UMW Executive-in-Residence Talks Entrepreneurship and Startups

Matt Ernst, the University of Mary Washington’s 2013 Executive-in-Residence, has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to entrepreneurship and startup companies.

Matt Ernst '94 (center) talks with business leaders during the Executive-in-Residence breakfast on Feb. 27.

Matt Ernst ’94 (center) talks with business leaders during the Executive-in-Residence breakfast on Feb. 27.

The 1994 UMW graduate shared his tips with regional business leaders and community members during a breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center.

“Without calculated risk there are no innovations,” said Ernst, who started his first business, a lawn care company, as a teenager.

After college, Ernst founded Amentra, a company that provided systems integration services. He started the company in 2000 during the dot-com boom and two weeks before the dot-com bust. Under Ernst’s guidance and leadership Amentra became one of the fastest growing privately held companies in the country, and he was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. He sold the company in 2008 to Red Hat, one of the world’s leading providers of open source solutions.

His other pieces of advice included having a diversity of experience, remembering that change is constant, having a vision and having a strong appetite for risk.

During the two-day Executive-in-Residence program, Ernst gave presentations to faculty, staff and students. He talked with students and answered questions about his experiences at UMW and his first job out of college.

“Get a job and be a sponge and really learn as much as you can,” Ernst said. “Every conversation you have in life, take something away from it.”

His latest venture is Walnut Grove Holdings, LLC, an investment company focusing on early stage technology companies. Ernst is married to fellow UMW graduate Amy Henderson Ernst. They have three children and live in Richmond.

Since its inception in 1989, the Executive-in-Residence program has brought more than 40 well-known and established business leaders to the university. The program is coordinated through the UMW College of Business and the Division of Advancement and University Relations.