“Random acts of kindness, done on a continual basis, lead to unexpectedly good things,” says Matt McCall, a new adjunct professor at the Daniels College of Business. “That’s the number one rule of venture: It is opaque. You do not know what the future is.”
McCall, a fifth-generation Wall Street professional and top-100 venture capitalist (VC), comes to DU with a plethora of knowledge, experience and excitement to take on this new journey to help students.
McCall has worked at the Boston Consulting Group, at Draper Fisher Jurvetson Ventures (DFJ) and on Wall Street. He became a venture capitalist and, since then, has backed over 80 companies. He was an early investor in Facebook, Coinbase, Dollar Shave Club, Honest Company, Spothero, TicketsNow and other top companies his classes will study. That’s not all: He has worked with entrepreneurs like Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), Dick Costolo (Twitter) and Michael Dubin (Dollar Shave Club). Needless to say, McCall has a lot of tips and skills to pass on to his students.
“At DFJ, we were the seed investors for Tesla and Mapbox, which powers Tesla’s mapping as well as many other popular phone apps, and I’ve backed a host of Industry 4.0 companies, including one of the world’s biggest drone companies/fleets. So my challenge will be teaching freshmen, who are still not even sure what business is, with supplemental materials and examples that I originally created for MBAs and current entrepreneurs,” McCall said.
McCall has come to identify with the word “sherpa,” a term that some in Colorado may be familiar with.
A sherpa is someone who, historically, is an expert in mountaineering, guiding foreign trekkers and mountain climbers to reach extreme altitudes safely. A sherpa is vital in accomplishing these hikes because the terrain is treacherous and people hiking are often not very experienced.
So, what does it mean to be a sherpa in the business world and how does that relate to McCall as a DU professor?
McCall is adopting the role of a sherpa in the business classroom to help incoming first-year students learn the skills of business and travel the best route possible to become great entrepreneurs, starting with the Fourth Industrial Revolution class.
McCall doesn’t know exactly what his class will entail yet, but he is ready to take on the challenge—and has the knowledge and skills to do so effortlessly.
“To be a full sherpa, I realized I can do the strategic stuff and the tactical stuff for entrepreneurship, but VCs miss the human stuff, and that is where the real game is,” McCall said. “Without the human aspect, it is like giving students an oxygen tank with no warning.”
Accomplished as he is, McCall is much more than his resume. He is a storyteller, a deep thinker and a mentor to many. In an interview, McCall shared some important insights that he hopes to share with his students as they not only begin their academic and professional journeys, but their lives.
“Excellence and personal development are forged in the fires of entrepreneurship,” he said.
In his newest entity, Forge Capital, McCall leans on an ancient Greek concept, known as “arete.” Traditionally, arete is excellence of any kind. McCall defines it as, “the highest version of yourself without being an anxious mess.”
One of the core skills to achieve arete is storytelling, McCall says, something writers and creatives love, but something that often gets left out in business.
McCall explained that the best entrepreneurs are storytellers, referring to Elon Musk, Michael Dubin and Jessica Alba.
“If students can learn that life is about storytelling and your job is to take something that is fairly inert and tell a story about it, then they will be successful,” McCall said.
McCall believes “DU is on fire” with entrepreneurial energy and he is excited to have the chance to help students reach their full potential.
He hopes he can inspire students to embody and appreciate how magical the creative process of entrepreneurship is.
“Entrepreneurship in startups is just a microcosm for life,” he said. “I hope they realize a lot of the lessons in entrepreneurship help you lead a really rewarding life.”