In the past three weeks, I have attended 2 memorial services and 2 brises. The brises celebrated the births of two future superstars -- the sons of four of the smartest entrepreneurs and venture investors in the Bay Area. The memorial services celebrated the lives of two recently deceased superstars -- both entrepreneurs and venture investors in their own right. As I listened to the stories of the lives these great men had lived, and listened to the toasts and prayers for these great men-to-be, it struck me that there were lessons to be learned for entrepreneurs and venture investors alike.
Just over two weeks ago, I sat in Stanford's Memorial Church, listening to the friends and colleagues of Rajeev Motwani share stories of Rajeev's incredible life and legacy. The outpouring of love and respect for Rajeev was overwhelming. He had touched so many people as a professor, investor, advisor, father, friend. I left the memorial feeling grateful to have been Rajeev's friend and colleague and awed by all that he had accomplished.
Sadly, today I attended another memorial service -- this time for Craig Johnson, the founder of Venture Law Group. Again, the memorial service was filled with stories of a life well-lived. Craig was an incredible builder and connector. After helping hundreds of up and coming entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground, Craig couldn't help but innovate himself. He launched Venture Law Group in a time when others were complacent to practice law as it had always been practiced before. And recently jumped into the fray again, innovating on the model once more, this time founding Virtual Law Partners. Craig was an unendingly positive man. I was lucky to have started my professional career in the Bay Area in the house that Craig built (VLG) and am deeply saddened to see Craig go.
As I sat in today's service, it struck me that there were certain common themes that flowed through both Rajeev's and Craig's memorials. And it struck me that those themes were perhaps at the heart of what it takes to be successful in Silicon Valley.
Both Rajeev and Craig were deeply intellectually curious people. They loved to learn new things. They loved to explore new ideas. And when they became enthralled with a new idea, both Rajeev and Craig couldn't help but explore that idea with a rigor that one might say bordered on obsessive. They dug in and looked at the idea from all angles. They examined and cross-examined the idea. And those ideas that survived their scrutiny inevitably proved interesting and valuable and worthy of investment (be it in time or energy or dollars).
Both Rajeev and Craig were incredible connectors. So many of us at their memorial services had been introduced to one another by none other than the men we were there to honor. And the scale of both memorial services was a testimony to the vast reach of their respective (and overlapping) networks. But networking wasn't a cynical endeavor for Rajeev or Craig. It was a natural outcropping of their intellectual curiosity. They were as curious about people as they were about ideas. They took a genuine interest in the people with whom they surrounded themselves, and therefore were able to make real, valuable connections among their friends and colleagues.
Most importantly, both Rajeev and Craig were unendingly generous with their time. They were wonderful people to have as friends. They were superb mentors. They were patient advisors. But they weren't just generous to those people they already knew. Rajeev and Craig made time for everyone. And they managed to do it in a way that made everyone feel special. Rejeev's graduate students all felt that they were getting a disproportionate amount of his time. Craig's clients all felt that they were his priority. Rajeev's portfolio companies all felt they had instant access to his advice. Craig's colleagues all felt that he was their personal confidant. And they were all right. Rajeev and Craig were there for everyone. They always made time for those of us around them. And, in return, we all would do anything for them. All they had to do was ask (which, not surprisingly, they didn't do very often).
I will miss both Rajeev and Craig. They were amazing men. And they were amazing role models for all of us in Silicon Valley.