How Joseph Renton overcame startup woes and soared with the eagles with SSE

Joseph Renton, founder and chairman, Systems & Software Enterprise

Joseph Renton, founder and chairman, Systems & Software Enterprise



Although he was able to surround himself with talented professionals, Joseph Renton seemed to experience every possible problem when starting up a company in 1995. He had launched Systems & Software Enterprises (SSE) and utilized the technology consulting business to fund the development of new hardware products.

There was a lack of available capital, an ever-changing technology market and an aviation industry with tremendous barriers to entry for his in-flight entertainment efforts. But through it all, he never once accepted any venture capital money.

He was determined to see his vision through on his own terms. He knew he had to stay ahead of the innovation curve and that bringing in outside ownership would slow the process of finding creative solutions.

Undeterred, Renton used his relationships with bankers and clients to secure funding and even took out another mortgage on his house to see his company through its most difficult times. He knew that he had built a product that was superior to the competition and was willing to take necessary risks to prove that.

Renton focused on providing his team with interesting projects and establishing an entrepreneurial climate within the company, and he has found that the effort goes much further toward creating employee satisfaction than salary alone.

In 2001 his firm began marketing its first in-flight entertainment systems to major airlines. Soon after that release, 9/11 occurred, effectively bringing the avionics industry to a standstill. Rather than abandoning his vision during these slow times, Renton reinvested in development so his firm would be better positioned than its competition once everything returned to normal.

SSE rebounded stronger than ever, and after a decade of providing successful hardware systems, SSE was acquired by Zodiac in December 2012. However, as a true entrepreneur who is never satisfied, he used the time off to gain clarity and to prepare ways to create value in his next opportunity.

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