Joseph P. Schoendorf

Executive Partner
Accel Partners
BSEE ’66

For his internationally acknowledged leadership in economic and entrepreneurial development on a global scale

American TechMaker

“Our country has been defined by entrepreneurs,” says Joe Schoendorf. Active in high–tech industries for more than 40 years and, more recently, in the World Economic Forum USA, he serves Accel Partners, a leading Silicon Valley venture–capital firm, as an executive partner. The firm supports entrepreneurs who are poised to define new categories and build world–class technology companies, particularly in such areas as computing infrastructure, consumer Internet and media, enterprise software, mobile technology, and semiconductors. Among Accel–backed start–ups are Macromedia (now controlled by Adobe Systems), UUNET, and Veritas. Accel has funded, which extended the discount–retail giant’s business online, and Facebook, which establishes online social networks for colleges and universities, among other communities.

Schoendorf personally serves as director or consultant to a number of Accel portfolio companies, assisting them in building competitive sales and marketing organizations and in developing their strategic global relationships with larger companies. He was a co–founder of Accel Europe, which manages a fund having invested over $500M in Europe and Israel. Before joining Accel in 1988, Schoendorf had compiled an 18–year record of accomplishment (from 1966 through 1984) at Hewlett–Packard, rising through the computer marketing and sales ranks in the technical computer group, in business development operations, and in the corporate account division, where he oversaw all worldwide large accounts. In 1985 Schoendorf left HP to become CEO of Industrial Networking, a joint venture of Ungermann–Bass and General Electric. A year later he was named executive vice president for worldwide sales and marketing for Ungermann–Bass and a member of the Office of the President. He worked as vice president for marketing for Apple Computers in 1987 before joining Accel Partners.

In 2006 Schoendorf joined the World Economic Forum USA, the North American affiliate of the World Economic Forum, as one of five elected inaugural board members. World Economic Forum USA is the global headquarters of the Centre for Global Industries, the group responsible for engaging global companies and leading the World Economic Forum’s industry activities.

Education and Entrepreneurship

Education’s role in entrepreneurship is one of Schoendorf’s particular areas of focus. Improving education in the United States, thereby increasing students’ interest in math and science, presents a twofold challenge. “First,” Schoendorf notes, “parents must acknowledge education’s importance and its impact on each child’s future. Second, both parents and schools must recommit themselves to reinventing our education system from the ground up. That is going to be the national imperative for America for the next 20 years, and it’s going to take that long.”

Through his own education, Schoendorf developed many of the skills that proved essential to his professional pursuits. Some of those skills he traces back to his collegiate days in West Lafayette. “What Purdue taught me how to do is how to think,” he says. “And it taught me how to learn something.” That learning process requires exploration and tapping into one’s curiosity–asking why something occurs or operates in a particular way.

While some people tend to become satisfied with existing products and inventions, and therefore don’t see the need for advancements, Schoendorf holds the opposite view: “Nothing we have today is sustainable over a very long period of time, and we’re going to have to reinvent everything,” he says. “There’s a whole set of technologies that will enable that.” He points to ongoing advancements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and next–generation chip technologies. “We’ll be able to do a set of things that we couldn’t have even dreamed of, so we’re going to enter a golden age for innovation on a global scale.”

That golden age will rely on entrepreneurship, one of our nation’s historic assets. “Entrepreneurship is our strength, our willingness to take a risk,” Schoendorf says, noting how the United States was started by people who took a chance and uprooted their entire existence. “We need to continue to encourage that kind of person who is willing to come here, take a risk, and work hard for what he or she believes. That is our greatness.”

Advice for Future Engineers

As engineering graduates enter the workforce, they will discover an evolving corporate climate. “We’re going to go to an environment where, because of globalization, big companies stopped being loyal to their employees, laid them off, and transferred jobs around,” says Schoendorf. “That means employees stopped being loyal to the big companies.” In light of that fact, he encourages graduates to seek the best employers and to do exceptional work for them. “Get a reputation as a contributor and then be prepared to move on when the time is right,” he advises.

Another key to success: finding a balance between life’s professional and personal sides. “If you don’t have balance, you end up with very little,” Schoendorf says. “You can’t focus solely on your career or solely on your family. The great ones figure out balance.”

Schoendorf includes Purdue involvement in that balance, currently serving on the Krannert School of Management Dean’s Advisory Board. A member of the President’s Council and a 2003 recipient of Purdue’s Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer Award, he spoke last year to electrical and computer engineering students as part of the school’s TechMakers lecture series and met with faculty and university administrators to discuss additional ways he could support engineering initiatives, particularly in conjunction with ECE’s Asia initiative.

2003 Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineer, Purdue
1988– Executive partner and co-founder of Accel International, Accel Partners
1987 Vice President, Marketing, Apple Computer
1986 Executive Vice President, Worldwide Sales and Marketing, Office of the President, Ungermann-Bass
1985 CEO, Industrial Networking
1966–84 Positions within Hewlett Packard including group marketing manager, technical computer group; general manager, business development operations; general manager, corporate account division
BSEE ’66, Purdue University