The Long, Strange, Inspirational Trip of Dave McClure

Photo courtesy of toprankonlinemarketing

I first met Dave back in 2002, at an SDForum (now SVForum) volunteer dinner. I was one of the chairs of the Startup SIG (special interest group), while Dave was one of the chairs of the Venture Finance SIG (the two SIGs have since merged). Back then, Dave was “just” working at PayPal overseeing their developer program. He wasn’t famous. Heck, this even pre-dated the concept of “the PayPal Mafia.”

I wish I could say that on that first night, I thought, “Wow, that guy is going to change the way that seed financing happens.” I think my actual thoughts were more along the lines of, “He seems like a cool guy. He does seem to swear a lot.”

Since then, Dave has hustled non-stop. He left PayPal and helped companies like Simply Hired and oDesk get off the ground as a marketing consultant. He started making angel investments. He began organizing conferences and events, like Geeks on a Plane, and Startup2Startup. He made himself an indispensable part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

A few years ago, I attended a special event for angel investors. At the time, I asked Dave why he worked so hard. He replied, “Hey, I haven’t made it big yet. I’m hustling so I can make it big.”

Just the other day, I attended his company 500 Startups‘ first Demo Day. Entrepreneur after entrepreneur, many from the far corners of the globe, pitched their ideas to an all-star audience of angels (most of whom became friends of Dave over the years). 500 Startups occupies the entire penthouse floor of the tallest building in Mountain View, and has made nearly 200 investments.

Nobody gave anything to Dave. Maybe he had some luck along the way, but he also works harder than anyone else in the business. He still swears a lot, but now an audience of millions hears his expletive deleteds.

Dave would probably tell you that he hasn’t made it big yet, and in the sense of owning a big piece of a billion dollar exit, he’s probably right. But I’ve got a feeling that will come in time, and regardless of whether that comes, he’s still made a bigger impact on the startup ecosystem than just about any other investor around.

This seems to be a recurring theme in my blog posts, but I’ll say it again. 9 years ago, Dave was a middle-manager at a startup called PayPal. Today, he’s a globetrotting investor who appears on national television, largely through dint of hard work. What are you going to do with your next 9 years? Just do it.

(You know, Nike had a lot of success with bald spokesmen in the past; maybe Dave has a future there!)

5 thoughts on “The Long, Strange, Inspirational Trip of Dave McClure

  1. 9 years ago the President was a failed Congressional candidate hanging out with questionable and disreputable people – couldn't even get elected – oh, and he used cocaine.

    things change, and I don't really like the President at all, but I have to admit, I do draw inspiration from him. Cause if a guy that snorts coke can end up in the White House running the country and the free world, then what I've heard my whole life is true – anyone can be President.

    Which means … well, you know what it means.

  2. Inspiring story. There is hope! 😉

  3. David Wolkin

    Sure, Dave’s a hard worker. But he’s also a smart worker. He revels in his uniqueness and empowers himself. He avoids “group think” which enables him to see opportunities that the herd of investors miss. How else could he make so many investments over a short period of time?

    From what I’ve observed he also likes to share opportunity at the crucial early stage. Maybe there is some truth to the adage “doing well by doing good.”

  4. Paul,

    Not only was Obama a failed candidate, he actually paid his own way to the DNC in 2000, only to be told they couldn't find a ticket for him.

    He watched the convention from a cheap motel room, a destitute failure in his own mind.

    4 years later, he was a keynote speaker at the DNC.

    8 years later, he was the Democratic nominee.

    What a country!

  5. Dave is a cool guy. He's a maverick with an uncanny sixth sense in making investments. I don't know if it's talent or he just has loads of rare common sense.

    If he runs for president, I'll give him my vote.

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