Sumo Cat 009 - John Greathouse




John Greenhouse has a diverse range of skills. He has a rare combination of being a sales person who can also do finance, an Angel who has been involved with companies such as Citrix and Go To Meeting.

2:05 John actually passed on Uber - he wrote an article on how his 250k investment would be worth 1.1 billion today if he had invested. Uber’s first round was a low value round, but he passed because it struck John as a bunch of people who sat around with a Silicon Valley almost snob concept of not wanting to sit in a normal cab like everyone else as Uber was originally black cars. He also doubted that the business would travel countrywide and the east coast wouldn’t actually buy into using Uber.

5:12 He thinks that had he taken the time to get to know Travis, one of the founders of Uber, he would have known that this guy would have been driven enough to pull off making Uber work. He was also worried about getting enough drivers and passengers, but Uber actually pulled it off in textbook style. He does say though that there are so many opportunities out there and entrepreneurs that it is a pointless exercise lamenting the ones that didn’t work out.

6:55 John started with a degree in accounting, although he knew he’d never be an accountant. He actually went to Wharton and got his qualification - but realised he had it in him all the time to be an entrepreneur. HIs first successful company - he met a robotics professor from UCSB who listened to his ideas and paid him a ridiculously low salary. The chairman of the company doubled his salary and stock options within weeks. The company went public and in turn created the medical robotics industry. His next company became Go To Meeting which he built from scratch, and he is quite happy about the exit of Go To Meeting.

10:34 He had some of the most fundamental patents in the medical industry, but he didn’t understand medicine - so John was hiring medical professionals to advise him but didn’t like what they were telling him. Fred Mall was a medical device superstar with a glittering background. He feels that a bit of arrogance on John’s part led them to reject his interest in working together. Seven years later Fred bought John’s company when everything went wrong financially for him and right for Fred.

13:38 John knew how to light the match and get something started. He does feel though that he was unwilling to grow up as a company and hire in professionals. He cites the example of how his company applied to the FDA for robotics in cardiac surgery as an example of how he actually did not know what he was doing in the medical world. Understand when it’s time to bring the pros in - get it off the ground, but bring in pilots to keep it in the air.

16:13 He took a couple of years off after the robotics company. During this time he had some good friends who allowed him to do some angel investing. He found that this was a role he was ready for it was a good transition, and then he joined Rincon Investment Partners with Jim Andelman. John worked along with Jim, found he liked it and formalised the relationship.

19:14 Johns investment normally comes in where the CEO has proved that he/she is ready to sell the product - and he helps them hire that first sales person and advises on marketing plans and those first few steps to avoid mistakes they might otherwise have made.

20:45 In both cases of his most successful companies he describes meeting the co-founders of similar to the idea of when you fall in love. He says when you have found that feeling, don’t give up - keep doing the analysis. Successful entrepreneurs don’t let negativity beat them down, the use the energy in a positive way to make a venture work. He also cites the example of Webex and their unique way of dealing with a problem being presented to them by many firms interested in their product, but wanting something to go behind their firewall.

24:39 The stronger the value prop - the better the chance you have of doing missionary selling. The first product he entered the market with ‘Go To Meeting’ was ‘Go To Assist’, and he found that the transition from dialup to broadband that was happening at the time gave him a great entrance into ISP enterprise sized businesses. If the market is out there, but isn’t quite ready - find the pain point to enter it.

26:55 Being self aware is a huge thing to John. He feels you should be able to see yourself through their eyes. He doesn’t think he has a lot of skills and may not be that smart, but one thing he has been able to do is knowing his weakness and an ability to build successful teams to counteract this.

28:45 John was a 5 year old entrepreneur and sold stuff in the front yard. He always had side businesses going from that early age.

29:43 He is teaching a class of freshman in the coming quarter and he has asked them to start a small business for the reason of exercising entrepreneurial muscles - negotiating, building and figuring out what they are good at and not good at.

30:40 He continues to struggle with not being a victim of his own past - the world changes. One problem that can happen with somebody who has had past successes is not put in the same effort now as maybe 10 years ago, and thats something that he struggles with.

31:44 Its really important to listen to everyone but ignore most of them. A lot of what you’re going to hear is wrong, but understanding why it’s important to them will help you.

32:34 John is fanatic about email inbox zero and replying to emails in 24 hours. He believes that everyone deserves a response - politeness and respect is important to him.

34:45 He’s not really a check momentum investor, so he doesn’t really love specific technologies. One trend that he does like however is young dynamic companies that are battling dinosaurs. He feels there is a lot of opportunity in those markets.

36:45 He doesn’t have a favourite project - he loves all his entrepreneurs equally, and he feels that if you don’t have a personal relationship with all your entrepreneurs its not going to be worth it in the long run.

38:08 He publishes every week in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and can be found on