Written Written by Taylor Mavrakos
Chris Morton attended the Duke Fuqua School of Business after receiving his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of California, Davis. During his time at Fuqua, he participated in the MBA exchange program and studied at the Indian School of Business. Chris has worked for both large companies and start-ups. He currently is the president of BlockScore, which offers an identity verification and anti-fraud solution for online transactions. Chris resides in the Bay Area.
1. You’ve worked in both large corporations and start-up ventures. What would you recommend for students directly after finishing at Duke, and why?
I think that students should focus on what’s important to them and do a lot of soul searching. Sometimes that’s trying out different environments such as a large company or a small company. Sometimes people tend to do what’s convenient or do what their friends are doing. I often encourage people to try their own thing because that’s what they want to end up doing later in their life, but they feel like they should take a more comfortable path. It’s more risky to work for a smaller company. It’s even more risky to start your own small company. If you want to do your own thing, there are a lot of people in the Duke community that can help you do it.
2. What are the positive and negative aspects of large corporations and start-up ventures? Do you have a preference?
I went from a very large company to smaller ones. I worked at IBM, and I actually got laid off, but I went back again because I was so committed to that environment. I ended up realizing it wasn’t a good fit for the way I operate. I tend to be pretty intense so I want to do something where I’m all-in. I have a hard time being at a job where I’m only committing a handful of my energy and identity to that. So I picked an environment where I felt like it represented me and was part of my identity. That’s really where small companies and especially starting my own small company was a huge benefit for me.
3. Why did you decide to attend Fuqua?
I had become rather complacent. We sold our company to Cisco and I was very comfortable there. I just found it wasn’t as challenging as I would have liked it to be. I also wanted to try out a new area and perhaps go off and do some more soul searching.
4. What sparked your interest in working with the developing world?
In the Bay Area there are so many people from different cultures. You can’t really appreciate a culture until you go off and immerse yourself in it. While I was at Duke, a lot of people there were from different cultures as well. Some grew up in the United States and some relocated here for school. I was fortunate enough to be selected to do an exchange program at ISB, the Indian School of Business. I did that and I was able to travel around before and after that experience. I traveled to thirteen countries total in that three-month period.
5. What advice would you give to Duke student innovators and entrepreneurs?
Go and get the most out of the environment. Duke provides a very rich environment but it’s often outside of the walls of the buildings that you’re in frequently or the classrooms that you’re in. With Fuqua specifically, our programs are very much based inside the Fuqua school. I spent a lot of time working with undergrads and professors outside of the business school, and those are some of the richest relationships I had. I still work with Duke undergrads that are starting companies. They are often the people I call for help because we are in similar circles and can help each other. People in the business school who I have encouraged to go off and do their own thing have come back and thanked me for helping them in that direction. Often schools work best for certain tracks like banking, consulting, etc. You may have to search for the more unobvious tracks, and that’s where a lot of people find the most rewarding experiences because they find a better fit for their personality and identity.
The other piece of advice I have is to be someone in whom people want to make an investment. I love investing in people who will be valuable and take the information I provide and make it into something good. People who are just looking for someone to validate what they already think aren’t necessarily the type of people I want to invest in. I want to give my time and energy to people who will go and do a lot with it.