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SCU Engineering News

Clean Tech Proponent Addresses Ring Knockers

Marc van den Berg, Vantage Point Venture Partners

Marc van den Berg BSEE ’83, Managing Director of Vantage Point Venture Partners, a $5 billion multi-disciplined venture capital firm with offices in Silicon Valley, London, Montreal, and Beijing, addressed an enthusiastic crowd of SCU students and alumni at the quarterly Ring Knockers meeting. Ring Knockers is the SCU engineering alumni network.

Having deployed more than $5 billion since its inception in 1996, Vantage Point Venture Partners emphasizes investments in energy, materials, and infrastructure through its dedicated cleantech practice, and the audience was eager to hear the story of van den Berg’s success—which he was quick to point out, was built on “two and a half decades of failure.” He briefly recounted his history of ups and downs through career mistakes (he turned down jobs at both Intel and Juniper Networks in their early days), raising money, losing money, legal battles, bad timing, and a job where he was separated from his young family while traveling 50 weeks out of the year.

“I failed three times,” he said, “but the best thing about failure is that your network grows exponentially.” With each step of his career, van den Berg built and maintained his networks so that when someone approached him with an interesting idea about thermoelectric technology and waste heat efficiency, he knew the right people to call and a new phase in his life was begun as the startup never materialized but a career in Venture Capital was launched. 

After 25 years, van den Berg has definitely become a success, and he shared his philosophy with the group: “You’ve got to be a little bit bold, a little humble, have a little bit of guts. There’s only one place in the world where failure is not only an option, it’s actually an attribute, and that’s right here in Silicon Valley. You can fail and fail and fail again here. I don’t want one job for 30+ years. The 30-year model is horrible; I don’t want that model. I want 6 careers of 7 to 10 years each. I want to coach soccer, I want to teach, be a venture capitalist. I like to try different things. Keep your network alive,” he said, “and you can do it. Maybe not today, but you’ll find opportunities that match your talents, your interests, and your needs.”

Read more about Ring Knockers here.