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!)