Entrepreneurial

Hot Prospects: Ken Howery, Founders Fund

By Reuters Staff
August 4, 2010

– The following profile is an abbreviated version of Venture Capital Journal contributor Deborah Gage’s piece for the the VCJ’s series on “Hot Prospects” within the venture capital industry. –

Ken Howery’s first office after college was in a broom closet at 3000 Sand Hill Road – and no, he wasn’t the janitor. He and his new boss, Peter Thiel, who was running hedge fund Thiel Capital International, wanted a Sand Hill Road address. Even though the broom closet was the only space available, it was still on Sand Hill, and the more prestigious part at that.

“The broom closet was maybe 10 feet wide,” Howery said. “We had a desk, and any time somebody had to go to a meeting, they had to suck in to get out the door.”

Today, Howery and Thiel still work together as co-founders of the Founders Fund, but this time each has his own office at San Francisco’s picturesque Presidio. Howery, who calls Thiel his mentor, has worked with him for a dozen years on several enterprises, the most successful of which was PayPal, which the duo co-founded with several others in 1998.

Howery was PayPal’s first CFO and figured he’d work at the company maybe six months. Instead, he helped build the company for four years, until it went public in February 2002 and was bought by eBay four months later for about $1.5 billion.

The PayPal ride more than anything else convinced Howery of the importance of operational experience. “No one from the PayPal team had payment experience; no one even had Internet experience,” he said. “It was learning as you go, and you had to learn fast because there was no room for mistakes.”

QUICK FACTS

Occupation: Co-founder and Managing Partner, The Founders Fund

Age: 34

Education: BA, Economics, Stanford University, 1998

Work experience: Co-founder and first CFO, PayPal, 1998-2002; Director of Corporate Development, eBay (which acquired PayPal), 2002-03; Vice President of Private Equity, Clarium Capital Management, 2004; Co-founder and Managing Partner, the Founders Fund, 2005 to present.

Investments: Worked on The Founders Fund’s original and subsequent investments in Facebook. Led investments in Quantcast, Robotex and ZocDoc and co-led investments in Yammer and Mint (acquired by Intuit last year for $170M).

Mentor: Peter Thiel, co-founder, the Founders Fund

Twitter handle: @kenhowery

Why he became a VC: “Because one Facebook every 10 years is not enough.”

Sources: VCJ reporting and LinkedIn

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