Living in Silicon Valley is portrayed as a lofty techtopia in mass media’s decades-long love affair. But a darker side to its story lies just beneath its surface amidst suicides, mysogyny, and what at first blush looks like racism and sexism. With a hefty side dish of pricey divorces, the picture doesn’t look so pretty.
But it doesn’t have to be that way — at least according to one big-name Silicon Valley insider. Bay area based entrepreneur Jon Fisher has learned to live well personally even in the Valley’s cut-throat environment. The author behind “Strategic Entrepreneurism” — required reading at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business among others — suggests there’s a different approach, especially towards family and start-up strategy.
Fisher is an advocate for a start-up acquisition strategy over an initial public offering — or IPO, as it’s called; the latter of which is subject to the market’s whims and demands a bigger investment in scaling.
Fisher puts his advice to practice. He basically creates companies before selling them to much bigger, public ones that can best deploy the technology. So far, investors in three different start ups he’s sold seem happy.
Build, sell, and rescue
Fisher has four times invented cool stuff and built good start-ups worth an acquisition — at least according to giants like Oracle, AutoNation and Roper Technologies.
He had solid backing from Oracle’s (NASD:ORCL) former president and Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HP) chairman Ray Lane, who became Fisher’s first angel investor.
Fisher cofounded and was chief executive officer of AutoReach in 1994. AutoReach is now an AutoNation (NYSE:AN) company.
In 1998, Fisher co-founded and CEO of the business software company, NetClerk, before turning it over to Roper Technologies (NYSE:ROP), also a public company. The company is known for digitizing construction permits.
“I’ve just started another company that I can assure you will be owned by one of the great companies,“ — Jon Fisher.
He finds it enormously satisfying to see that a company he created and sold is being taken around the world. Fisher also helped entrepreneurs restructure and save struggling companies.
Fisher believes that startups should be built for selling from the start. He would rather fill a need for bigger tech companies than to spend years building the next big one. It provides them with the most growth for the least money.
Fisher delivered a powerful speech at the University of San Francisco School of Management commencement. He emphasized on how children are humanity’s greatest invention.
The multi-millionaire Fisher doesn’t see the point in humanity’s continued push to invent so many technologies. He believes that a large part of building a better future starts with children.
“I invented something many of you use every day and it doesn’t compare to any day with a happy, healthy child.” – Jon Fisher
The most traditionally successful people Fisher knew were divorced. Stats from the Bay area seem to back up his observation, with Silicon Valley boasting among the highest divorce rates in the nation. Three-time divorcee Elon Musk remains a Silicon Valley hero despite setbacks and Amazon Chief Jeff Bezos recently called it quits with his wife.
Those in Fisher’s circle told him how they regret sacrificing their families in favor of building companies just a bit bigger or faster. In his speech, Fisher shared how he and his wife do not put work before their daughter or each other.
“Hold your children up high as your greatest inventions because they are.” – Jon Fisher
Fisher’s purpose for building smaller companies to sell is because it takes less capital and risk, and arguably, less of a personal toll.
“We build good companies that great companies buy and take around the world as our path of least resistance to contributing to the world, Fisher explained.
He even compared his companies to Seth Rogen films. While they’re produced on a modest budget, they still do well with their audiences.
Fisher closed his speech saying:
“Your degrees today, your work to come are the means to leave a trail. Your family is another. I will look for you in this church in the years to come as you build and find your happiness.”