On 20 Jan 2012, the last day of the Entrepreneurship Winterim, Thunderbird alum, serial entrepreneur, and mega-donor Scott Walker spoke to us at his Napa vineyard, Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards. He told his life story, especially focusing on the ups and downs of his journey as an entrepreneur. Now, years later, after turning around multiple companies (this is his specialty) and starting, and selling, many of his own businesses at a tidy profit, he is the man of the hour. We hung on his every word. By the end of his talk, he had convinced us to work for him for the starting salary of $0, accompanied by the fringe benefits of learning everything from him and possibly getting rewarded big-time down the road. No risk no reward—a fundamental principle we have all, of course, learned in finance class at business school. According to Scott, he was a late bloomer with no idea what he would do in life. He had a degree in political science and history, with the notion of becoming a lawyer one day, but without any solid plan. We’ve all been there. His course changed the day a professor at his university recommended Thunderbird to him….
16 Jan 2012 we met with Alain Labat of VaST Systems (acquired by Synopses). He began work in San Jose in 1980 working for the engineering systems division in Xerox, at the PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). Back then, Silicon Valley was just that, Silicon Valley. Now, the area only focuses on semiconductors up until Mountain View, and then it becomes Social Media Valley. From Palo Alto North it is Software Valley. This is a fitting (and explanative) simplification. His current office space, naturally since he has dealt primarily in semiconductors, is in the original heart of silicon, Santa Clara. Alain also explained a unique perspective on how he saw the VC and investment side of SV change over the last 20 years, moving from a period where every company ended in an IPO, and investors couldn’t wait long enough to throw ridiculous amounts of money in the mix, to the post-dotcom era where only a few small few end in an IPO, some end in an M&A exit, and most just die out. Because the culture has changed from expecting an IPO to an M&A exit, Alain has therefore established a business in this very niche—consulting with startups who….