40 People Who Are Living Proof You Can Make It In Silicon Valley After 40
The week after Brian Acton (age 42) sold WhatsApp for $19B, many thought of it as an abnormality. Though the data says otherwise, The Valley still persists in believing you are done if you haven’t “made it” by 30.
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40 Over 40
The week after Brian Acton (age 42) sold WhatsApp for $19B, many thought of it as an abnormality. Though the data says otherwise, The Valley still persists in believing you are done if you haven’t “made it” by 30. The actual data shows the average age of peak innovation to be 40. So to offset this idea that you are done if you haven’t “made it” by your 20’s, we give you forty amazing entrepreneurs who “made it” (in the literal sense of started it) after they turned forty years old.
Susan Feldman, One Kings Lane
Susan Feldman is the co-founder and chief merchandising officer of One Kings Lane. In addition to overseeing all buying and merchandising, she travels the world with leading tastemakers to bring unique products to customers through the company’s specialized sales. Susan also serves as company spokesperson, appearing on venues such as The Martha Stewart Show. Prior to One Kings Lane, Susan held various senior positions in the apparel industry, including vice president of sales at Polo Jeans and president of sales at Lauren Ralph Lauren Sleepwear. Susan has also held executive positions at Warnaco/Authentic Fitness Corp., Ralph Lauren Swimwear, Liz Claiborne, and Cole of California.
Amy Errett, Madison Reed
Amy’s career has been about as interesting as any in the Valley. Ranging from investing and operating in consumer marketplaces, both online and offline, and stretching as far as volunteer nonprofit leadership. She recently founded Madison Reed which is “transforming the at-home coloring experience with healthier hair color and hair care products that deliver vibrant, salon-quality results.” She founded Olivia, a travel lifestyle company and was a venture capitalist at Maveron Ventures prior to Madison Reed. Amy is also the chair of the board of Glide Foundation, San Francisco’s largest nongovernmental, direct social services organization.
Helen Grenier, iRobot, CyPhy Works
Helen Greiner has worked at NASA’a Jet propulsion Laboratory and MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, is a Trustee of the Boston Museum of Science and Director of the National Defense Industrial Association. She is the co-founder and board director of iRobot and CEO of CyPhy Works, a robot company “filling the need between 3 and 300 feet.” Her awards and recognitions are too numerous to list but our favorite is the Pioneer Award from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Reid Rubsamen, Immunity Project
Immunity Project’s CEO and co-founder, Reid Rubsamen, is the oldest person to ever be admitted to Y Combinator at the age of 56 . The biotech veteran and his team at Immunity Project are working on a vaccine to cure HIV/AIDS – and then giving it away to the world for free. That is truly something special.
Brian Acton, WhatsApp
According to Acton’s personal Twitter feed, he was turned down for employment by both Twitter and Facebook in 2009. He co-founded the highly popular mobile messaging app Whatsapp at age 42 and then sold it to Facebook for a whopping $19 billion this last Feb. Acton reportedly holds a 20% stake in the company, making his net worth approximately $3.8 billion. This is Facebook’s largest acquisition to date.
Linda Avey, 23andMe, Curious
Linda Avey founded Curious, a personal data discovery platform at the age of 51. Previously, she co-founded 23andMe, the leading personal genetics company. Her early career focused on sales and business development roles in the biopharmaceutical industry in San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. While at Affymetrix and Perlegen Sciences, she focused on development of translational research collaborations with academic and pharmaceutical partners. Linda also worked at Spotfire helping researchers maximize value from scientific data through visualization tools, and at Applied Biosystems during the early days of the human genome project.
Phil Libin, Evernote
Phil Libin is the CEO of Evernote. He is an entrepreneur and executive who has led two Internet companies from the very beginning to proven commercial success and helped three others through rapid growth. Prior to joining Evernote, Phil founded and served as president of CoreStreet, currently one of the top companies providing smart credential and identity management technologies to governments and large corporations throughout the world. Previously, Phil was founder and CEO of Engine 5, a leading Boston-based Internet software development company acquired by Vignette Corporation in early 2000, where he went on to serve as principal architect and chief technologist for applications.
Jane Park, Julep
Earlier this year Jane Park won Geekwire’s CEO of the year award, and with good reason. The founder’s cosmetics and e-commerce company Julep has garnered over $56M in investment from Andreessen Horowitz , Maveron Ventures, Azure Capital, Madrona Venture Group and Altimeter Capital. With sales reportedly doubling every year and a reported total of $20M in 2013, Jane is guiding Julep to be a star of the $160B a year beauty industry.
