Sutter Hill Ventures founder said hard work, smarts, character judgement and some luck are key to success.
SAN FRANCISCO--During the 1960s, Paul Wythes used to steer his big blue
Pontiac around the Santa Clara Valley's orchards looking for
business signs that had the word "technology" on them.
When he saw the word, he'd stop his car, "go in and say to the lady
in the lobby, 'I’m so-and-so from Sutter Hill, here’s my card, and
I’d like to meet the CEO.' And eight or nine out of 10 times, the CEO would come out and he’d say, 'Hi, who are you?'
And I’d tell him, and I’d ask if he had fifteen minutes ...
The smart CEOs always spent the time with you because they were
smart to realize that some day they may need venture capital."
Those were the early days of venture capital in what would become
the Silicon Valley, just a handful of years after the 1958 enactment
of the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Act would transform company
investment from the rarefied piggy banks of Rockefellers, Whitneys
and other well-heeled families to groups of business people in
venture capital partnerships.
Paul Wythes, one of the valley's pioneering venture capitalists,
died Oct. 30 at Stanford University Hospital and Clinics. He was 79.
Hill Ventures in 1964, and he and his colleagues were instrumental in helping build companies
such as Linear Technology, Apollo Computer, Qume, LSI Logic, Telllabs
and Applied Materials. In addition, Wythes helped co-found the
National Venture Capital Association.
Raised in Camden, N.J., Wythes got a mechanical engineering degree
from Princeton, although he often said he should have pursued an EE.
interview as part of an venture capital industry oral history
project, Wythes said:
"I liked electrical engineering, but I committed to
mechanical and I stayed with it. That was not a disaster at all,
but around here it is more electronics than it is engines."