By Joyce Franklin
For inspiration on how to manage the flexibility that accompanies Phase 4 of the Four Phases of Startup Life — the What’s Next? stage that comes after a liquidity event — look to Warren Hellman.
After making a fortune as a private equity pioneer, he returned to his love of the banjo and founded Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, one of the world’s preeminent music festivals, which gets underway in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park this Friday, October 3. Hellman once said the festival he created “was the most selfish thing I’ve ever done,” even though it gives hundreds of thousands of people joy.
Hellman enjoyed his career, spent time with his family, and fostered his love of music. He lived a full life before his death in 2011 at age 77 and will be remembered for accomplishments ranging from prescient investing in startups to major philanthropy. Hellman donated generously to a variety of causes in San Francisco: museums, the ballet, a non-profit news organization, a local health clinic, and the public school system. David Lee, the executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee and a commissioner at the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, stated, “If this city had a patron, he was it. He’s a grandfather figure of San Francisco and a man who cared deeply about the city and had a vision that included everybody, not just the business community.”
Hellman’s business accomplishments are no less impressive. While his early experience was in finance, he gravitated to the tech world. After working for Lehman Brothers and becoming the firm’s youngest president, he started Matrix Partners, a venture capital firm that was an early investor in Apple. Next, he founded Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm, where one of his well-known deals was the sale of DoubleClick (which Hellman & Friedman owned) to Google.
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