Put to a vote I might have been chosen “least likely to succeed” in my New York City high school class. My path has taken me from repairing fighter planes during the Vietnam War in Thailand, to spook stuff in undisclosed location(s), and I was lucky enough to arrive at the beginning of the boom times of Silicon Valley in 1978.
After 21 years in 8 high technology companies I retired in 1999. My last company, E.piphany, started in my living room in 1996. My other startups include two semiconductor companies (Zilog and MIPS Computers), a workstation company (Convergent Technologies), a consulting stint for a graphics hardware/software spinout (Pixar), a supercomputer firm (Ardent), a computer peripheral supplier (SuperMac), a military intelligence systems supplier (ESL) and a video game company (Rocket Science Games).
Total score: two large craters (Rocket Science and Ardent), one dot.com bubble home run (E.piphany) and several base hits.
After I retired, I took some time to reflect on my experience and wrote a book (actually my class text) about building early stage companies: Four Steps to the Epiphany.
I moved from being an entrepreneur to teaching entrepreneurship to both undergraduate and graduate students at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the Columbia University/Berkeley Joint Executive MBA program. The “Customer Development” model that I developed in my book is one of the core themes for these classes. In 2009 I was awarded the Stanford University Undergraduate Teaching Award in the Department of Management Science and Engineering. The same year the San Jose Mercury News listed me as one of the 10 Influencers in Silicon Valley.
I also followed my curiosity about why entrepreneurship blossomed in Silicon Valley and was stillborn elsewhere. It has led to several talks on The Secret History of Silicon Valley.
In 2007 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed me to serve on the California Coastal Commission, the public body which regulates land use and public access on the California coast.
I am on the board of Audubon California (and its past chair) and spent several years on the Audubon National Board. I’m also a board member of Peninsula Open Space land Trust (POST). In 2009 I became a trustee of U.C. Santa Cruz and joined the board of the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV).