Bellevue born entrepreneur speaks to business classes

Nathan Hawkins, Sports/Managing Editor

It’s not everyday that high school students get the chance to hear a man who has made billions of dollars speak. But on Wednesday, Nov. 14, Bellevue West business students got to do just that.

Flying in from Pennsylvania, former Bellevue High School graduate and entrepreneur Barclay Knapp spoke at both Bellevue East and Bellevue West High Schools.

The event was made possible by District Facilitators Coordinator Garrett Sims, who wanted to give the students a rare chance to speak to someone of that stature.

“I thought it would be a unique opportunity for students in Bellevue to hear from someone who had great success, but also is one of them,” Sims said. “He’s a Bellevue grad and as he spoke today he’s really proud of his roots here.”

Knapp showed his pride of growing up in Bellevue.

“There’s a lot of Nebraskans out there who are good and successful people,” Knapp said. “It’s not just where I’m from but it was how I grew up. Bellevue was a great community and I had a wonderful upbringing here. I believe very strongly in paying back.”

Knapp got his educational start at Bellevue High School, before moving to the East Coast to John Hopkins University. His fortune started with a practical solution in the cellular communications industry.

“As I often say I wasn’t really a visionary in cellular,” Knapp said. “When cellular first started it was car-phones and I knew Americans love cars, and they loved phones, so it wasn’t much more visionary than ‘that could work’.”

From there, he moved overseas to take part of the booming opportunity in cable he saw in the United Kingdom. He built up that company, NTL, to a net worth of over $29 billion.

That was 2001. Over the years that followed, the company lost a lot of the profit before merging with Virgin Media, leading Knapp over a rare rough period in his career.

Soon after he was done at NTL, he secured a job to teach at his alma mater, John Hopkins University, which for many, after an ambitious business career, would’ve been more than enough.

For Knapp, he had much more in mind, which led him to where he is today.

“I think there was a sense of unfinished business,” Knapp said. “I had been successful in two ventures and went through that rocky pitch. It’s rare that people get one chance in life, and I was given two chances in life. And I wanted one more chance, I wanted to get up again. I wanted to prove I could do it one more time.”

Knapp’s new company is IOTA, or Internet of Things Access. The company is an opportunity to communicate information and data straight from the machines they come from to applications and other sources where they can be used.

Part of building IOTA came to him from the change in the way entrepreneurship was approached.

“We want to prove cable companies aren’t everything, Comcast isn’t going to control the world, Amazon isn’t going to control the world, that you can develop a brand new segment, this Internet of Things, completely away from them,” Knapp said.

Although he says he sees a lot of potential in the business, after what he’s experienced in his career, he’s acknowledging failure as an option.

“My feeling is that I’ve learned how to fail, fail gracefully, where as before I might have thought I was invincible,” Knapp said. “So when I did fail it was disastrous, just horrible for me personally. Now I recognize failure as a part of growth and something to learn from.”