To Be Honored at Rensselaer Oct. 21

Sean O’Sullivan, co-founder and managing director of Avego Corporation, has been selected as the 2011 William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year. Established in 1990, the William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year Award brings the world of entrepreneurship into Rensselaer classrooms by recognizing successful entrepreneurs and role models who share their wisdom and experiences with students.

Sullivan graduated from Rensselaer in 1985.

Avego is a high-technology firm with offices in Ireland, China, and the United States. The organization is a world-leading company in transport technology that introduced the groundbreaking Avego real-time ride-sharing iPhone application in 2008, as well as “Futurefleet, an end-to-end, real-time management system for passenger transport operators.

O’Sullivan, who also serves as managing director of SOSventures International, an investment management operation, is the founder of MapInfo, JumpStart International, and NetCentric. He will deliver a keynote address to Rensselaer students, faculty, staff, past recipients, business leaders, and members of the surrounding community. O’Sullivan plans to speak candidly about his successes and failures in launching high-tech startups, and offer a few words of advice to future entrepreneurs.

The program will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on the Rensselaer campus, in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies auditorium. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship and the Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer.

“Rensselaer has educated a great number of students who have later gone on to start and grow their own businesses.  It is a story of success that deserves recognition and Bill Glaser’s sponsorship of this award for almost two decades has been a major step in that direction,” said Thomas Begley, dean of the Lally School.  “Sean O’Sullivan’s triumphs are an inspiration to current students.  Just as valuable is his open discussion of the tribulations he encountered, which serve as vital lessons on the importance of persistence in the face of adversity.”

“Nearly 20 years ago, the conversation about entrepreneurship and best practices for starting a business was just starting,” said Glaser. “Taking a look at my fellow Rensselaer graduates and their careers, and noting that many of them ended up in businesses of their own, I felt that there was a need to connect students and the campus with alumni who could talk to them about their experiences. Life never turns out the way you expect, and perhaps hearing some of the first-hand accounts from alumni could inspire students to consider alternative career paths or consider pursuit of their entrepreneurial ideas.”

Today, the William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year Award has become part of a tradition at Rensselaer. Each year, the award celebrates entrepreneurs whose vision, commitment, and creativity exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that is Rensselaer’s past, present, and future.

“We are delighted to honor Sean O’Sullivan,” said Gina O’Connor, Rensselaer professor and faculty director of the Severino Center. “From his days as a student until now, he’s been an integral part of the Rensselaer community. The diversity and his savvy approach to the number of ventures that he has founded and supports is a testament to the traits that a true entrepreneur should have. What a role model for our students. The campus community is excited about the upcoming Entrepreneur of the Year celebration, and I am particularly excited that we’ll be honoring Sean during Homecoming and Reunion weekend, when so many alumni will be on campus.”

Prior to Avego, O’Sullivan’s career took him around the world, where he has been involved in launching several high-tech companies and organizations, and creating dozens of high-tech startups. For example, he was the co-founder, president, and chairman of MapInfo Corporation (Nasdaq: MAPS), the industry-leading desktop mapping company, for the company’s first six years. Based in the Capital Region, MapInfo created many groundbreaking innovations in defining the power of combining personal computers with maps. In 2008, the company was purchased by Pitney Bowes and is currently a $200 million company with nearly 900 employees and offices worldwide.

Additional career highlights include the founding of JumpStart International, a humanitarian organization. Established in 2003, the organization was focused on providing concrete results and showing visible signs of progress to the people of Iraq, while employing a large number of Iraqis to accomplish the physical work necessary in rebuilding their country. JumpStart also constructed several hundred housing units for the people of Baghdad, rebuilt 70 houses damaged by fighting in Fallujah, and cleared many buildings damaged by fighting in Najaf. Before leaving the organization in January 2006, O’Sullivan arranged for the creation and funding of the Gaza Strip office in Palestine. The organization is now headquartered in Atlanta, and has operations in the ex-Soviet Republic of Georgia.

O’Sullivan has served on the board of directors of: Massachusetts Software Council, a leading computer industry organization; net.Genesis, a Cambridge, Mass., leader in website analysis and performance tools; MapInfo; and other private technology companies. Additionally, he serves or has served on a pro bono basis as adviser or on the advisory board of a half-dozen high technology firms, venture capital organizations, and technology-related civic organizations.

O’Sullivan is also founder and chairman of the O’Sullivan Foundation, which since 2003 has given millions of dollars annually to a variety of causes dedicated to economic development and empowerment. He created the “Change the World Challenge” at Rensselaer, which currently generates dozens of ideas, awards scholarships, and sponsors patent applications for students. In 2006, he also founded and funded, through the O’Sullivan Foundation, the Rensselaer Center for Open Software, which provides stipends for dozens of students annually to work on creating open source software solutions for developing countries and the development of civil society. In 2011, the O’Sullivan Foundation funded a $5 million grant to extend the reach of the Khan Academy, an educational organization that offers a free online collection of more than 2,600 subjects.

O’Sullivan is also an FAA-licensed helicopter pilot, a member of the National Academy of Popular Music, and has been dubbed “the father of POPware” (software for inside the Internet) by Internet Week, a “High Tech All Star” by Mass High Tech newspaper, and one of “Boston’s Top 40 Internet Players” by the Improper Bostonian.

O’Sullivan received a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Rensselaer and a master of fine arts in film production from the University of Southern California (USC). While at USC, he wrote and directed 16 short films and worked on over 100 student film and television projects in roles ranging from director of photography to editor to sound designer. His graduate thesis, advised by triple-Oscar-winning director Mark Harris, is a full-length documentary about dementia in the elderly. Called String Worms at Budd Terrace, the film won the 2005 “Silver Images” award for best documentary film about elderly issues. His short film Squirrel Nuts won “Best of Show-Narrative” at the UCLA Short-takes film competition and played on national television through the Independent Film Channel.

During the war in Iraq, Sean worked as a freelance photographer and cameraman for many publications and broadcast media. Among other places, his work has appeared on CNN, Reuters, Philippines TV, ABC News, TV5 (France), The Dallas Morning News, Newsday, The National Journal, and The Wall Street Journal.

O’Sullivan will join 18 other individuals who have been recognized as William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year recipients. Past winners include: Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund; Amba Preetham Parigi, managing director, Entertainment Network (India) Limited, and managing director and  CEO of Times Infotainment Media Limited; William G. Pomeroy ’66, founder and CEO, CXtec; Brendan L. McKernan ’00, co-founder and VP of operations, Agencourt Biosciences Corp.; Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO, FedEx Corp.; James Q. Crowe ’72,  CEO, Level 3 Communications; John J. McDonnell Jr. ’61, founder, chairman, and CEO, Transaction Network Services Inc.; and Mukesh Chatter ’82, founder, president and CEO, Axiowave.

Additional recipients include: Curtis Priem ’82, co-founder and CTO, NVIDIA Corp.; Nancy S. Mueller, founder and president, Nancy’s Specialty Foods; Arthur L. Goldstein ’57, chairman, president, and CEO, Ionics Inc.; John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59, co-founder, CFO, VP-finance and treasurer, Arrow International Inc.; Paul J. Severino ’69, founder and chairman, Bay Networks; Warren Bruggeman ’46, VP and general manager, General Electric Nuclear Business Operations; Salvator Alfiero ’64, founder, chairman, and CEO, Protective Industries LLC;  Thomas LeFevre ’71, co-founder, Intuit; and William Mow ’59, founder, Bugle Boy Industries.

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.