William Bruce Elmore

William Bruce Elmore

Co-Founder and General Partner, Foundation Capital
Board Member, Graphcore, United Kingdom
Board Member, Azure Power, India
Board Member, SpringCM
Board Member, XMOS, United Kingdom
Board Member, Venafi
BSEE ’75, MSEE ’76

For his tremendous entrepreneurial success as one of the most well-established venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, and for his commitment to the advancement of Purdue University and the College of Engineering

The T-shirt business he founded as a Centerville, Ohio, teenager was among the early harbingers of Bill Elmore’s overachieving future in business. His natural interest and aptitude for business combined with strong innate abilities in math and science were other signs.

“I always had a business bent,” Elmore says by phone from California’s Silicon Valley. “My first stock investment was in Bowmar Instruments, the first public company that built pocket calculators. I bought it because I thought pocket calculators were going to be huge.”

He was right about the calculators, of course, just not about Bowmar, which succumbed in 1975 to price wars and the breakneck speed of developments in calculator technology.

Undaunted by his first stock market loss, Elmore saw investing as a challenge and kept at it as a student, reading the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s whenever possible.

Choosing to pursue an engineering degree rather than to study business, Elmore says his engineering education at Purdue has been crucial to his career — a highly successful, decades-long venture capital career that made the most of the worldwide digital revolution.

Elmore says one of his more memorable Purdue experiences has taken on more meaning as technology has progressed.

“I took a class with Dick Schwartz, the former dean of engineering,” Elmore recalls. “On one exam, we had to prove that solar cells could never exceed 8 percent efficiency. I’m currently on the board of a company installing solar cells in the 17- to 20-percent efficiency range. This is an example of how technology changes and how the specifics of what you learn aren’t important because technology evolves so much. What’s important is to think and learn, and to solve problems.”

Using uniquely strong thinking and problem-solving skills, Elmore, a former Purdue cheerleader, first took on marketing management roles at Hewlett-Packard before earning his MBA. He was then president of startup Visual Engineering and became a general partner at Inman & Bowman, a venture capital firm.

In 1995, he co-founded Foundation Capital, where he remains today. The Menlo Park, California, venture capital firm invests primarily in software, communication and technology- enabled services. Foundation Capital has had 28 companies go public, including Netflix, Atheros (a pioneer in WiFi chips), and financial services firms, Lending Club, Envestnet and Financial Engines.

Despite the demands on his time, Elmore has remained engaged with Purdue’s College of Engineering and its students, formerly serving on the College’s Advisory Council.

Now investing part time, Elmore serves on several startup company boards and works actively with the Purdue Research Foundation and in support of Purdue, bringing the same passion he has for his profession to his efforts as a mentor, philanthropist, consultant and advocate for Purdue’s entrepreneurial pursuits.

“Led by the Purdue Research Foundation and the Foundry, Purdue has elevated its entrepreneurship initiatives by great magnitudes over the years,” Elmore says. “I hope we can continue to build these programs.”

Elmore also is devoted to giving students who face hurdles in attending college access to higher education. One hands-on way that Elmore shares his expertise with local youth is by teaching personal finance courses to ninth-graders during the summer months.

“I want to make sure more young people — especially low-income kids from families who haven’t traditionally attended college — are admitted and able to complete four-year degrees,” he says. “I’m especially interested in helping STEM-oriented programs like the College of Engineering.”

Career Highlights

1995-present Co-Founder and General Partner, Foundation Capital
2016-present Board Member, Graphcore, United Kingdom
2013-present Board Member, Azure Power, India
2008-present Board Member, SpringCM
2007-present Board Member, XMOS, United Kingdom
2006-present Board Member, Venafi
2004-2012 Board Member, MSDSonline Inc.
1998-2012 Board Member, IBM Tealeaf
1998-2002 Board Member, Commerce One
1990-2004 Board Member, Wind River Systems
1987-1995 General Partner, Inman & Bowman
1983-1986 President, Visual Engineering