John Greathouse | [Top UCSB Entrepreneur Series] From GoToMeeting to VC to Professor of Entrepreneurship
Smart Business Revolution

John Greathouse is a venture capitalist, deploying roughly $100 million into approximately 60 ventures. He has written for Forbes since 2008, as well as The Wall Street Journal Inc., Business Insider, Entrepreneur Magazine, and TechCrunch. He has held a number of senior executive positions with successful startups, where he spearheaded transactions and generated more than $350 million worth of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition. John is also a CPA and holds an MBA from the Wharton School. Since 2007, he has been a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches entrepreneurship.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews John Greathouse, a venture capitalist, about his background in building tech companies and becoming a venture capitalist. John Greathouse also explains how he helps entrepreneurs evaluate their business ideas and build startups, and he talks about some of the successful companies and entrepreneurs he has worked with. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • John Greathouse’s entrepreneurial background and how GoToMeeting came about
  • John’s experience building a tech company in Santa Barbara and his transition from working in startups to becoming a venture capital investor
  • The Technology Management Program at UCSB and how John helps his students figure out their entrepreneurial future
  • John talks about some of the successful entrepreneurs he has worked with and the companies that have emerged from his classes
  • How John handles bad business ideas and how an entrepreneur can confirm if their idea is viable
  • Common challenges faced by entrepreneurs with an engineering or science background
  • What John is currently excited about in the tech space
  • The people John acknowledges for his achievements

Resources Mentioned:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, the host of this show. Every week I get to talk to interesting folks, CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies, including recently the original CEO and Co-founder of Netflix. You know, I talked with executives from YPO to EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and Open Table. Go check out my archives, because there’s lots of great episodes there. And you know my story, I’m recovering political hack, recovering lawyer, spent two years in politics, including working as a speechwriter with stints in the Clinton White House and for a California Governor and also was privileged to practice law for many years in Silicon Valley and see some amazing up and coming companies. But my guest in this episode will talk about some really interesting companies that he’s been involved in through various different roles. 

John Greathouse, has held a number of senior executive positions with successful startups, spearheading transactions, generating more than $350 million dollars in shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi 100 million dollar acquisition. He’s also a venture capitalist, deploying roughly $100 million into approximately 50-60 different ventures. He’s written for Forbes since 2008, as well as the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider,Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. He’s a CPA and holds an MBA from the Wharton School and since 2007, he has been professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, where he teaches entrepreneurship, my alma mater. And this is part of my series focusing on UC Santa Barbara entrepreneurs. So I’m really excited to have John here. 

As part of that, of course, this is brought to you by Rise25 Media where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with podcasts and content marketing. If you have any questions about that, give us a call, or send us an email at [email protected]. Alright, Professor Greathouse. Such a pleasure to have you here. I’ve followed you for a while, followed your writing, followed your videos, you’re big into creating content. And so I’ve been able to follow you for a while, even though we didn’t know each other when I was at UC Santa Barbara, and I want to jump in first. You’ve worn all these different hats, but one of your early victories was that you’re involved in a little, we’ll call it these days, you probably call it a precursor to Zoom, a company that laid the groundwork for Zoom, which you all know now, but GoToMeeting, which is a little $700 million business acquired by Citrix. And you were one of their first business guys. So tell me a little bit about what it was like joining this company that was doing what would you describe at the time online teleconferences or something like that?

John Greathouse 3:10 

Oh, and it wasn’t even it. I’ll try to do it quickly because it has a little twisty turny story. That was a wonderful bio, you forgot to mention, I’m the only CPA that probably can’t balance his checkbook. I’m not like I literally took that exam and that was the last I saw of accounting. But it’s still in my bio after all these years so be careful if you guys get your CPA and never goes away. You and You call me professors beginning which is very kind of you. I self identify as an entrepreneur, right, I was the kid selling popcorn in the front yard and embarrassing my parents and, and thought nothing of it. So I was always kind of scheming and just having fun building. I built a little sports memorabilia company when I was in my teens and just stuff like that couldn’t stop me from writing about interesting cities. So the company’s name was experts city, we had this little 128 kilobyte applet that sent mood pixels and mouse clicks safely and securely over the internet. And so the first application that we thought of, you know, this is 1999. So I’m dating myself. We sort of at the cusp of the internet before the bust for the dot bomb, and we decided we would take our really cool technology and allow people from all over the world to fix technical problems. Right? So John Corcoran has a printer error or printer driver problem in Australia. I see it when I log on. I go Hey, John, I can fix your problem for five bucks and you’re like take control of my computer and go to town. So it was an early screen sharing application back when that was hard, like everybody was on dial up and even if you had like a really crappy firewall from Radio Shack, like it would block stuff and so you had to be able to get through firewalls and make it easy, right. So now my So fast forward a year that the That bomb happened, it’s March of 2002 1001. And everybody’s just like running for the hills and companies aren’t getting funded, we had raised $30 million. And I was something that I, you know, with my sort of foe, finance skills and my fellow Wharton MBA, but my sales skills enabled us to raise a lot of money before the crash. And we didn’t spend it unlike most companies. So we came out into the nuclear winter with about $22 million in cash, and were able to give us time to dump that expert city business model, which was a joke. And just look at what we had, which was this really crazy, powerful tool that allowed you to take control of somebody’s computer. So I just started selling it to ISP. So I sold it to Cox Communications, and I ended up hitting all of them. And then when I kind of had gone through all that, so

John Corcoran 5:48

they could use it internally, though, as a business tool. They also had their call center their IT people with data, okay,

John Greathouse 5:54

yeah, cuz it will blow their mind. So think about it, you’re calling in, I end up selling to Microsoft and Oracle and Adobe. So my first wave was selling it to ISP, because their hair was on fire because they couldn’t get people online.

John Corcoran 6:07

Then I tried trying to diagnose things talking, talking it over the phone here. So that Yeah,

John Greathouse 6:13

in 2000, you say, okay, go down to your system tray. And people

John Corcoran 6:16

are like, why is my system dry?