Alumni Spotlight – Chuck Templeton

Economics alumnus Chuck Templeton is used to blazing his own trail. Today, as an entrepreneur and mentor to young start-ups, he’s well acquainted with navigating uncharted markets and exploring new industries with a sense of adventure. Looking back, Templeton says he sharpened that spirit as a student at Cal Poly.

In the early 1990s, he fell in love with the natural beauty of San Luis Obispo. “I remember spending so much time on Bishop’s Peak, mountain biking through the hills, going to Avila and the beaches there — I was outdoors every day,” Templeton recalls.

As he moved toward graduation, he took that passion indoors through an environmental economics class. “I wrote my senior paper on pollution distribution sites in the LA Basin, exploring the whole idea of buying pollution credits from other companies who were reducing pollution faster than you were. That sort of thing helped me move toward the environmental bent that I’ve got these days.”

After graduation, Templeton gravitated toward the start-up scene. He took his first big step in entrepreneurship when he founded OpenTable in 1998, only four years after leaving Cal Poly. Today, what was once a humble startup is now the global leader in restaurant reservations with customers in all 50 states and more than a dozen countries. OpenTable’s success not only changed the way restaurants grow their customer base, it also opened doors for Templeton to focus full-time on his passion for the environment.

“Getting a platform of success under your belt, no matter how big, can be a huge platform of credibility,” says Templeton.

Templeton was eager to answer one central question: How do you build a for-profit business that makes the world a better place at the same time? To answer it, he joined Impact Engine, a venture accelerator supporting for-profit businesses that address an environmental or social goal.

Beginning in 2012, Templeton helped build Impact Engine from the ground up, providing leadership and guidance for nearly every facet of the business from company recruitment to corporate philosophy to funding and beyond. Today, he remains a part of Impact Engine as Chairman of the Board.

Templeton says that Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy has been an integral part of his professional experience and is one of his most valued traits in entrepreneurs.

“There’s room for theory and thinking strategically, but at the same time you’ve got to get your product or service out into the wild and see what the world thinks. You need to get out there, actually have mistakes, and try things, and iterate.”

For students about to begin their careers today, Templeton encourages them to stay frugal in entrepreneurship and focus on passion.

“I say do it because you want to do it, not because you think it’s going to make you money.”

To stay connected with Templeton, you can follow him on Twitter @CTemp.