Introducing your speaker, David Tarver

Inspiring people to achieve their dreams…

David’s speeches and lectures draw upon his experience as a development engineer, company founder, global enterprise exec, community organizer, educator, and author.  These talks will inspire, but beyond that will help individuals and organizations find and exploit their true value.  David’s track record of entrepreneurship and innovation is proven and unique.  Consider these highlights:

  • Started a high-tech telecommunications instrumentation business in his basement and sold it twelve years later for $30 million.
  • Served as Group President–Telecoms for Spirent plc (formerly Bowthorpe plc) and spearheaded, through acquisitions and internal growth, over $250 million in sales and more than $2 billion market value.
  • Created an education advocacy non-profit community organization that catalyzed significant and lasting improvements in student achievement.
  • Authored a ground-breaking new book, Proving Ground: A Memoir, the first that traces an African American high-tech company from dream to basement startup to multimillion-dollar international success.
  • Began his career as a development engineer and technical manager at the world’s preeminent research and development company, AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Download speaker information sheet (1 page front/back)

Complete and submit speaker request form

Download Proving Ground book flyer (1 page front/back)



 “Tarver’s knowledge, sincerity, genuine concern for others, passion for learning, positive attitude and humor kept everyone in the audience (faculty, students, and the general public) engaged… He is the epitome of inspiration…Spellbound, entertained and inspired are just a few of the words that immediately come to mind when thinking of David Tarver and the impact he has with audiences.”
– Doug Neal, Executive Director, Center for Entrepreneurship,
University of Michigan College of Engineering

“[David] riveted the audience with his highly engaging oratory talents…It was clear to all that we were witnessing a figure who shaped our present reality, a living trailblazer. If you have the opportunity to sponsor David as a speaker, capitalize on it, and you will create a lifetime memory for your audience!”
– Marian R. Croak, Vice-President AT&T Labs,
AT&T Mobility

“The Ballenger Eminent Persons Lecture Series, a premiere program at Mott Community College in Flint Michigan, featured Mr.Tarver during the 2012 Winter Semester. He was such an inspiration for our students…we cannot wait until he comes back to help us close out our year of inspiring young entrepreneurs.”
– Lennetta B. Coney, President, Foundation for Mott Community College



The following represent just a few of the subjects that David is prepared to address.  Each talk draws upon his direct experience, and is partially or fully customized to the audience and the occasion.  Lively interaction is encouraged.


My story: how I built a multi-million dollar tech company from the ground up!

David started a tech business in his basement and sold it twelve years later for $30 million. This lecture tells the inside story of that amazing success. It begins with David’s childhood dream of starting a company that made “electronic stuff,” and culminates with the sale of the company to a British multinational. In between, David explores issues familiar to many aspiring entrepreneurs: How does one prepare for entrepreneurship? Where do business ideas come from? How do you raise money? How do you attract others to help build your dream? David’s story doesn’t just inform listeners, it inspires them to take action toward achieving their own goals. This talk presents issues of technology, culture, and business that are rarely if ever heard from one person.


Are you ready for entrepreneurship?

Many people have hatched a new business idea and have wondered if the idea is commercially viable. Others have dreamed of turning their idea into a business but don’t know how to get started. This talk breaks the logjam by laying out a systematic process for vetting and developing business ideas. David describes the process in general terms, and in terms of what did and didn’t work in his own experience. This is essential information for anyone who is looking to build a business from the ground up.


The million dollar idea: find it, test it, do it.

You want to start a business so badly you can taste it…but are you ready? People often say that passion is the most important ingredient in the entrepreneurial soup, but it certainly isn’t the only ingredient. Do you have what it takes to start your own business and make it successful? After this talk, you’ll be much closer to answering that question.


How this engineer learned sales — the hard way!

During one early sales call, things were going so badly that David wanted to punch his customer. Fortunately, David’s sales rep intervened, applied a classic “closing” technique, and won the sale. After that inauspicious beginning, David learned to mold his engineer persona into that of an effective salesman. What he learned – by brutal experience, lessons from his sales reps, and various books and articles – enabled him to lead a sales team that achieved success in more than twenty-five countries. This talk – sometimes funny, always brutally honest – tells how he did it. It will help anyone who didn’t “grow up” in sales – including most engineers – become a better salesperson.


Keep 100%: finance your business without giving up ownership!

Fewer than one percent of all businesses ever receive venture capital investment. Far fewer still are ever listed on a public stock exchange. This talk focuses on a crucial issue for the entrepreneur: how to adequately finance a business while giving up as little equity as possible. David and his two co-founders self-financed their business, and on the day they sold it, they owned nearly 100%. David describes how he and many other entrepreneurs self-financed their businesses, and he gives the pros and cons of that approach compared to seeking angel, venture capital, and stock market investment.


Turbocharge your career: act like an owner.

Creating a startup company is not for everyone. However, the principles of business model analysis can be applied in almost any work setting, or even in one’s personal life. David shows how to apply those principles in the corporate work environment and other settings. Applying this kind of analysis forces one to take the perspective of a business owner, rather than an employee, and almost always results in better job performance and career results.


Taking the plunge: when is it time to leave your “safe” corporate job?

Your corporate job doesn’t fulfill your dreams, but it does pay the bills. You are passionate about your new business idea, but you can’t eat passion. When is it the right time to leave your “safe” corporate job to start your business? How do you do it without going broke? What role should your family play in the decision? David faced these questions and more as he left his lucrative, prestigious job at AT&T to start a business in the basement of his home. He sheds light on his own thought process, and that of many other entrepreneurs, and leaves you with a framework for making your own go/no-go decision.


Don’t fear failure — use it!

Many articles about business startups espouse the notion that failure is good, and that entrepreneurs should embrace it. David takes a different approach – he encourages audiences to redefine and use failure.  He proposes a scientific approach to business decisions in which “failure” and “success” are just information, which can be used to sharpen the business and fuel growth.


Beyond the “isms:” building a powerhouse multicultural team.

Sexism.  Racism.  Ageism.  Xenophobia.  Homophobia. Any of these can devastate team moral and effectiveness, but identifying and modifying the resulting behaviors can prove nearly impossible. David uses examples from his own corporate, startup, and community organizing experience to describe the team-killing behaviors that flow from “isms” and phobias, and describes the values and behaviors that allow teams to unite and reach higher levels of performance.


Turbocharge your organization: act like a startup!

A startup is different from a large, established company. Startups are searching for a sustainable, grow-able business model, while established companies are mostly concerned with executing a tried and true formula. However, just because a formula has worked in the past doesn’t guarantee future success. In these days of rapid cultural and technological change, established companies would do well to apply some key startup methods in order to “unfreeze” their business models.


Should my first job after college be a startup?

A college grad who is seriously interested in entrepreneurship has three reasons for considering a corporate job: 1) to gain experience, insight, and connections, 2) to get more information about the corporate world before finalizing a career choice, and 3) to financially support herself and her family. In this talk, David gives a framework for making the get-a-job vs. entrepreneurship choice in light of one’s personal situation and the prevailing business environment.