Paul Bricault, Amplify LA
A fixture in the LA venture scene, Paul Bricault is the founder and managing director of Amplify LA – a digital media accelerator which launched in December 2011 and has funded 30 companies out of its 10,000 square foot tech campus in Venice. As dedicated to education as he is to start-ups, Paul also sits on the Board of Councillors for the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California (USC), and is an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Cinema-Television at USC where he has taught a course for the last 20 years on the Impact of Technology on Media.
Josh Felser, #Climate
Josh Felser founded, built and successfully sold two companies and founded early stage venture capital firm Freestyle. He’s now turned his attention to the crisis of climate change. #Climate is his non-profit startup dedicated to using technology and social media to help mitigate climate change. Felser also started two successful Internet companies, Spinner and Grouper, which were acquired by AOL Time Warner and Sony for $320 million and $65 million, respectively.
Stan Chudnovsky, Paypal
Stan is that rare founder who thrives on both building companies and helping acquirers of his companies reinvent themselves. This is part of what PayPal saw when they acquired his last startup, IronPearl. Stan migrated over to run PayPal’s Growth, Strategy, and Special Operations functions. He did this before as a co-founder at Tickle, one of the first social media companies (acquired by Monster Worldwide in 2004).
Lynn Perkins, UrbanSitter
Lynn is the CEO and co-founder of babysitting platform UrbanSitter. Prior to founding UrbanSitter, Lynn served as founder and CEO of Xuny.com and VP of Business Development at Bridgepath.com. At Gap Inc., LaSalle Partners, and Joie de Vivre Hospitality, Lynn gained extensive business and transaction experience.
Sarah Leary, NextDoor
With over 34,000 neighborhoods in all fifty states Nextdoor is on path to be the facebook of your neighborhood. Sarah Leary is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing. She helped the company get where it is with the Nextdoor partnership program and integrating local city governments. The company raised over $100M from Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark, Greylock and Shasta Ventures. Leary started her career at Microsoft, where she worked for nearly five years as a product manager on the teams that launched the first three versions of Microsoft Office.
Julie Wainwright, TheRealReal
Julie Wainwright helped pioneer the e-commerce industry as CEO of Reel.com in 1997, and then again at Pets.com in 1999. She has been recognized as one of the top female entrepreneurs by The San Francisco Business Times. She’s now the Founder of The RealReal, an online luxury resale store offering authenticated and pre-owned designer brands.
Dave Duffield, PeopleSoft, WorkDay
Dave Duffield founded PeopleSoft in 1987 and served as the company’s CEO and board chairman. PeopleSoft grew to be the world’s second-largest application software company before being acquired by Oracle in January 2005. Duffield co-founded HR platform Workday in 2005. Prior to PeopleSoft, Dave established two mainframe application software companies. He was CEO, chairman, and chief product architect at Integral Systems, the first company to offer DB2-based human resource and accounting systems. He also co-founded Information Associates which specialized in applications for the higher education market. He began his career at IBM as a marketing representative and systems engineer. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and an MBA from Cornell University.
Charlene Li, Altimeter Group
Charlene Li is the founder and current Managing Partner of Altimeter Group, and author of The New York Times bestseller Open Leadership. She is also the coauthor of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell, named one of 2008′s best business books. She is one of the foremost experts on social media, and a consultant and independent thought leader on leadership, strategy, digital technologies, interactive media, and marketing. Formerly, Charlene was vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, the Interactive Publisher at Community Newspaper Company, and a consultant with Monitor Group.
Jacki Zehner, Women Moving Millions
Jacki Zehner became a community member of Women Moving Millions (WMM) in 2009 and has since become WMM’s Chief Engagement Officer. In addition to her role with WMM, she is President of the Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation, a Board Member of The Sundance Institute and an advisory board member to many organizations including The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Pax World’s Global Women’s Equality Fund, The Shriver Report, The Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Catalytic Women, Chicken & Egg Pictures “Eggspert”, Tostan, Impact Partners and Gamechangers, the first ever film fund for female directors. Prior to her full-time engagement in the philanthropic arena, she was a Partner and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs. She is also a frequent media commentator, consultant and speaker on women’s success in the workplace, women and wealth, investing, financial current events and high-impact philanthropy.
Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures
Aileen Lee is Founder of Cowboy Ventures, a digital seed-stage focused fund founded in 2012, and a Partner at Kleiner Perkins, which she joined in 1999. Aileen has been the Lead or Supporting Partner working with KPCB-backed companies such as Bloom Energy, Blue Nile (NASDAQ: Nile), Callaway Digital Arts, Friendster (acquired by MOL Global), Good Technology (acquired by MOT), One Kings Lane, Plum District, Rent the Runway, ShopKick, Tellme (Acquired by MSFT), and Zazzle. She was also founding CEO of RMG Networks (RMGN, formerly Danoo) the leading digital out-of-home media network backed by KPCB and DAG. Prior to joining KPCB, Aileen worked at Gap Inc. in various Operating roles. She has also worked for Odwalla and for The North Face in brand and product Marketing. Aileen began her career at Morgan Stanley in Technology Mergers & Acquisitions. She has a Bachelor of Science from MIT, an MBA from Harvard Business School and she is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.
Deborah Jackson, Plum Alley
If you are a woman entrepreneur looking for funding, chances are you’re already familiar with Plum Alley. The crowd funding site focused “on the sectors that matter to women,” bills itself as the spot “where women raise money.” Deborah Jackson was over 50 when she started Plum Alley.
Brad Handler, Inspirato
Brad Handler left eBay in 2001 to jump into the travel and hospitality industry. He founded destination club Exclusive Resorts, eventually selling his ownership to Steve Case. Brad is now founder and Chairman of Inspirato, a private club that provides its members exclusive access to luxury vacation homes, experiences and VIP offerings. The club controls a real estate portfolio worth over $700 million and has nearly 8,000 members. Investors have taken notice as Inspirato has raised $65 million from venture capital firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Institutional Venture Partners. Handler has served as a Lecturer at Stanford’s Law School and Graduate School of Business (GSB) as well as at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Gil Elbaz, Factual
Gil Elbaz doesn’t think small. The founder of AdSense, which he sold to Google in 2003, is now working on Factual. With a repository of location data that is only rivaled by Google, Factual has information on more than 65 million businesses and points of interest across 50 countries. From a young age. Customers include Microsoft (Bing), Yelp, Groupon, Samsung, Millennial Media, and MoPub, as well as thousands of developers building mobile apps, such as Emu and Shopular. In addition to his work at Factual, Gil is an active angel investor. He recently co-founded TenOneTen ventures with David Waxman, and his notable investments include Climate Corporation (acquired by Monsanto for $1.2 billion), GoodReads (acquired by Amazon), Scopely, and Kaggle. Gil is the founder of the Common Crawl Foundation, a non-profit that maintains an open repository of web-crawl data that can be accessed and analyzed by anyone. He also serves on the board of the X-Prize Foundation, and he and his wife manage the Elbaz Family Foundation, which supports environmental and educational causes.
Hadi Partovi, Code.org
Starting with the simple premise, “anybody can learn to code,” Hadi Partovi’s latest venture, Code.org has enlisted over 37 million people to try coding for an hour. Aimed primarily at kids and schools, Partovi’s mission with code.org is to expand participation in computer science by making it available in more schools, and increase participation by women and underrepresented students of color. A giant challenge until you consider Partovi has founded and sold two companies previously, Tellme Networks which was acquired by Microsoft and iLike which he cofounded with his brother Ali and sold to MySpace. Also a prolific angel investor and startup advisor hi portfolio includes Facebook, Dropbox, airbnb, Zappos, OPOWER, IndieGogo, Bluekai, and many others.
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Joyus
With a pedigree consisting of successful stints at Google, Amazon, News Corp, Yodlee and Accel Partners, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy added “founder” to her list of accomplishments as founder and CEO of Joyus, a video based shopping site. With nearly $20M in funding under her belt from the likes of Harrison Metal, InterWest Partners, Accel Partners and Time Warner Investments Joyus is of to a great start. We are glad to Sukhinder on this list, but she is no stranger to accolades having been named one of the Top 100 People in the Valley by Business Insider (2012); a “Woman to Watch” by Fortune (2008) and Ad Age (2010); Techcrunch’s first General Management Fellow (2009); and one of the Top 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley (2014,2010).
