Tech Titan Rick Inatome Knighted for Entrepreneurial and Humanitarian Achievements

By Jordan French Jordan French has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on March 21, 2024

Rick Inatome is a Detroit native who, having worked closely with tech pioneers such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, is recognized as an architect of the digital age. He commenced his career in Detroit, where he established a disruptive technology distribution channel that introduced the personal computer to the general public and corporate America and ultimately became a Fortune 500 Company. 

Inatome currently serves as Managing Director of Collegio Partners, which provides strategic assistance for service-based businesses such as educational institutions that require or seek restructuring, capital, and/or growth. He is also Chairman of Leman Manhattan Preparatory School, a position that reflects a career-long interest in education and a focus that has been sharpened by an understanding that the future of education demands transformative leadership and models. 

Among his many honors, Inatome last month was inducted as a Knight of the Royal Order of Francis I, which dates to the pre-Italian unification of the Bourbon TwoSicilies. This centuries old order includes the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Desmond Tutu, numerous royals and statesmen/women, and others recognized for their contributions to public life, arts, sciences, literature, agriculture, and science. 

Rick Inatome was knighted in recognition of his entrepreneurial and humanitarian accomplishments. Currently, the Royal Order is launching a series of initiatives, which include the exchange of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders from Europe and the Arab world.

What does being a knight mean in today’s world?

Well, I am glad that I will not have to carry a sword or rescue damsels in distress. I have found that people are interested in what the privileges are. What I learned, however, is that knighthood does not confer any privileges. Rather, it establishes a set of values and entails new responsibilities that I must live up to. 

Tell me about some of these responsibilities and values.

They are a code that provides good reminders for how a knight should act and interact with others. Humility, for instance, is high on the list. Knights never announce their status as a knight. They simply must behave as one — reflecting an understanding that they are better than no one.

Some other qualities are gratitude for the gift of life, forgiveness, honesty, justice, equality, courage, and love. These, along with others, draw out a better nature that even though developed many years ago are more needed today now than any time in our history. 

Has your knighthood changed your outlook on relationships and the legacy you are unfolding?

Very much so. First and foremost, it has led me to reflect more deeply on what I pass down generationally, which is important at this stage of my life as a grandparent. There is a saying that a grandfather has three roles — sometimes a parent, sometimes a teacher, and often a best friend. 

 In each of these capacities, the knighthood model provides a valuable foundation for growth and development. Becoming a knight also has sharpened my perspective on how my parents’ life and my upbringing establish a responsibility to build upon their legacy and hopefully inspire intergenerationally through the role I have with my grandkids.

Can you tell me more about these experiences?

Sure. Like many of the “greatest generation” immigrants who came from Japan in the early 20th Century, my mother’s and father’s parents came to the United States selflessly for a better opportunity for their children. Settling in California, they encountered pervasive prejudice and discrimination that was embodied in federal and state law and denied Asian immigrants citizenship and rights otherwise taken for granted by Americans.

Through hard work and perseverance, they endured these hardships that culminated in their internment in relocation camps during World War II. Even amid wartime hysteria and what the Supreme Court described as “one of the most sweeping and complete deprivation of rights” in the country’s history, some of America’s transcendent qualities prevailed and enabled my parents to navigate a pathway to success.

Through the benevolence of an Episcopalian priest and Chrysler Corporation executive in Detroit, my parents secured sponsorships that emancipated them from the camps and brought them to Michigan where my family’s future was unlocked. And they chose to be grateful for their blessings as opposed to seeing themselves as victims. 

What did your knighting mean in relation to this family journey?

The most important aspect of the ceremony was the impact it had on my 97-year-old mother. As I saw tears well up in my mother’s eyes, I realized it was a capstone moment that validated all the risks, hardships, and struggles she, her parents, and my father endured. 

It left me with a deepened sense of gratitude and an even greater resolve to pass forward the responsibility (not the privilege) of knighthood. The gift was one my parents passed on to me, and the honor is to my family. 

Can you also share how this experience has impacted your worldview? 

America is still the land of opportunity where hard work and determination can enable individuals to pursue their dreams and achieve unimaginable success. Even acknowledging the country’s disheartening moments, my family’s story exemplifies how persons from all walks of life – with legacy guidance and timeless values — can achieve their potential and make a difference. We still live in an extraordinary country where dreams like those of my grandparents can come true. 

The internment experience is recognized today as one of the nation’s most profound injustices. Yet, your parents’ response seems so bereft of any sense of victimhood. What explains this?

Like so many of members of our “greatest generation,” my mother and father were careful not to taint us with tales of indignity or humiliation. Instead of the term “internment,” for instance, they referred to their experience as “relocation.”

Their hope was that if we were taught to embrace the best aspects of the “American Dream,” we had the opportunity to define ourselves without self-limiting constraints and achieve the potential about which their parents dreamed. 

What lessons does the experience have for a nation that today is immersed in so many negatives (e.g., polarization, victimhood, weaponization, etc.)?

The best antidote to for whatever circumstance life throws is to center upon those values honed by the melting pot of the best generations — to foster the similarities of shared aspirations and not the artificial constructs of our physical differences.

In other words, even as we acknowledge and celebrate diversity, it is good that we do likewise with respect to commonality through the lens of our unique and joint culture. It is what still makes America the true land of opportunity. 

How do you envision applying the qualities of knighthood in your business life?

One of the things I have learned over the years is that good people and good intentions do not by themselves necessarily lead to good results. Without process, even the most ambitious organizational cultures can be doomed to becoming breeding grounds of dysfunction. 

One of the best tools for securing the actions and interactions that define knighthood is a 360-performance review that measures key behavioral indicators. For example, if the goal was to measure “humility,” “cooperation,” and “honesty,” relevant questions could be: 

  • Does the person allow ‘ego’ to impair relationships or achievement of team objectives?
  • Does the person encourage collaboration, quickly identify common ground, and solve problems for the greater good of the organization?
  • Does the person gain the trust and support of peers by modeling personal transparency?

These and other traits of knighthood are ones that can provide the basis for an organizational culture that optimizes performance, rewards innovation, and enables persons to reach their full potential.
Toward this end, the key is to establish and scale processes that measure the extent to which individuals reflect knighthood qualities. Of course, if this type of process is to gain traction, it is incumbent upon persons in positions like mine to model these qualities and hold themselves accountable. 

By Jordan French Jordan French has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Jordan French is the Founder and Executive Editor of Grit Daily Group, encompassing Financial Tech Times, Smartech Daily, Transit Tomorrow, BlockTelegraph, Meditech Today, High Net Worth magazine, Luxury Miami magazine, CEO Official magazine, Luxury LA magazine, and flagship outlet, Grit Daily. The champion of live journalism, Grit Daily's team hails from ABC, CBS, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, Fox, PopSugar, SF Chronicle, VentureBeat, Verge, Vice, and Vox. An award-winning journalist, he was on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur with one sale. Formerly an engineer and intellectual-property attorney, his third company, BeeHex, rose to fame for its "3D printed pizza for astronauts" and is now a military contractor. A prolific investor, he's invested in 50+ early stage startups with 10+ exits through 2023.

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