About the Book

The first book that traces an African American-owned high-technology business from dream to basement startup to multimillion-dollar international success.

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Proving Ground: A Memoir by W. David Tarver

What would cause a young African American engineer to walk away from a promising career at the world’s foremost electronics research and development company to start a business, from scratch, in his basement? David Tarver not only did that, he convinced two African American colleagues to join him in the improbable venture. Twelve years later, he negotiated the sale of that venture, Telecom Analysis Systems Inc., for $30 million. Tarver’s business success was accomplished without the help of angel investors, venture capital, government grants, or minority business development programs. He and his colleagues conceived, designed, engineered, and manufactured sophisticated telecommunications instruments and sold them in more than twenty countries. Along the way, they learned valuable lessons about technology, race relations, and business.

Proving Ground traces David Tarver’s journey from ambitious youth to determined entrepreneur to “free man.” The journey began in General Motors boomtown Flint, Michigan, where young David wondered why his father, an accomplished radio and television technician, only exercised his passion for electronics in the basement of their home. Inspired by his father’s expertise and the civil-rights movement, David resolved to one day start a company that made “electronic stuff.” He wanted to prove that, given opportunities and access his father never had, he could take charge of his career and his life. After college at General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) and then the University of Michigan, David began his professional career at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey. After seven years at the amazing Bell Labs, he decided to leave to fulfill his childhood ambition: David finally created a company that made “electronic stuff,” in the basement of his own home.

David Tarver felt he had something important to prove—to himself, to his colleagues, and to society. That is why he was willing to risk everything on a roll of the entrepreneurial dice. His compelling story will inform, motivate, and inspire anyone who has ever contemplated starting a business.

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