Tag Archives: entrepreneurship thought leaders

Kathryn Gould, Co-founder of Foundation Capital: A New Opportunity When at a Crossroads

Kathryn Gould sat smiling and engaged, ready to respond to the questions posed by Mike Malone, a seasoned tech industry author and journalist. Gould, a well-known Valley entrepreneur and one of the first women venture capitalists is now enjoying semi-retirement at her country ranch home. She is the co-founder of Foundation Capital and started her career working at Oracle. It was there where she learned many of the foundational skills that would prove useful throughout her career such as how to sell. A firm believer in the idea that “chance favors the prepared mind” she was always open to opportunities.

One of these opportunities presented itself after a less than cordial encounter with Oracle founder, Larry Ellison, in which Gould was asked to leave the company. Realizing that unlike in times past, Ellison was serious, she found herself at a difficult crossroads. Rather than taking this as a setback she saw an opportunity to begin her own executive search firm, leveraging the connections she had made working at Oracle for many years. Having successfully placed thousands, she eventually decided to create Foundation Capital so that she could begin to invest in these quality people she so carefully sourced and placed.

Looking back upon her journey thus far Gould reflected upon her investment philosophy. Proudly, she recounts that rather than investing with the idea that maybe one out of every ten companies would be successful, she genuinely believed that every one of her investments was going to be a winner, and many have. It was not an easy task to found a new investment firm and required determination and hard work. Gould firmly believes, “it’s not the calls you take, it’s the calls you make.” It is this attitude that has enabled Gould to carve out an illustrious entrepreneurial career as one of the most respected and prominent women in Silicon Valley.

By Chad Kamisugi

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Alon Cohen, Co-Founder of Houzz: Realizing the American Dream

Alon Cohen, an immigrant who came to the U.S. in his thirties, first asked the room, “How many of you were born outside of the United States?” To everyone’s surprise, half of the students in NVIDIA raised their hands. In a room filled with people who identify as immigrants, entrepreneurs, or in some cases, both, Alon’s story was particularly inspiring – a vivid example of the American Dream.

Alon worked at eBay before taking a risk and starting his own company with his wife, Adi Tatarko. It didn’t make much sense to leave a stable job while raising a family, but Alon identified a problem that he wanted to solve. When discussing this transition, he smirked and said, “Of course I had trouble explaining it to my mom.”

Sometimes the most rational decision isn’t the best one.

A few years back, Alon and Adi wanted to remodel their traditional ranch house and were surprised to find that there was no efficient way of doing so. They spent hours at Borders shuffling through dozens of books and magazines to combine ideas and come up with a vision for their home. In the 21stcentury, when everything is streamlined, from online grocery shopping to connecting with someone who lives 10,000 miles away, this was an anomaly. Alon wanted to make the process of home remodeling easier. His motto is to try and “make complicated things simple.”

6 years later, his company Houzz, is disrupting the interior design industry and is one of the hottest startups in the Bay Area. Alon explains that there were many instances when he hit a wall along the way, but he had to keep moving forward. He bootstrapped through every hiccup. Although he knew that raising money and monetizing where important parts of the process, he couldn’t stress the value of the team enough. Alon and Adi personally interview every potential employee who walks through the door in order to decide whether they are the right fit for the company’s culture. His two key pieces of advice: 1) pick the people you work with carefully and 2) no matter how talented you are, work incredibly hard.

Alon’s story shows that there is no secret sauce to starting your own company. Sometimes, you just have to pinpoint a problem, take a leap of faith, and be persistent in trying to solve it. Whether you are oozing with Silicon Valley ideals, or feel like an outsider in this little bubble, you have the ability to make something complicated in this world just a little simpler.

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By Zabreen Khan

Architecture as Vehicle for Expression: Jeanne Gang at ETL

If Jeanne Gang were a bird, she would live in this kind of nest.

She flips to an image of suspended, teardrop shaped forms hanging from the branches of a tree. The design of these nests is perfect: they push the boundaries of their material, and they create community.

Though unorthodox, this was probably a clear window into her thought process and a great way to begin the talk. How do we experience the spaces around us? How do we elevate space and craft it to achieve an ideal? She is a slim woman with dark hair, simple clothes, and an even voice. She is also a MacArthur Fellow and the founder and driving force behind Studio Gang Architects. Studio Gang has reimagined skyscrapers, boathouses, schools, and lakefronts. The Folsom tower rises and ripples on the San Francisco skyline, and the Arcus Center for Justice and Leadership is a tangible representation of the configurations that break down social barriers. Each work is the physical manifestation of an idea, and showcases remarkable intelligence, sensitivity, and creativity.

We don’t often think of bird nests as the greatest achievement in user-centered design, nor can most of us wrap our minds around manipulating physical space to evoke an idea. But as potential creators there is something delicate and definite that we can take away from Jeanne Gang’s architecture.

Both a bird’s nest and a building can be sublime.

By Vivian Hare
Photo: Zabreen Khan.