Eric Ayala ’93
In the mid-90’s, Eric Ayala ’93 found himself in the heart of the Silicon Valley boom.
He made his way out west right in the middle of the “dot-com era,” when there was rapid growth in the internet sector. He ended up staying in Silicon Valley for 15 years. Ayala says he lost count of how many companies he has worked with.
With a knowledge of computer science and business acumen, both developed while at Radford University, Ayala has helped numerous start-up tech companies become profitable. If a company has a product but does not know how to take it to market – as in, who to sell it to and at what price – they will ask Ayala to help figure it out. It all started with the first company he joined while still in Virginia after graduating from Radford University. “I entered that company as employee number 40. I left six years later when we had 5,000 employees worldwide and billions in revenue,” Ayala remembers.
As a freshman and sophomore, Ayala was a computer science major, learning about coding and technology. He eventually switched to economics to finish his degree. “When I graduated, I ended up merging both of those things. I’ve been on the edge of technology and business ever since,” Ayala says. “Radford University was the foundation for that. It’s clear that’s where it all began for me.”
Ayala now works in venture capital, a role similar to his Silicon Valley days, but from an investor’s perspective. He still works with tech start-ups, but will both invest in and apply his experience to the company, making the company money while also protecting his investment.
Ayala is tri-lingual, speaking English, Spanish and Portuguese. He credits his now expert-level Spanish speaking to former Radford University Spanish teacher Leonor Ulloa. “I could speak at a basic level when I entered Radford University,” he says. “But she helped me become fluent by the time I left. It’s probably one of the biggest assets I received from Radford University.” This especially helped when Ayala was tasked with business dealings in Latin America. He picked up Portuguese while living in Brazil for a short time.
Ayala currently works at Ready4, an MIT-founded education technology company based in Boston that makes test and exam preparation apps. His future includes doing the same thing he has always done. “I realized early on that I enjoy working for small companies,” Ayala says. “I enjoy the intimacy and getting to wear many different hats. With larger companies, you don’t get that.”
It all started with Radford University. “The entire economics department gave me a passion for business and economics. It’s a passion I still maintain to this day,” Ayala says. For current students looking to make a difference in the business world, he recommends taking a similar college career path to his own. “All the great business leaders I’ve worked with understand every facet of business,” Ayala advises. “The really great ones speak multiple languages and have a global vision.
“When you’re in college, that’s when you should expose yourself to many different subjects. Go study abroad, learn a new language and take classes you’re interested in. I took an economics class as a computer science major at Radford University and that changed my entire life.”