We’re continuing our series on quotes from legendary VCs, and this week we’re going straight to the source. It’s hard to find a more blue-blooded VC than Arthur Rock.
A decade before Don Valentine founded Sequoia Capital and Eugene Kleiner and Tom Perkins founded Kleiner Perkins, there was Davis & Rock, Arthur Rock’s venture capital firm. In those days, institutions such as pension funds were not allowed to allocate capital to VC firms, so Rock had to convince a dozen business relations and clients to invest the $5 million he raised for his first fund.
Arthur Rock’s name is largely synonymous with Silicon Valley. He’s the broker behind Fairchild Semiconductor’s financing and contributed to the growth of early Silicon Valley successes such as Intel (where he was a director for over 30 years), Scientific Data Sytems, Teledyne, and Apple.
Rock, who’s now 94 years old, was the guest of an event held in 2007 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Fortunately for us, the conversation was recorded (see the link below.)
It’s clear throughout the exchange that’s Rock’s main focus at the time was on people and building companies more than making money.
It didn’t start like that, however. When he helped the group later known as the “Traitorous Eight” (which included the two Founders of Intel), Arthur Rock acted as a Wall Street investment banker. His calling as a Venture Capitalist came a few years later.
Asked how he picked the entrepreneurs he backed, Rock replied that it was all about the people. His tactic to see if the entrepreneurs he met had “fire in their belly and intelligence”, and that they were not telling him a story he wanted to hear? He would meet them several times and ask them the same questions over and over.
He would also test whether they were intellectually honest, seeing things how they are, not “promoters” for whom making deals would be more important than building companies – as was largely the case around 2000, in his view.
What would Rock say about our situation today?
🗣 What are the main qualities VCs are looking for in entrepreneurs? How do they test those qualities?
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