In this post Dea Wilson, Lifograph founder, is doing an interview with Bill Reichert, Founder of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on information technology and materials science companies. He has been a board director or board observer at CaseStack, WhiteHat Security, Simply Hired, MiaSole, D.light Design, ThermoCeramix, and VisaNow, among others.
Bill earned a B.A. at Harvard and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.
He was a founding board member and a Chairman of the Churchill Club, and a Board Member of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs.
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Give me 3 things people don’t know about you
My greatest athletic accomplishments were in badminton (high school champion), curling (winning skip at several junior bonspiels), and rowing (national lightweight champion boat). I peaked early. :-)
What was your first job? What did you learn from it?
My first real job, other than mowing lawns and painting houses, was in the mail room at the Northern Trust in downtown Chicago, the summer after my freshman year at college. My first lesson was never underestimate the people around you. My boss was extraordinarily smart, and also diligent, disciplined, and kind. I also learned that you can enjoy any job, given the right environment.
What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?
There are lots of reasons why investors pass on pitches. Usually, the opportunity just doesn't resonate — another social music app for independent artists, or another mobile location-based app for lonely guys looking for something to do on a Thursday night. But independent of the substance of the pitch, the fastest way to shut down an investor is to come across as an arrogant a**. The irony is that some of the most successful entrepreneurs are indeed six sigma arrogant. But you need to earn the right to be arrogant. Until then, it is important to be highly confident, but aware of your flat spots and open to learning.
Who were your mentors? How did they help you become who you are?
I have been very fortunate to have had many mentors throughout my life and career. My earliest mentor was my grandfather, Robert P. McElroy. He was a wonderfully kind, thoughtful, creative, focused craftsman and entrepreneur. I learned from him the importance of being disciplined and taking pride in your work. And he modeled for me the spirit of independence.
My first business mentor was Robert Roosa, who was a partner at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., and was a former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He was a brilliant, generous man, with a great sense of humor and a razor-sharp mind. Among many other lessons, I learned from him that you can integrate love of work, love of family, love of ideas, love of friends and love of life into who you are all the time. It's not easy, and all too often I get off track, but I aspire to achieve what he modeled.
There are many other people I credit for their roles in mentoring me. None probably have thought of themselves as "mentors" in an explicit sense, but that is the beauty of mentorship: It is best and most powerful not when it is an artificial assignment, but when it is a natural relationship.