the late 1990s, Rieschel and SBVC rode the crest of the economic boom.
I was lucky to experience four or five really good years in venture
capital, he says. Then came a year of pain, in which internet investors
realized that the massive changes theyd predicted in consumer behavior
were not happening as fast as expected. A lot of companies didnt
reach critical mass in revenue, he says. Today, the whole
venture capital industry is resetting its strategy, trying to understand
which sectors have a chance of recovery and which we should just write
off. Were focusing less on service companies and more on core technologies.
At the time Rieschel was interviewed for this story in late September,
world markets were reeling from another blow, the terrorist attacks in
New York and Washington. Weve slipped over the event horizon
of a black hole, he said. Like all Americans, Rieschel worries about
the long road ahead.
Basically, however, Rieschel says he has faith in the Ameri-can economy.
Recovery will take time, especially in industries like transportation,
he says, and no one can predict all the ripple effects. But the
fundamental sectors remain solid. I dont think this crisis will
change what we invest in or our view of the market.
And there are bright spots. While Rieschel is still putting major effort
into reworking SBVC, hes also spent the past year running the new
Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund. Its a welcome relief,
he says, to manage a telecommunications fund in one of the worlds
hat makes Gary Rieschel so effective at what he does? Stamina, for one
thing. While the Energizer Bunny persona many people apply to him isnt
exactly how he sees himself, Rieschel does admit that I dont
do anything halfway.
Hes also extremely smartthat goes without saying,
says Heidi Roizen, one of Rieschels partners at SBVC. But its
his people skills, she feels, that make him stand out most. The
first time we met, we spent hours talking about our families, our ethical
values and how we use our free time, she says. It was my earliest
indication that Gary is a person first.
In the years since, shes observed how he operates in the not-always-straightforward
world of the venture capitalist. Its remarkable how often
people in our industry say one thing and do another, Roizen says.
Gary lives up to his word. And he has an incredible ability to communicate,
relate, and get everyone on the same team.
VCs do business with people, not companies, she continues.
There has to be trust. Gary doesnt just look at the technology;
he looks at what makes the people tick. In some cases, weve chosen
not to do business with a company whose technology was very good because
we didnt believe the people had the right motivation.
Rieschels human-relations skills were evident even in his undergraduate
days, according to Ruben. But hes gained new dimensions from his
international experience, including more than four years in Tokyo as general
manager of Sequents Asia operations. Living outside the U.S.
made me far less inclined to take things for granted, he says.
That is a mindset Gary and Yucca Wong Rieschel exercise daily. My
wife is Chinese, Rieschel says, and no matter how long we
live together, theres always a gap between the way she forms thoughts
and the way I do. Their household (which includes a young son and
daughter) is a microcosm of the challenges of global communication. Technology
will solve part of the problem, says Rieschel, who also has a son
from his first marriage. In five years, well have translators
that tell me in English what you just said in Chinese. But translating
the words wont give us the empathy or cultural understanding to
communicate clearly. We need to be continually sensitive to each other.
Thats the only way the next generation will shed the prejudices
weve carried with us through history.
To help promote this kind of exchange and provide opportunities for international
students, the Rieschels this year endowed the Wong DeYoung scholarship
fund at Reed. Scholarships will be awarded with preference to financially
needy students from the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan. When
Yucca graduated from high school, Rieschel says, her family
didnt have the resources to send her to college. After we were married,
I watched her earn her degree from Santa Clara University. I realized
how incredibly disciplined she was and how much fun she would have had
at a place like Reed.
The fun that he had as a student at Reed is still alive in Gary Rieschel,
as anyone who works with him can attest. Hes never been one
to put on airs, says Heidi Roizen. Heres this stately
person and intense businessman wholl walk into a meeting in T-shirt
and sandals. Thats the wonderful thing about Gary, and very reflective
of Reed: hes just very genuine. What you see is what you get.
Kate Hobbie is a freelance
writer. Her last article for Reed was a profile of educators Robert Slavin
72 and Nancy Madden 73 in February 2001.