Interview with FedEx Founder Fred Smith — Yale University

fedex-airplane.jpgUrban legend has it that FedEx was born when Fred Smith wrote a C paper in an economics class at Yale. Turns out Smith doesn’t really remember the grad he received, but he did write the paper.

Check out this BusinessWeek interview with Smith. Here is a snippet:

Q: Part of the lore of FedEx is that you wrote a term paper while a grad student at Yale that first explored the idea of an overnight-delivery service — and that you received a C from a skeptical professor. Was that term paper truly the genesis of FedEx?

A: The question is prescient because there wasn’t a single “eureka” moment. The original idea for FedEx came when I wrote a term paper as an undergraduate — not as a graduate student, because I never went to graduate school — about a very simple observation: As society automated, as people began to put computers in banks to cancel checks — rather than clerks — or people began to put sophisticated electronics in airplanes — society and the manufacturers of that automated society were going to need a completely different logistics system.

That was becoming obvious to me both from just reading about it from an academic standpoint, and in those days I used to fly — I was a charter pilot at the Tweed New Haven airport. I flew around to those airports up there, and all those high-tech companies, including IBM (IBM ) and Xerox (XRX ), that’s what their pilots used to talk about — what a difficult proposition it was to keep their field-service engineers and their parts and logistics systems operating. In fact, a lot of the corporate airplanes up there were doing nothing more than flying [computer] parts and pieces around…when the computer would break down.

That was the paper, and the whole issue about the C on the grade, came from naivete on my part when I was talking to a reporter years and years ago, and he asked what I made. I said, “I don’t know, probably made my usual C.”

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2 responses to “Interview with FedEx Founder Fred Smith — Yale University

  1. Pingback: I Can Has Social Network: From Meme to Community | aha-moments

  2. Pingback: A New Interview with Fred Smith of Fedex « Campus Entrepreneurship

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