Entrepreneurs are the creative class that makes the world a better place with new inventions, new concepts,” says lifelong entrepreneur Charlie Horn, 64, whose $3 million commitment to the University of Delaware led to creating its Horn Program in Entrepreneurship.
“I was always interested in starting my own business, but in those days [he’s a UD 1975 graduate] universities were focused on preparing students to work for someone else, not for yourself.” No longer. UD wants to expose every student to entrepreneurial thinking.
“The state of Delaware and the University of Delaware have an enormous opportunity to be highly effective centers for innovation,” says Horn, who is based in Arizona. “The roadmap is clear, but we need to create the conditions for success. Horn is creating those conditions in collaboration with other centers for innovation at UD and across the globe.”
Here’s what drives him: “I am inspired by the amazing creativity of others that can be translated into viable marketplace solutions that make the world a better place. Whether that is manifested in social or business ventures, the creation and design of new value propositions drive tremendous improvement in productivity, health care, technology, science, the sustainability of the planet, overall job creation, economic development and the expansion of societal wealth. The key to achieve this to create optimal conditions to cultivate innovation and the deployment of new and compelling value propositions. We call this entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship education develops the personal capabilities to achieve the successful development of innovation in any field.”
Horn credits skills learned captaining UD’s golf team and studying human behavior in his sociology major for boosting his career, which began with self-employed gigs and small startups. He was 42 when he turned his knowledge of insurance and employee benefits into his first scalable venture.
He has founded a dozen firms. His ScriptSave pioneered cutting the cost of medications, especially before Medicare Part D, thereby saving uninsured or underinsured consumers up to $1.5 billion a year.
His LinkedIn profile notes his companies have often been named the most admired and best places to work, and he linked those accolades to the corporate culture he instilled. He created companies where employees “can achieve their potential without changing jobs, be on a winning team and love working together on a common mission that combines their passions and their skill sets.”
His latest gigs in the profile are joining the board of MyTaskit (“task coordination tools for service professionals”) and co-founding Genius Avenue, which “connects consumers with benefits providers.”
“Charlie is an inspiration, role model and mentor,” says Horn program director Dan Freeman. “He has an insatiable drive to accomplish his higher purpose, and he’s remained firmly grounded and empathetic while directing his wisdom and generosity toward the creation of world class educational opportunities that will enable others to thrive.”
“Anyone with a dream can see that dream fulfilled, but they need skills, resources and expertise,” Horn says. He believes the Horn program “optimizes successes” and hopes an entrepreneurial spirit will enable UD to “harness and unleash its scientific research” in innovative and commercialized ways.
The philosophical foundations of entrepreneurship fit “millennials [who] want to change the world and do things differently,” he says. Horn’s Diamond Challenge proves that point: half the high school entrepreneurs, this year from 25 states and 36 countries, envision social enterprises. “A good school, good grades and a good job are no longer good enough. They know they need to be problem solvers.”
“Attitude is the ultimate competitive advantage—choose yours,” his email signature reads.