Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

October 10, 2022

Serial entrepreneur Briere looks to bring startup culture to Trinity College

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Entrepreneur Danny Briere is the inaugural director of the Trinity College Center for Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur Danny Briere has been a consultant for about 200 startup companies (most in the telecommunications field) and has started about a dozen new businesses himself.

Now he’s bringing that experience to Hartford-based Trinity College, which has opened a new Center for Entrepreneurship.

The goal of the center, college officials said, is to support students, faculty and alumni who hope to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, such as startups, under Briere’s tutelage. Briere — who is also the CEO and co-founder of Startup Connecticut, a statewide startup initiative focused on job creation — is the center’s inaugural director.

Open space at the Trinity College Center for Entrepreneurship at 1 Constitution Plaza in Hartford.

In a recent interview with the Hartford Business Journal, Briere, who divides his time between Mansfield and Delaware, said he intends to relay what he’s learned as an entrepreneur — including the fact that most startups will fail, something that shouldn’t discourage people from taking risks — to those who might want to follow in his footsteps, or at least pave their own independent path.

“We want to bring in students who have entrepreneurial leanings, find them, activate them, get them on our list and have them come to events and the many opportunities we will have,” said Briere, who noted the center will have strong hands-on collaboration with the business community.

Who is Danny Briere?

Briere, 61, is an alum of Duke University, where he received both a bachelor’s degree (in telecommunications public policy and economics) and an MBA. It was at the North Carolina-based college where he said he took entrepreneurship courses and was hooked.

Briere said after graduating college he did not get many job offers, so he decided to start his own business. He borrowed $125,000 from his father — later paying him back, with interest, $450,000 — and in 1985 started his first company called TeleChoice, an internet and network management consultancy.

TeleChoice’s initial service used software to help companies decide which long distance phone carrier to choose based on service quality and price, he said.

His first client was a hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

TeleChoice grew Briere’s stature in the telecom industry. As the company grew — it was bringing in annual revenues in the “high seven figures,” he said — it also expanded services to clients, telecom carriers and vendors. At its peak, the company had about 120 employees.

Then, the telecom crash of 2001 changed everything, Briere said.

“The entire landscape for the whole telecommunications industry changed overnight,” he said. “Many, many telecom startups went under because venture capital dried up immediately, and most could not last through the drought.”

Briere said he had an eight-figure deal to sell TeleChoice two weeks from closing when the crash hit; the deal didn’t close. Today, Briere said, TeleChoice is a holding company for his various startup businesses.

During his time at TeleChoice — and afterwards — Briere said he advised CEOs of various startups and senior management at major telecom companies, including AT&T, Lucent, Sprint and MCI.

He also worked with leadership in several countries — including South Africa, Ukraine and Jordan — on how to launch and exploit broadband wireline and wireless networks, services and applications.

Briere’s other ventures have included a regional Caribbean airline, CaribeAir. He was part of an executive team that sold the company for an undisclosed sum. He also founded the STEMIE Coalition, a nonprofit startup that took the popular K-12 Connecticut Invention Convention, a youth invention and education program, beyond the state’s borders.

Not all of his ideas were successful, he admits.

In fact, Briere said, “it’s fair to say that 70% of my endeavors did not work. But, that’s normal, that is par for the course. That’s where the baseball analogy comes in because if you get three hits in every 10 at bats you are doing really well.”

One of his startups that didn’t work was MoxMe!, a community-based social network.

“There must be a willingness to fail,” he said. “There’s a saying in the entrepreneurship industry and that is, if you are going to fail, fail fast. Don’t waste a lot of your time. Entrepreneurship is a lot about pivoting. If you try one thing and it doesn’t work, then you try something else.”

While Briere’s entrepreneurial pursuits have been based in locations throughout the country, he was selected in 2011 to head Startup Connecticut, the state arm of Startup America, an initiative under then-President Barack Obama to jump-start the nation’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In that role, Briere said he has worked with many individuals and groups to help grow the state’s innovation ecosystem.

Briere is also the author of many books, whitepapers, and reports on a wide range of telecommunications, internet and consumer topics. He is the author of 13 “For Dummies” domestic editions and numerous internationally translated editions including “Smart Homes for Dummies”; “Wireless Home Networking for Dummies”; and “Internet Telephony for Dummies.”

Sonia Cardenas, Trinity College’s faculty dean and vice president for academic affairs, said Briere has the passion and experience the school was looking for when it cast a wide net for a center director.

“Danny brings years of experience and a proven track record as a successful entrepreneur,” Cardenas said. “He also recognizes the value of the liberal arts. He listens, models curiosity and empathy, and sees opportunities at every turn. Most importantly, he is passionate about building entrepreneurial skills and empowering young people.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF