Emerging Technology Group
“No matter how motivated you are, there are those days that are hard and having people and that support, it gets you over the day. You must have that support team by your side and that’s what the SBDC provides for me.”
When Milton Winkles was just 8 years old, he hacked his father’s work computer so he could access the Internet without his parents knowing.
It got him into a bit of trouble at the time, but it remains one of his earliest memories of what would become a lifelong passion.
Winkles is the Founder and CEO of the Fairfield-based Emerging Technology Group, which builds, deploys, and sells high performance computing systems.
“We strive to make emerging technology accessible at the consumer level,” said Winkles, who has an office at Fairfield’s Daily Desk where clients can find him and his 13-year-old husky, Kara. “Most of our business is done with the government or schools and education. Right now, most emerging technology is at the scientific or research level. The systems we build, partnered with companies like Intel, Dell, and Lenovo, allow these technologies to be more consumer grade level.”
While he works with many independent contractors, Winkles helms Emerging Technology Group on his own. It is a very complex industry, even for someone with a degree in computer engineering and currently working on a Masters in data analytics. Running any business, he added, is no easy feat.
That’s where the Solano-Napa SBDC comes in. Winkles has been a Solano-Napa SBDC client for over two years now and part of the SBDC network for more than a decade.
“The SBDC has helped me to build a business from inception. I’ve used everything I can so far – and I want to use it all.”Milton Winkles
Winkles has worked with and on computers most of his life. After years of working for other companies, he decided it was time to branch out with his own venture. He has had the concept of Emerging Technology Group for years, although the business plan has gone through its fair share of pivots.
By early 2020, Winkles was settling into his new office space at the Daily Desk and with his venture just getting off the ground, he reached out to the Solano-Napa SBDC for no-cost advising.
He went on to join the Solano-Napa SBDC’s NxLevel entrepreneur training program, where participants meet as a cohort for 11 weeks and develop their own comprehensive business plans. He was only a couple weeks into the program when the COVID-19 pandemic turned his business upside down.
But he was not alone. Everyone in his cohort was having similar experiences and fears. The group pivoted online and continued meeting.
“NxLevel allowed me to see things I wasn’t necessarily looking at or for,” he said. “Without a plan, every great innovation and every great thought is nothing. You have to have that plan in place. And that’s what we created in NxLevel.”
The SBDC, he added, was an incredible resource for him during such an uncertain time. In addition to the NxLevel sessions, he met one-on-one with an advisor weekly throughout the spring of 2020.
“It’s like you are in a dark cave,” he said, “and to get through the cave, you’re going to need a headlamp. The SBDC gave me that headlamp.”
After the NxLevel program ended, Winkles continued meeting regularly with SBDC advisors. He knows the value of the one-on-one advising. He first became a SBDC client over a decade ago in his hometown in New Mexico. He is currently a member of the leadership and technology counsel of the National Small Business Administration (NSBA).
He is currently paired with Solano-Napa Advisor Paul Bozzo and focusing on financial aspects and how to raise funds to accelerate business growth. Winkles said he enjoys meeting with Bozzo because he is ‘straight to the point.’
“Prior to Paul, we were doing things by word of mouth,” Winkles said. “Within a month or two, we’ll complete our new website launch, where you can purchase your own laptop or build a laptop, all on our website. Paul is a guidance and a mentor, but he is also an accountability partner. I set up these meetings with him and it’s a deadline for me. We need these deadlines as entrepreneurs.”
“Paul is a guidance and a mentor, but he is also an accountability partner. I set up these meetings with him and it’s a deadline for me. We need these deadlines as entrepreneurs.”Milton Winkles
He is also a member of the SBDC’s Fairfield Entrepreneurs Roundtable group, which meets monthly at the Daily Desk. The group provides a space for entrepreneurs to share both challenges and successes with peers and focus on business best practices.
For Winkles, the roundtable group has allowed him to work on his business pitch.
“My pitch is still in the works because my company is still in the works,” he said. “This allows you to let it out and other people aren’t going to laugh at you. We’re all freaking out. And we’re all in this together.
“No matter how motivated you are, there are those days that are hard and having people and that support, it gets you over the day,” he said. “I tried too long to be a one-man show. It’s almost impossible to add value when you are by yourself. You must have that support team by your side and that’s what the SBDC provides for me.”