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Learning by degrees

Tech entrepreneurs forego college

Fri, Feb 9th 2007 12:00 am
Business First of Buffalo  [ View Original Article ]

Joel Colombo, 360 PSG

For 360 PSG managing partner Joel Columbo, there was a lot of second-guessing about not going to college. Columbo, 28, started fiddling around in computer programming at 13 before school and late at night. Though he completed three semesters at UB, he felt stifled in the classroom and dropped out at 19. Columbo, whose parents owned a small trucking company, took the plunge and opened his first venture: a small retail computer shop in Pendleton, selling custom PCs, upgrades and repairs. A year later, he closed the shop and began doing freelance work in software and programming, eventually landing with the company that would ultimately spin out as 360 PSG about 18 months ago.

"When everyone else I knew was graduating from college, I was at a low point. My first business had closed and I thought maybe I took the wrong route," he said. "But once I met the right people and found how things worked, I was able to turn around and say 'I'm glad I took that route.' I learned so much more than I would have learned coming out of a classroom."

The business now has taken off, bolstered by Columbo's experience and the skills of his business partner, Matthew Whelan, an honors graduate of UB's computer science program. 360 PSG hit its targets last year, pulling in $300,000 in revenues, and surpassing first quarter targets for 2007. With six employees, the company hopes to reach $450,000 this year.