Rick Kimball, '83, on the Small and Big Pictures

Published on March 27, 2015

Mobility is quickly changing technology, and venture capital deals are more often than not to be found outside Silicon Valley, according to Rick Kimball, ’83, founding general partner of Technology Crossover Ventures. But the fundamentals of venture investing remain constant.

Kimball recently spoke with dean Sunil Kumar and an audience of students at Harper Center as part of the school’s Fireside Chat series.

 “How do you evolve?” Kimball said. “Most important is that you have people you can empower and you have implicit trust in their intellectual honesty and trust their judgment.”

Technology Crossover Ventures, based in Palo Alto, California, focuses on investing in late-stage private companies looking for growth. TCV also has offices in New York and London and since its inception more than 19 years ago has raised $10 billion. It has backed iconic tech companies such as Facebook, Netflix, Expedia, and GoDaddy.

When Kumar asked Kimball how he defines success, Kimball said he seeks to build a legacy that will survive his business career.

“Things like great returns, ranking, and brand matter, but that is a manifestation of the day-to-day success,” he said. “Success is also how do you build a firm and do the best to keep together the culture as much as you can. You can’t do it perfectly.”

Kimball stressed that venture capitalists must complete their due diligence when preparing to invest, but they also need to look at the big picture.

“I try to guard against modeling for modeling’s sake,” he said. “You can have the numbers say anything you want to. Make sure you step back and ask What are the big issues? What are the important trends?”

What would compel him to meet the founder of a start-up? Kimball said he’ll listen to trusted advisors’ suggestions to meet with executive teams of potential up-and-coming firms, even if Technology Crossover Ventures isn’t ready to invest. But, he added, he will “guard against Joe Blow on the street” wanting to meet and pitch him about a new idea.

“I have to have my security guards keep him away,” he said, joking.

Student Sheryl Jiang said that knowing how to approach venture capitalists was a big takeaway for her.

“One day I hope to be an entrepreneur and raise money from venture capitalists, so I wanted to see what they’re looking for,” she said. “If I have a business idea, how can I win over them? The critical thing I learned today is that having a good business and a good team is not enough. You have to know the person you want to meet, or the security guard will drive you away.”—Debbie Carlson

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