Peter van Oppen is a member of Trilogy’s investing team. He served as Chairman and CEO of Advanced Digital Information Corporation (ADIC) and its predecessor companies from 1989 to 2006. Previously, he worked in the medical electronics industry and as a consultant at Price Waterhouse LLP and Bain & Company in New York, Boston and London. A data storage company, ADIC grew from sales and valuation levels of below $10 million to annual revenue of nearly $500 million and a cash sale price of about $800 million in 2006. He was an initial investor in companies that became Voicestream and Western Wireless and served as a director of related entities at various times between 1992 and the sale of Western Wireless in 2005. In addition to ADIC and Western Wireless, he has served on numerous public company boards including Isilon Systems through its sale to EMC as well as many private entities.
Peter served as Chair of the Whitman College Board of Trustees and as Chair of its Investment Committee. He was formerly an Advisory Board member and director of the Seattle Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, As a public company director, he has participated in panels related to effective Corporate Governance. Peter holds a BA in Political Science from Whitman College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar. He currently serves on the board of MITS in addition to serving on other private and public company boards including Level 3 Communications (NYSE: LVLT) and Impinj.
What’s more exciting, running a company or being a VC?
What they have in common is the most fun, which is building teams. I was a consultant and a public company CEO for nearly 20 years, and I recognized early on that cloning me wasn’t going to bring about success. The best thing I could do was to surround myself with the smartest people and empower them to bring their passion and talent to the table. In my case, I wasn’t an engineer so I knew I had better find the best engineers to help me. It’s the same philosophy I use when helping our CEOs build their teams.
Why boards matter
I think entrepreneurs need boards and it’s most important that those boards aren’t exclusively the typical VC profile. They need people who have run businesses. We definitely empathize and live though the entrepreneurs based on our own experiences.
Essential entrepreneurial traits
Passion and energy first, then the ability to focus in order to accomplish something, and sufficient experience in the industry you’re going after. Experience as an entrepreneur is not necessarily a must-have. We’ve backed many first-time entrepreneurs.