Rashmi Sinha, Slideshare
Rashmi Sinha is the CEO and co-founder of Slideshare. Though she holds a PhD in Psychology from Brown, she says she much prefers building things instead. She has consulted on user experience projects for companies like eBay, iFilm, AAA and Blue Shield. She lead the team that created MindCanvas, a rich online survey platform for designers. MindCanvas has been used by companies like Microsoft, CitiBank, Expedia and Yahoo.
Renaud LaPlanche, Lending Club
Renaud LaPlanche is the Founder and CEO of online credit marketplace Lending Club. Prior to founding Lending Club, Renaud Laplanche was the Founder & CEO of TripleHop Technologies, a VC-backed enterprise software company acquired by Oracle Corporation in June 2005. Prior to founding TripleHop, Renaud was a Senior Associate at New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Renaud was honored with the HEC “Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2002 and won the French sailing championship twice, in 1988 and 1990.
Anthony Wood, Roku
Anthony Wood founded Roku in 2002. Prior to Roku, Anthony invented the digital video recorder (DVR) and founded ReplayTV, where he served as President and CEO before the company’s acquisition, and subsequent sale to DirecTV. Before ReplayTV, Anthony was Founder and CEO of iband, Inc., an Internet software company sold to Macromedia in 1996, whose code base became a central part of the original core code of Macromedia Dreamweaver. At Macromedia, Anthony was vice president of Internet Authoring. Earlier in his career, Anthony was Founder and CEO of SunRize Industries, a leading supplier of hardware and software tools for non-linear audio recording and editing.
Craig Newmark, Craigslist
Craig Newmark was working at Schwab when he started Craigslist at the age of 42, back in 1995. What started as a fun side project in his living room has since grown into one of the busiest sites on the internet, helping people with basic day-to-day needs such as finding a job, an apartment and a date, all within a culture of trust.
Mikkel Svane, Zendesk
Mikkel Svane is the CEO and founder of Zendesk. He started the company with Morten Primdahl and Alexander Aghassipour to “make great customer service available to everyone and create software that people love to use.” Today, he leads Zendesk’s global operations and business strategy with those same goals in mind.
Robin Chase, ZipCar
The small handful of founders’ reinventing transportation include Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick, founders of Uber, Elon Musk of course and Robin Chase. Chase is the founder of Buzzcar, a peer-to-peer car rental service, and co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar. She has spent her life thinking about new ways people can get a ride. Her passion is consuming as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Transportation Council, having served on the US Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Advisory Committee in 2009 she was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People.
Kathy Leake, LocalResponse
Kathy Leake is the founder of LocalResponse. Prior to this she founded Media6Degrees (now Dsillery) and drove the company from pre-revenue to $20 million in revenue and $100 million valuation in 2 years. Now as Founder and CEO of LocalResponse, a social intent targeting company, Kathy and her team have doubled revenue year-over-year since its inception in 2011. Kathy started with over 20 years of advertising experience having worked at multiple Omnicom and WPP agencies such as DDB Needham, Ogilvy & Mather, TBWA/Chiat Day, Agency.com and Red Sky Interactive. Kathy was named Mobile Marketer’s Mobile Women to Watch in 2013 and listed in Business Insider’s Most Powerful Women in Mobile in 2012 and 2013. SmartCEO selected Kathy as one of the “Top 50 CEOs” in NYC. She was also listed in Forbes as one of the Top 11 Women Who Started Amazing Companies. Both of her startups are listed in Forbes America’s Most Promising Companies, 2013.
Philip Rosedale, Second Life, High Fidelity
Philip Rosedale is the founder of Second Life and countless experiments. Some wildly popular like the open-ended virtual world itself. Some financially successful like Internet video conferencing product, “FreeVue”, which was acquired by RealNetworks in 1996. And some working their way to market reinvention like his distributed work and computing projects Coffee & Power and Worklist.net. His latest project High Fidelity Inc. is creating a next-generation virtual reality system. Philip was listed in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in The World in 2007 and has an Emmy in Technology & Engineering.
Gina Bianchini, MightyBell
Gina Bianchini is an expert in creating smarter social networks online and in the real world. She is the founder and CEO of online community platform Mightybell Before Mightybell, Bianchini and Marc Andreessen co-founded Ning, the largest social platform for communities of interests online. Gina has been featured as one of NPR’s “5 Nerds to Watch in 2013,” Marie Claire’s “New Guard,” Fortune Magazine’s “40 under 40,” Huffington Post’s 10 technology “Ultimate Game Changers,” and 7×7 magazine’s “Hot 20” list. Gina and Mightybell have been featured in Fast Company, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She has also appeared on Charlie Rose, CNBC, and CNN.
