“As you work your way through your career, you ask yourself what impact you are having,” said Pasquale Romano '83. “Transportation is a huge market, and the transformation to electric drive has enabled me to build a business and do something good for the world at the same time.”
When Pasquale Romano ’83 attended The Hun School, he didn’t know that he would go on to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But Mr. Romano, a tech start-up entrepreneur, said going from his small-town home in Mercerville, New Jersey, to The Hun School, was a bigger life-changing event than attending Harvard.
“I was a small-town kid whose parents didn’t go to college,” said Mr. Romano, who is CEO of ChargePoint, the world’s largest electric car charging station network. At Hun, “kids learned to think for themselves and manage their time.” Hun students, he noted, were also from across the country, and around the world. “The experience made me realize early on that it’s a big world out there.”
It’s a world that Mr. Romano has conquered with four tech start-ups.
After getting a master’s degree focused on digital video compression technology from MIT in 1989, he co-founded Fluent, a video compression company that was sold four years later. His next venture was Polycom, a maker of speaker phones and video conferencing systems that went public in 1996. Next, he co-founded 2Wire, a company specializing in high-speed internet access for homes and businesses, with customers such as AT&T, Verizon, and other telecom providers around the world. (Telecom company Pace bought 2Wire in 2010.)
Currently, he is CEO of ChargePoint in Campbell, California, which sells electric vehicle charging stations to businesses, along with subscription services to its network. Now operating in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the company has more than 31,000 charging stations in operation and plans to expand into China and Europe this year. Mr. Romano sees ChargePoint as a way to create a successful business model while contributing to the fight against climate change.
“As you work your way through your career, you ask yourself what impact you are having,” he said. “Transportation is a huge market, and the transformation to electric drive has enabled me to build a business and do something good for the world at the same time.”
In addition to running ChargePoint and sitting on numerous boards, Mr. Romano owns two restaurants, Centonove and Cin Cin, both in Los Gatos, California.
“I like food and wine, and I like building businesses,” he said.
Married just over a year ago, his wife, Andrea, manages both restaurants, and the couple have four children in their “crazy blended family.”
Not too bad for a boy who grew up working in his parents’ shoe repair shop in Princeton. His dad, also Pasquale, is an Italian immigrant and his mom, Julia, is from Trenton, New Jersey.
“My parents had an inkling of what they wanted for me, and like many immigrants, my dad focused on education (as a way) for their kids not to go through the school of hard knocks that they did,” he said. Mr. Romano started that journey at The Hun School. (His brother, Mario, attended nearby Notre Dame High School).
“Hun treated you like an adult early on,” he said, calling it “close to a college environment” and noting it had a great faculty, a good science and math department, and small classes in informal settings.
“Sometimes, it was sitting around a coffee table, discussing literature, history, whatever,” he said, recalling that Janet Kuenne, his English teacher, encouraged him to apply to Harvard. “If it weren’t for her, I don’t know if I would have gone there. Talk about playing a pivotal role in someone’s life: I had no idea how influential that nudge would be.”
As for entrepreneurship, “Hun develops independent thinking with all the skills that support that. If you’re comfortable having less scaffolding, I generally don’t recommend spending too much time working for a large company,” he noted. “You get put in a little box, and it constrains your development... (though) some career paths require a bit of steeping in a structured environment before you jump to smaller companies.”
“Working in a start-up is one of the most thrilling things you can do, like being an adrenaline junkie at an amusement park,” he said.“Creating a new market, watching it evolve, seeing how a business works... I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”