Ronald Unkefer – BBA ‘66
Ron Unkefer is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First Ventures Capital Partners, a boutique venture capital fund based in Dallas, TX that Ron founded 15 years ago.
Ron is a serial entrepreneur who started at a young age. Ron grew up in Euclid and worked for a local TV & appliance store throughout high school and college. He was a first generation college student and began classes at Fenn College while working full-time. For his co-op opportunity, Ron teamed up with another CSU co-op student to work six months in California. He held a variety of often overlapping positions, including door-to-door sales, phones sales for the New York Times, wholesale rep for Hoover vacuums and record department manager at a discount department store. Ron believes this was an “excellent learning experience” that allowed him the “ability to mix theory with practice” in the fields of sales, buying, merchandising, wholesaling and marketing.
After graduation Ron became manager for a General Electric Appliance Center and then returned to the original TV & appliance store as a manager. Ron moved to California in 1972 and started as a floating manager for a San Francisco Bay Area retail electronics chain. Ron quickly realized that he was able to more than double sales on the days he managed their small 1,200 sq. ft. Marina District store. The location was losing money and the owner intended to close it soon. Ron the entrepreneur bought the lease and some old inventory for a few thousand dollars, re-merchandised the store and renamed it The Good Guys! He immediately began a citywide advertising campaign to brand his new store and expand the customer base.
As a result of his innovative sales, merchandising and advertising strategies, Ron’s good fortune allowed him to open a much larger, even more successful second store three years later in a San Francisco suburb. He eventually opened 71 stores that blanketed CA, NV, OR and WA. Ron served as Chairman and CEO, took the company public in 1986 and built the company to become the West Coast's largest and most profitable specialty retailer of consumer electronics. Ron retired as CEO in January 1993, but continued to serve as Chairman of The Good Guys! until January 1996 when the chain peaked at almost one billion in annual sales. In 1999 he returned as Chairman and CEO of The Good Guys! for two and a half years to keep it out of bankruptcy, revitalize the brand and lay the groundwork for the sale of the company to CompUSA which was completed in 2003.
After leaving The Good Guys! Ron founded First Ventures Capital Partners to make active investments in Silicon Valley technology start-ups at the beginning of the tech boom in the mid-1990’s. Three of his investments where he served as a board member (Digital On Demand, Warp Speed Communications and InfoGear) were ultimately sold to publicly held companies (Alliance, Enron and Cisco respectively).
Ron also founded First Broadcasting in 1992 to own and operate San Francisco radio stations KSFO and KYA. His new company then developed specialty expertise in the upgrade and relocation of radio stations. Over a ten year period First Broadcasting became the nation’s leading developer of radio stations, successfully creating well over a dozen major market stations for its own account as well as partnering with numerous publicly traded national radio chains to develop their stations. During Ron’s tenure at First Broadcasting (1993-2007), the company successfully petitioned the FCC to make important changes to key broadcasting spectrum rules and regulations. Under Ron’s leadership First Broadcasting also developed SpectraMax, the industry’s first true spectrum maximization software. This innovative and complex software suite was co-authored by Ron and is currently protected with ten pending patents.
Ron has served on the boards of more than a dozen companies in the public, private and non-profit sectors. He currently serves as Chairman of the Unkefer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping underprivileged children and improving wellness and health care in Texas.
Ron lives in the Highland Park area of Dallas with his wife, Terry, and their two daughters; he also has a grown daughter in California. He currently manages various First Ventures Capital Partners investments, owns and operates two radio stations and is exploring ideas for his next major business venture. Always an entrepreneur.