Canion advised students to take chances and make their own luck when they begin their careers, recalling his experiences with Compaq during the Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series held by the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in March.
“What I remember is, ‘Boy, that was exciting, and I was lucky to be there,’” he told students. “We made a lot of our luck. We worked hard to get that luck and take advantage of that luck.”
Wolff Center Director Daniel Steppe called Canion “an entrepreneurial hero.” Founded in 1982, Compaq Computers was started in Houston, one of the few companies outside Silicon Valley to produce computer products.
“I look at starting a business as an exercise in probability,” Canion said. “It was very, very exciting for company of Houston…which is not exactly a Mecca of high tech.”
The first office he used to headquarter Compaq had very little office furniture and employees used folding chairs to sit. “You start out with whatever you can get,” he said.
During his tenure with Compaq, the company expanded to become ranked third in the computer industry. “The Internet is the thing today,” Canion said. “You couldn’t do that if that phenomenon didn’t occur in the 80s.”
As a UH student, Canion said that when he first saw a computer, he understood its potential as a technological necessity. “I immediately recognized it would change the world,” he said.
Compaq created some of the first portable computers, which underwent changes through the years to become smaller and more functional.
“Everybody looked at them as if they were toys,” he said of the early computers. “When I saw a spreadsheet, I knew the world was going to change.”
Canion advised students to see opportunities when others see challenges and told them not to be discouraged by the economic downturn. “It’s a really difficult time to get started, and there may not be a better time,” he said. “Sometimes, in tough times, you’re going to find opportunities.”
By Mayra Cruz