Mr. Joseph Schoendorf
I’ve had lots of successes that are measured in dollars, and that’s temporal. When I think about the people I’ve hired, worked with, and nurtured, that’s where I sit back and say, Boy we were lucky! It’s all about the people.
Joe Schoendorf has been active in the software and telecommunications industries for thirty-seven years, the past fifteen of those as an executive partner with Accel Partners. "You don’t turn a corner from engineer to venture capitalist," Schoendorf reflects. "There is no corner. Look at what venture capitalists do: we back engineers. You have to be one to understand what you’re doing. Being an engineer gives you a competitive advantage in understanding the problems engineers face. Dave Packard, founder of HP, said, ‘If you don’t understand it, you can’t manage it.’ That defines the importance of being an engineer in this field. At the end of the day the directors have the ultimate responsibility for managing the company."
Schoendorf credits his success to his Purdue degree in electrical engineering. He says, "Born in 1944, I was at the very front of the baby boom, and my parents, like many parents of kids my age, were not able to go to college because of the Great Depression. My dad had been accepted to medical school."
Recalling his college days, Schoendorf comments, "When I think of everything we take for granted today, from fax machines to VCRs to cell phones to personal computers, none of those were invented when I graduated in 1966."
"What I learned of most enduring value at Purdue was the ability to learn. If you think about it, the rate of change in this technology is accelerating at an exponential rate. Everything I learned about content has been obsolete for many decades. But the ability to learn, that will never be obsolete."
One of Schoendorf’s favorite quotes is by George Bernard Shaw. "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Schoendorf felt so strongly about the quote that, at one of his companies, he had it printed on sweatshirts for his entire senior management team.
Schoendorf says, "There are people who want to change the status quo. I ran a company (Industrial Networking) that wanted to change the status quo, and that was the eye-opening experience. I said, ‘Boy, working with the kind of people who wake every morning and want to change the status quo is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have.’"
Schoendorf’s wife, Nancy, is a co-managing partner of MDV, another leading Silicon Valley Venture Firm. They have two daughters, Kathryn (Katie), a senior at Wesleyan University, and Megan, a junior at Castilleja High School in Palo Alto. "Swimming with the sharks" doesn’t carry a negative connotation for the Schoendorf family who recently spent a month in the Indian Ocean communing with the denizens of the deep. "One activity we all share is a love for scuba diving," he says, "and this summer’s adventure was the perfect time, while the girls are still in school."
When asked to name one of his greatest achievements, Schoendorf says, "It was the people I’ve had the ability to lead and mentor. I think back about the transactions that go on in a business career. I’ve had lots of successes that are measured in dollars, and that’s temporal. If you think about the people I’ve hired, worked with, and nurtured, that’s where I sit back and say, ‘Boy we were lucky!’ For example, when I was at HP, I hired Jim Anderson, one of last year’s OECE recipients, and Bill Elmore, one of this year’s recipents. In all, I’ve hired more than a hundred Purdue engineers. The people I had the good fortune to come into contact with, grow with, and mentor, sticks with me as I approach sixty years of age. That’s what I would say to today’s students; it is all about the people."