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When it comes to IT, oftentimes two heads are better than one. But how about an entire company filled with heads working for you?

Chicago-based Syntress offers outside CTO or CIO services for companies of all sizes, from a single person all the way up to $5 billion financial institutions. Whatever your field, Syntress provides services in online marketing, SEO, social media, web design, and mobile app flavors.

We chatted with Syntress CEO Lane Campbell, who told us about the dismantled Gameboys that led to his fascination with tech, and how, out of all the super powers in the comic book arsenal, he would choose to speak dog.

What was the inspiration behind Syntress?

I started a company at 17 called Mad Doctor Computers. We built gaming computers, like VoodooPC or Alienware.

Unfortunately my folks considered college a little more important than I would say I did and they convinced me to shut it down and go to school. One of those regrets, right?

After that I went to school for computer engineering. While I was in school I started a company called ZigZap, which provided hosted PBX phone systems. I learned a lot about IP telephony and we kept growing in that until I ended up selling my share in early 2011. Then I started Syntress.

Syntress is a passion for me, that’s why I started it. It’s something I really enjoy doing. We’ve got a great team of people across the country that we work with. We’ve been ranked as one of the 250 fastest growing IT companies in the country last year by CRN, which is a pretty great honor to have bestowed upon us.

We’ve been going to different conferences around the country trying to talk with vendors like Cisco and VMware and different companies like those that help us achieve our goals with our customers.

When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

It’s been in my blood as far as I can remember. Even before I was 10 I was taking apart a Gameboy to figure out how it worked and make sure that I could put it back together again -- that was the trickier part. From there I just started showing other people.

Before I opened my first company I’d do computer repair for people just in the neighborhood. I was always pretty entrepreneurial. As young as 11 I was babysitting for other kids. I never really worked for anybody else for extended periods of time.

I had a couple stints in high school working for a McDonald’s for a few weeks and for a super market chain for a couple others. That was mostly at my parents’ behest and I was making less money than when I was doing computer repair.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do as an entrepreneur?

The hardest thing any entrepreneur faces is persistence. It’s one thing to know you have a good idea, it’s another thing to convince the rest of the world that it’s a good idea.

I’ll give you an example. You might have the finest t-shirts in all of Chicago, but if you’re not going to sit down and market and sell it, then no one will ever know and you will fail. It’s a persistent, ethical, and polite leader that typically succeeds.

If you had all the money in the world, what would your days look like?

I would travel more. I’d probably go back to Prague some more, go back to Amsterdam. Those are fun cities.

If you could have one super power, which would you choose?

I would speak dog, because dogs are everyone’s best friends and if every dog in the world loved me, everyone else would too.

What advice would you give to any first time entrepreneurs out there?

Cash flow it, don’t borrow. If your idea requires too much capital to get started, find a different way. Don’t borrow, don’t take credit, and don’t give up equity until you have something of value and you can get money for it.

Never give up control. It’s not yours anymore if you do that.

What’s next for Syntress?

Syntress is going nationwide. We’re going to take this concept past just the Midwest market and to a national platform. We’ve been working on a new lead generation source and we’re going to have a two-stage concept here. 

We’re going to sell leads across the country for different IT projects to come into our hands and simultaneously we’re also going to be offering franchises, so if you’re looking to operate an IT consulting company somewhere in the country and you want a territory and some inbound leads to compliment it that’s what we’re here for.


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Lane Campbell
Corey Cummings
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