Bob Hicks gets it. After 20 years in corporate finance and the new venture startup industry in New York City, he's back in State College serving as CEO of PerseaNaturals, a company that produces natural food colors from avocado seeds, and as part-time Presbyterian minister in the fly-fishing capital of the state.

When asked about the transition from New York City to Happy Valley, from big finance to a startup in Innovation Park, his answer is simple. It's not either/or, it's both.

“I am of the mindset that working in small as well as large companies can be a great experience. This plays into the atmosphere at Innovation Park. Yes, we are startups but we are utilizing the tremendous research assets and people of PSU. I think we need both – working in unison – to make this a great success.”

It doesn't just apply to business, either. He points out that State College's perks, that range from state parks and fly fishing to great public schools and farm-to-table restaurants, are a direct result of a world-class university nestled in farmland.

“It produces a tremendous diversity of thought and life philosophies,” Bob says. “It is my experience as a part-time minister and working with nonprofits that compassion and generosity are abundant throughout the community, which makes for a special place to work and live.”

Persea Naturals LLC seems to live by this harmonious dichotomy as well with Avocolor, its initial  invention. It was discovered at Penn State using a new process that creats a compound from avocado seeds where the end result is a wide range of natural food colors. The vibrant hues range from red to orange to yellow. It is being marketed to food companies now as a stable, marketable substitute for artificial colorant made from natural ingredients. It is stable against heat, PH, light and oxygen, something that many colorants can not do.

Bob was with AT&T Capital/Newcourt Capital/CIT Group for 20 years in various leadership positions, including the Managing Director, European Head of Media and Communications. He co-led the formation of DB MidMarket Capital, a startup M&A finance business for Deutsche Bank. He served as Asset Manager for Allied Capital, with over $3.0B in loan assets under management.

He provides leadership to Persea Naturals LLC in the areas of strategic development, corporate development, operations, sales/marketing and finance. When he's not at work he serves on various community boards, while also shepherding the church community in Upper Spruce Creek. As he says, why be either/or when you can be both?