Charles "Charlie" D'Agostino
|Executive director, Louisiana Business and Technology Center and LSU Innovation Park|
What's your hometown?
I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, went from Sacred Heart Elementary to Westdale Junior to Baton Rouge High School. I left for four years (1974-78) when working for NASA, then returned to Baton Rouge.
It's your job and the purpose of your center to leverage the resources of LSU to help local business. In broad terms, what can LSU do for startups and even successful small businesses that want to grow?
LSU has a vast resource pool in students, faculty, research, equipment and expertise in many areas that can be tapped by Louisiana businesses. The LBTC is a small business incubator designed to help entrepreneurs start, grow and develop successful businesses that will create jobs for Louisiana and keep our economy vibrant.
Last year you were given the NBIA lifetime achievement award. In a field that—by design—publicizes and assists in the success of others and tries to give all the credit to its entrepreneurs, what did it mean to be honored like that?
It is always a tremendous honor to be recognized by your peers as an industry leader. I was shocked, as it was only the second lifetime achievement award given in the international organization's 30-plus-year history.
What's the state of entrepreneurship and small business in Baton Rouge right now?
I am an optimist and always see the glass half-full, so I am extremely excited about what is happening in Baton Rouge and with the young people that are considering starting businesses as a career option. The LBTC Student Incubator has been a total home run; we have a record number of LSU students starting businesses and creating their own jobs, and therefore not interviewing upon graduation and moving to Houston, Dallas and elsewhere.
What's the most successful business that has come out of the incubator?
There have been many over the last 24 years, but CAP Technologies, a recent graduate, now has a building in Denham Springs and is doing really great things. It has won major contract and joint-venture projects.
I think there is always a place for an incubator, but our focus is changing with the dynamic conditions in the economy. We are now focusing on commercializing the university strengths and technologies in which we have a competitive edge and are developing the LSU Innovation Park to attract strong technology companies that will locate in Baton Rouge to access these assets.
Is there a particular, personal touch you bring to the LBTC?
I believe that my "personal touch" is making all of our clients feel that they are important and have a right to be successful if they work hard and stay focused. The biggest asset that I bring to the LBTC is the vast network that I have developed over the years that can be called upon to assist my staff and our clients.
Why do you do what you do?
It is fun and rewarding. Every day I meet many brilliant people who the LBTC is able to assist. I leave work every day feeling that I accomplished something and helped someone.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Obviously, starting the LBTC in 1988 and developing it into one of the nation's most successful incubators and giving the LBTC, LSU, Baton Rouge and Louisiana excellent recognition through our accomplishments.
What was your first job?
Research analyst for Gulf South Research Institute in 1972, after getting my MBA from LSU. Ironically, GSRI was located in the building that is now the LBTC / LSU Innovation Park at 8000 GSRI Avenue.
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Treat people as you wish to be treated and treat all people equally, from the chancellor or governor to the janitor or grass cutter. Be nice to people, and it will come back tenfold.
If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?
President of the Texas Rangers Baseball Team.
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you've overcome?
Life deals a hand and you have to play it. I think rebounding from the devastating real estate markets in the 1980s taught me a lot about surviving challenges and making the best of your situation.
If you started over, what would you do differently?
Not much. I probably would have worked on my doctorate if I'd known I would be at LSU for 24 years.
What is your prescription for life?
Think positive thoughts, and good things follow. Make sure you treat people well, as nothing is more important than family and friends.
What book are you currently reading?
Being a baseball nut, I am reading Driving Mr. Yogi, as told by Ron Guidry, and Koufax by Jane Levy; and on the business side, Startup Nation.
If you could have dinner with any three living people, who would they be?
My wife, Nolan Ryan (whoops, done that) and CC Lockwood.
Who would play you in a movie?
Robert Redford or Kevin Costner.
What do you do to unwind?
Golf, baseball and cooking.
What is the most expensive purchase you've made for yourself?
Airline tickets for travel. I love to travel.
What is your favorite weekend activity?
Golf and dining out.
What's your favorite spot in Baton Rouge?
Alex Box Stadium and Whole Foods.
How do you take your coffee/tea?
Crème and Splenda—not tough enough to drink it black.
What is your favorite movie? TV show? Band?
Money Ball and The Hangover; Boardwalk Empire and Curb Your Enthusiasm; anything country—Willie & Waylon.
What is your favorite gadget?
What is something that you can't live without?
My family and friends.
If you could change one thing about Baton Rouge, what would it be?
Not much; maybe 15 degrees cooler in the summer.
What is your greatest hope for Baton Rouge?
The people who love to live here will keep it great.
What is your greatest fear for Baton Rouge?
The crime and traffic could hinder growth.
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