COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Craig Smith (’97) knows a lot about growth. He helped build a 20-person startup into what is now HomeAdvisor, a leading digital marketplace with nearly 4,000 employees that connects people with professionals for home projects such as remodeling.
So when he reflects on his time at UCCS, and the commuter campus it was in 1994 when he enrolled, he’s proud to see how the university evolved.
“I fell in love with the experience, the small classes, and the serious student body that was there to learn,” Craig said. “I wanted a college experience, but I was ready to be a serious student, too.”
He focused on finance and portfolio management, which led to a growing relationship with now Chancellor Venkat Reddy, who taught many of Craig’s classes leading up to graduation.
Reddy recommended Craig for a three-year program as an investment analyst with the El Pomar Foundation; Craig earned his Chartered Financial Analyst credential, one of the most respected and recognized investment designations in the world.
“I was lucky to be accepted. It influenced me a lot,” Craig said, noting it exposed him to all the good the El Pomar Foundation does in the community.
It prepared him when expanding HomeAdvisor, which serves millions of people nationwide who are seeking reliable home improvement help. He joined in 2000, and it’s grown exponentially ever since.
“The mentorship I received at UCCS was so important. In the years after I graduated, I was able to reach back out to professors with questions, and they gave great guidance,” said Craig, who received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
The feedback was especially helpful when HomeAdvisor faced many hurdles, including well-funded competitors, the financial crisis of 2008 and more. The company began as ServiceMagic with just 20 employees.
“The largest hurdle we had to jump came in 2011 and 2012 when we rebranded from ServiceMagic to HomeAdvisor. We were by far the largest internet company to have rebranded at the time,” Craig said. “It was scary. For seven days, it was like our company didn’t exist.”
But after a campaign to spread awareness, and a refocusing of the company’s goals, Craig said the business bounced back — all the way to a merger with Angie’s List, the second leading brand in the field.
“I spent a lot of time listening to our customers, our employees. That engagement and feedback is important in so many ways. You’re able to piece it together and it congeals into strategy that helps drive business forward,” Craig said.
His UCCS experience was critical in developing his strengths as a leader, the biggest being his ability to listen.
“I’m an expert on very, very little. I’m rarely the smartest person in the room. But I’m able to bring lots of ideas together, and help in any situation,” Craig said. “The grit and resiliency that UCCS instils in its students makes its graduates really unique.”
That’s why he hopes to hire UCCS alumni to join HomeAdvisor’s Colorado Springs office.
“Maybe a student at UCCS has to work harder to prove themselves over a Stanford degree, but the quality of education is equal,” Craig said.
Reflecting on the changes both at HomeAdvisor, and at UCCS, Craig said he feels immense pride, both in the quality of both entities, as well as the retention of identity.
“UCCS still has this close-knit community feel to it. You don’t feel the class sizes are too large. The classes, the dorms, the buildings and the athletic teams are all a source of pride. It feels good to be a graduate.”
The UCCS Success Stories series aims to highlight an array of graduates from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Do you know of someone we should feature? Submit a nomination here.