Rice University Entrepreneur Society. Ideas to Action Organization. Students. Visions. Results.


Rice to Riches:

True Stories of Leading Entrepreneurs

On Thursday, November 17, Ideas to Action brought three of the most successful entrepreneurs ever to graduate Rice back to campus to share their stories and give advice to aspiring students.


What makes a successful entrepreneur?

Instead of focusing on specialized knowledge or abstract advice to answer this question, Rice
to Riches was designed with the power of personal stories in mind.

As students plan for the future, we thought that the experiences of some of the most successful men and women in American – each of whom was not long ago in their shoes – would prove invaluable.


Thomas Fatjo, Jr. In 1966, Mr. Fatjo started BFI, a waste management company, with one truck in Houston that ultimately became a $6 billion revenue company. In 1975 he became an investor in Criterion Management, a money management company that grew from $300 million to $13 billion in managed funds, which was sold to Transamerican Financial. He also developed The Houstonian, a $125 million real estate project in Houston including a 300-room hotel, fitness club and 155 unit high rise condominium, which was sold to the Redstone Group. In 1990, he founded Republic Waste Industries, Inc., a waste company that has become a $3 billion revenue company. In 1988, he founded WCA Waste Corporation, a regional waste company with revenue in excess of $100 million, which he remains CEO and President of today. Mr. Fatjo, Jr. received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rice University.

Frank Liu. The principal and founder of Lovett Homes, a high end custom home and town home builder in the Houston area. Founded in 1980, there are now more than 2000 Lovett Homes in Houston's finest neighborhoods. Mr. Liu also owns and operates over 30 developments including retail, restaurant and pharmacies. In 2003 Frank began InTown Homes, an innovative development company that builds new residential communities in close-in locations without the high prices. Mr. Liu operates an extensive portfolio of other businesses in sectors such as residential development, commercial real estate development, engineering services, builder software, title company, building material manufacturing, import/export businesses and restaurant franchises. He employs over 80 employees across his companies. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Rice University in 1978. He also serves on the board of the Spring Branch Management District and the St. Joseph Hospital Foundation.

Troy Williams. The founder and CEO of Questia Media, the world's largest online library. Mr. Williams founded Questia in 1998 and, since its inception, has overseen the development of the Questia service, built a management team with a depth of experience in the technology, Internet, library and publishing industries, and secured more than $150 million in financing. Mr. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts from Rice University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School and hails from Mystic, Connecticut.

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