Skip to content

Benson Riseman ’78 came to UT for two things: “to play sports and explore the wild frontier,” he said.
Riseman, who is from Boston, is now a man about town in Las Vegas with a successful public company and an entrepreneurship incubator under his belt, but he started his career trying just about everything at UT: he played on the baseball team for four years, was a resident assistant, served as chief justice on the student judicial board, held roles in student government and yearbook and was the student representative on a committee that was looking for a new university president (they selected Richard Cheshire, who served as president from 1977–1986).
“I was really pretty active,” he joked.
He didn't stop after graduating, either. With no idea what he wanted to do with his business administration degree, he went to the Tampa library, checked out annual reports of various companies and wrote to the number one or two person at each company.
His strategy worked: he was hired by the Carnation Company to be a territory manager. That job didn't quite fit, so he moved back to the Boston area and got a job in radio advertising, which lead to a 20-year career in broadcasting.
That's where he met Steve Streit. At first, they were competitors at different media companies, but through radio consolidation they started working with instead of against each other.
“We would always talk, and one day he said he had this crazy idea for a product,” Riseman said. By then, Riseman saw that the radio business was changing, and he was looking for a different kind of challenge. This seemed like a product that could be that challenge. “After about 45 minutes on the phone, I said we can do this.”
This conversation happened in the late 1990s, right when shopping online started to become popular. “The retail world had this question: how does a youth buy something online if they can't get a credit card? They can't take a $10 bill and shove it through a hard drive,” Riseman said.
The solution was a card that acted as a credit card but would be loaded with money by parents — “a card that kids can use whenever they wanted, and parents would feel good about it,” he said.
Green Dot became much more than that. Today, the Green Dot Corp. is available in more than 60,000 stores and issues prepaid debit cards on behalf of Visa and MasterCard. In 2010, they took the company public.
At that point, Riseman transitioned out of Green Dot and looked again for a new challenge. He found that in creating BENSEA Enterprises, a holding company and business incubator.
“I've always had interest in startups and the entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. BENSEA is a place to do that. “We're working towards developing full blown entities that will then go off on their own to develop their own businesses,” he said.
He became involved in the John P. Lowth Entrepreneurship Center because his goals perfectly align with what the center hopes to do. “I feel really loyal to the University and want to be a part of it and participate,” he said. “When I look at it now, it gives me so much pride because it's just a great place.”