"I help founders get their ideas off the ground and tackle major world challenges. I love investing in founders with awe-inspiring tenacity. I love their vision and unique insights into improving everything."
GigaIO, AscentOS, Gatekeeper, Infinadeck, CapConnect+, OpsCruise
Areas of Focus
Food and Health Systems; the intersection of policy and technology
City league softball, church and community engagement, my family, root beer, teaching.
The first thing you need to know about me is that my father was a pilot for the US Air Force. If you’ve ever seen those mid-air refueling jets, flying right next to each other, that was him. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, but I mention my dad’s career for a different reason. He joined the Air Force because he absolutely wanted to pursue a career that he felt had a meaningful impact on the world.
Now, regardless of your feelings about the US Air Force, know that my dad’s desire bled into me in a very real way. I wanted to have an impact too. I didn’t have the eyesight to pursue an aviation career, so I decided to tackle poverty instead. And very specifically, I wanted to do this as a diplomat.
I went off to BYU, studied economics and political science, and, as you can imagine, was thrilled when offered a position with the US State Department’s Near-Eastern Affairs desk. I joined the team only a few days after President George W. Bush announced the “surge” in Iraq, and the team I joined would be focused on promoting economic activity in the country.
So, it came as quite a shock when I learned State Department work wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, throwing all of my life plans into disarray. Fortunately, before slipping into a premature mid-life panic, I “realized” the non-profit world was where I should have been all along. Fast forward a few months - I get myself graduated, married, and properly visa-ed, and move to South Africa to work for Habitat for Humanity.
And again, I have a less-than-ideal experience. I should be clear at this point in the story, that my failures were entirely of my own making, but at the time, I sure didn’t think so. I got in a very bad habit of coming home every day and complaining … about everything. My poor wife …
But God bless her - she knew how to help me whenever I got into a particular mood. Three blocks away stood our local McDonald’s. We could go there and for about forty cents (after exchange rates :) could get a soft-serve ice cream cone. Man, I loved those cones … and my problems would melt away (kind of literally).
I had my life’s great epiphany at that McDonald’s. I remember looking into its kitchen on one particularly frustrating day and noticing all of the young employees working there. Mostly, they appeared to be students from the University of Pretoria. They had come from all over the continent to make a better life for themselves. And I realized, then, that McDonald’s was doing more to solve the problem of poverty than I was.
I did not like that feeling.
Kicking and screaming, I realized that if I was ever going to have the impact I wanted to have, I’d need to learn how business worked. Shortly thereafter, I enrolled at Harvard Business School, and, while trying to decide if I was about to embark on a major career pivot or not, I was invited to join the staff of Mayor Kevin Johnson in my home region of Sacramento.
Since that time, I’ve been working with startups. I help founders get their ideas off the ground and tackle major world challenges. I love investing in founders with awe-inspiring tenacity. I love their vision and unique insights into improving everything.
Now, as an investor and as a teacher at UC Davis, I’m finally having the impact I always aspired to have. And I get to do it from home, reaching out to the world, with some of the most amazing people you can imagine.
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