"Dave Marquardt has done an amazing job as a Microsoft board member." -- Bill Gates
Today is the 30th anniversary of the day my partner Dave Marquardt first joined the Microsoft board of directors. Pretty amazing when you think about it. 30 years on any board is an impressive accomplishment. But 30 years on the Microsoft board is astonishing.
When Dave first joined the Microsoft board, Bill Gates was a mere 26 years old. Yet, despite his young age, Dave always knew that Gates was a special entrepreneur. I once asked Dave why it was that he invested in Gates. At the time Dave made the investment, he was intrigued by the idea of standalone software companies (a new phenomenon) and was meeting with the most interesting software companies of the day. Dave told me that when he spoke with the twenty-something Bill Gates, Gates better understood his competitors businesses than they did themselves. To Dave, investing in Bill Gates was the obvious choice.
Venture Capitalists dream of finding the next Microsoft. Dave Marquardt found the first one. And he, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have been on quite the ride ever since. For the first 29 years that Dave sat on the Microsoft board, he saw nothing but increasing revenue. That's right, for 116 consecutive quarters, Dave watched the revenue line move up and to the right, unabated. Few of us sit on boards that can manage a couple dozen consecutive growth quarters, let alone over one hundred.
Also on Dave's watch, he has experienced mind-blowing employee growth at Microsoft. When he first invested, the company had a small handful of employees. Today, Microsoft employs some 90,000 people. That's about the population of New York's capital city of Albany. It is hard to imagine that transformation from minuscule startup to corporate giant, but Dave had a front row seat to it all.
I asked Bill Gates if he had any thoughts on working with Dave over the years and here is what he had to say:
Dave has played a key role helping me and Steve Ballmer as Microsoft grew. Whenever we had a key decision, we would turn to Dave - whether it was hiring key people or a key strategy decision or figuring out how to get the best work out of our team.
Dave is a great strategic thinker and always had his own way of looking at issues. When Steve and I were overoptimistic, he was a voice of caution; when we were over pessimistic, he was a voice of calm. He helped us work better together on a number of occasions. Dave knows our business very well and we would not have been as successful or enjoyed the work as much without him as a key colleague. He put in a lot of time beyond normal board activities and we owe him a lot for that.
I often hear entrepreneurs push back on the idea of a "value added investor." Yet Bill Gates comments strike me as the very definition of a value added investor. If Dave Marquardt is not a value added investor, then no one is. Congratulations Dave on thirty amazing years with Microsoft. I am in awe of you and this stunning milestone.