Paul Holland wouldn’t be the venture capital wizard he is today if he hadn’t taken an entrepreneurship course at Haas.
“I discovered a passion I didn’t know I had,” he says. “I was struck that a person could come from a lower-middle-class background and start a business that could put them on par with anyone else in the business world. If I hadn’t taken that course, I wouldn’t have accepted the job that launched me on the startup path, which then led to venture capital.”
Holland grew up in southern Virginia, where his traditional family has been “either farmers or bureaucrats” for more than 300 years. Post-college, Holland expected a career in public administration. But at the invitation of his girlfriend—now his wife—he moved to California in 1985 to work for Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International.
“The way I was raised primed me for change,” says Holland. “Friends I grew up with wanted to join the same country club their parents belonged to, but I wanted something different.”
SRI proved to be a kind of graduate school primer for Holland in that it combined business and technology. After a few years, he enrolled in Berkeley’s evening MBA program to better understand economics.
The rest, as they say, is history. After leaving SRI, Holland helped take public Pure Software and Kana Communications (now known as Kana Software). During his tenure at these two firms, their market value increased from $2 million to over $1 billion and from less than $10 million to more than $8 billion, respectively. In 2001 he joined Foundation Capital, where his investments have included Chegg, MobileIron, Coverity, SpoonRocket, and Kik.
“I believe there’s an entrepreneurial gene and that some of us exercise it more than others,” he says. “I want to help people get a chance to do that.” —Kate Madden Yee
General Partner, Foundation Capital,
Menlo Park, Calif.