Meet the Sun Devil 100 — Class of 2018 alumni

It’s no small feat to start your own business. It takes know-how, passion, and grit. This year five information systems undergraduates were recognized for their entrepreneurial spirit and honored for this special award.

The Sun Devil 100 is an elite group of Arizona State University alumni who own or lead successful, innovative businesses in a variety of industries around the world. Each year the university invites the 100 professionals back to campus for an awards ceremony in their honor.

Nathan Policar

Among them is Nathan Policar (BS Computer Information Systems, ’06/MBA ’09), who quit his full-time job with W.  P. Carey doing tech support for the finance department to start his company. Policar faced many naysayers who thought he was crazy for stepping out on his own just as the recession hit in 2007.

His company, StatBroadcast, is a technology partner for NCAA athletic departments, helping them take live and historical statistics from their athletic events and broadcast them in real time to the internet, television, and scoreboards in arenas and stadiums. The company also interacts with NCAA fans through social media.

Policar is grateful he didn’t listen to the doubters. His company now serves more than 300 universities and athletic conferences, as well as NCAA championships, the Fiesta Bowl, and the College Football Playoff.

“My advice to new graduates interested in entrepreneurship is to believe in yourself and don't be afraid to take a risk and fail,” he says.

His experience at W. P. Carey was crucial to his success. Policar says the skills he learned in the classroom have been directly transferrable to starting and running his own business. One of the biggest challenges StatBroadcast faced was how to compete as a startup in a market that was dominated by big names such as ESPN and CBS. Remaining agile and adapting quickly to changing technology and the needs of university athletic departments have kept the company moving forward and growing.

“Our goal is to continue to grow and expand the company so that we become synonymous with experiencing college athletics on mobile devices or computers,” he says.

Carrie Dougher

Carrie Dougher (BS Computer Information Systems 15) knows a thing or two about mobile devices as the chief operating officer of Buyback Boss, a company that buys electronic devices like smartphones and repairs, recycles, or reuses the old devices. Buyback Boss is one of the leading trade-in platforms in the industry and because of its success, Dougher landed on the Sun Devil 100.

Dougher and company founder, Jack Wight – also a Sun Devil 100 member – were next-door neighbors in the dorms at ASU. They’ve kept the business local, headquartering in the Valley and maintaining the office with 11 full-time staffers who are Sun Devils.

Bryan Bunker

Inductee Bryan Bunker (BS Accountancy/Computer Information Systems ’00) could often be seen sprinting across campus in his suit and tie, sometimes twice a day, trying to juggle full-time work and dual undergrad degrees.

“I learned to prioritize and balance the urgent and important during my time at ASU,” he says. “That has served me well throughout my career.”

Bunker made the Sun Devil 100 list for his role leading Menlo Group Commercial Real Estate, a boutique brokerage firm based in the Valley. Tanner Milne, the company’s founder, is also a Sun Devil 100 member.

As the company’s chief operating officer, Bunker is focused on growing the company and building a strong team, without sacrificing the positive office culture.

“I learned the value of teamwork and the importance of having a clear vision of what success looks like,” he says. “A healthy team is critical to business success.”

Bunker’s advice to recent graduates and budding entrepreneurs is to follow their passion and throw themselves into it wholeheartedly. He also says surrounding himself with a group of smart people who truly cared about him, listened to him, and pushed him was essential to his success.

Three-time Sun Devil 100 inductees

Lisa Van Bockern (BS Accountancy/Computer Information Systems ’98) and Michael Hawksworth (BS Accountancy/Computer Information Systems ’79) are veterans of the Sun Devil 100, as three-time inductees.

Van Bockern is owner and founder of Skin Script, a company offering clinical, professional skin care products, as well as continuing education for aestheticians.

Van Bockern says when she came up with the idea for her skin care product line, she had to have faith in it and did her best to keep the cynics at bay. Her advice for young entrepreneurs is to start small and grow.

“Don’t try to bite off multimillion-dollar sales until you get your finances, marketing, and operations working well,” says Van Bockern, whose early challenges were delegating duties and hiring staff to free up her time to “work on the business, instead of in the business.” Hawksworth started MSS Technologies, Inc., a management consulting company, in 1986 after graduating. Finding inspiration from other entrepreneurs who had been in Hawksworth’s shoes was helpful to him, and Hawksworth recommends new business owners do the same.

“I advise all entrepreneurs to connected with people in the business, community, and industry organizations early in their company’s growth,” he says. “You will find many people in these organizations who provide energy and will share their experiences because they enjoy and thrive on seeing others succeed.”

By Jenny Keeler