Jeremy Allaire, Circle
Jeremy Allaire’s vision has touched everyone reading this in some way. Whether you are an engineer who used Cold Fusion or who benefits from the coding innovation it partially fathered, or viewing an online video served up by Brightcove. Jeremy founded the company and took it public. He has now turned his attention to crypto currency as the founder of Circle. Circle’s mission is to “ build a suite of products that enable greater ease-of-use in online and in-person payments, enhanced security and privacy for consumers, and the convenience of free, instant, global digital money transfers.” With $26M in from VCs such as General Catalyst Partners, Accel Partners, Breyer Capital and Oak Investment Partners, Jeremy’s progress at Circle will be fun to watch.
Mark Pincus, Zynga
Mark Pincus Founded Zynga in 2007 at the age of 41. Since its founding, more than one billion people in 200 countries across web and mobile platforms have played and connected through Zynga games. Franchises including FarmVille and Words With Friends have become a part of people’s daily lives. Pincus also made founding investments in Napster, Twitter and Facebook.
Ken Loveless, Founders Circle Capital
Ken has made a career out of fitting and lacing founders’ shoes for their start-up marathons. At Silicon Valley Bank, “Banker” was never a suitable title for Ken despite being the first to play this role for Android (GOOG), Facebook (FB), Jive (JIVE), LinkedIn (LNKD), VMWare (VMW), and Zendesk (ZEN). Now, as a co-creator of Founders Circle, Ken is fitted with his own pair of entrepreneurial shoes. And he quite likes how they feel.
Anthony Soohoo, Dot and Bo
Anthony Soohoo sold Dotspotter to CBS in 2007. He went on to transform CBS interactive into the comScore powerhouse it is today. He left that success behind to jump into the world of entrepreneurism again, founding e-commerce furniture company Dot & Bo. Soohoo started Dot & Bo after his own frustrating experience shopping for furniture. He found that advice was expensive and customer service too limited. With sales and venture capital interest in his company now blooming, it appears he was right.
James Min, Telos Advisors
After helping build Montgomery & Company into a leading investment banking franchise in the digital media and internet sectors with transactions such as the sale of MySpace to News Corp and the sale of Club Penguin to Disney, James Min could have rested on his laurels. He chose instead to found his own firm, Telos Advisors a year ago. It’s already completed several M&A transactions to leading strategic buyers including American Express, AOL, Brightcove, Conversant (fka ValueClick), Disney, eBay, Google, InterActiveCorp., News Corp., WPP and Yahoo!
Kristen Koh Goldstein, BackOps
CEO and Founder, Kristen Koh Goldstein started BackOps, Inc. both to seize a huge SMB services market opportunity and to prove once and for all that motherhood and careers are compatible. She is doing both with solid capital from the likes of Google Ventures and Sherpa Ventures, and her husband as a cofounder. Prior to founding BackOps in 2010, Kristen served as founder and CFO of Loyalty Lab, VP and Investment Analyst to the likes of Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. Kristen is an active Angel Investor and holds a MBA from Harvard with a BS from Cornell University. She helps many young companies and established nonprofits focused on education and issues affecting women and children.
Ted Wang, "Midwife to the unicorns"
Ted Wang has been called “midwife to the unicorns,” having counseled some of the world’s premier technology companies including Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Square, Spotify, Zuora and Sonos. He describes his role as similar to that of a river guide, helping his clients to navigate the currents and obstacles on a journey that he has been part of many times. Ted also is a leader in helping smaller companies with efforts to standardize financing documents as the founder and curator of the Series Seed Documents. As a partner at Fenwick and West, his practice ranges from the formation of new start-up companies through venture capital financings to public offerings, with a particular emphasis on mergers and acquisitions.
Om Malik, GigaOm
Om Malik was just shy of 40 when he started GigaOm, but the man is such a significant figure in Silicon Valley we felt he deserves a special mention anyway. Om is the founder of GigaOm. He was was a senior writer for Business 2.0 magazine during the dot com boom. He most recently hung up his writing pen to take a position as partner at True Ventures.