The Blog

  • January 19, 2010
  • Entrepreneurship and mountain climbing

    I don’t know where on this earth I would have met such and interesting and diverse array of people but in the CRM industry and environs.  Got email today from someone I met a couple of times who has been very successful as a venture capitalist.

    Gordon Ritter is a partner at Emergence Capital and his email announced that he’s on a mountain in South America that I had never heard of.  But Aconcagua is located near Mendoza, Argentina and is 22,840 feet at its peak and the second tallest peak in the world, the highest in South America.

    If you track these things, there is a grouping called “The Seven Summits” that includes the highest peaks on the seven continents.  Some people make it a hobby to climb all seven but I don’t know if Gordon is doing this or if he’s simply engaging in this challenge.

    Some people might think that engaging in such activities is daring, others that it is more akin to suicidal or even fun.  Regardless, I couldn’t resist the idea of linking Gordon’s exploits with Malcolm Gladwell’s latest article in the New Yorker (January 18, p. 24.

    Gladwell’s topic is entrepreneurism and the title provides the focus, “The Sure Thing”.  Gladwell’s analysis shows that some of the most successful entrepreneurs defy our conventional beliefs about them.  If the conventional idea is that the entrepreneur is a risk-taking loner, Gladwell shows that he or she is just the opposite.  Using Ted Turner as one example, Gladwell shows how Turner, throughout his career building what has become CNN, avoided risk and did his homework until the direction he wanted to move in looked like, well, a sure thing.

    Another subject is the less well-known hedge fund manager John Paulson who, with a small team, studied the mortgage market a few years ago and became convinced that it was a bubble.  Armed with this knowledge Paulson raised money and bought as much mortgage insurance as he could, waiting for the bubble to burst.  When it did, he made billions.

    Back to Gordon Ritter.  You may not know his name, but about ten years ago Ritter was one of the earliest investors in a little San Francisco company started by a brash young former Oracle vice president named Benioff who was sure that on-demand application technology was the thing of the future.

    While climbing the second highest peak on the planet might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I am sure that Ritter has it all figured out down to the smallest details.  Absent a weather problem or some fluky health issue, I am sure he will summit.  Actually, looking at his three week plan, it shows time built in to attempt the summit on three days just in case.  Pretty shrewd if you ask me.

    Good luck Gordon.  Be safe.

    Published: 14 years ago


    • January 27th, 2010 at 1:42 pm    


      I got the same email from Gordon and wish him luck. I myself am risk-averse when it comes to physical harm, but I know many people who are rejuvenated by it.

      On your topic of risk-taking and “sure things”, I think one of the qualities that distinguishes entrepreneurs from the rest of the crowd is that they have such a clear and compelling vision of their dream that it actually appears as a sure thing to them. I’ve seen that in Marc Benioff, Patrick Grady, and my own CEO, Ted Elliott, among others. They can’t understand why other people aren’t doing the same thing.

      God bless them for creating the wealth that they do for the many who help them make their dreams come true.

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