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2001


Newt HeaderThrough 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 they’d predicted in consumer behavior were not happening as fast as expected. “A lot of companies didn’t 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. We’re 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. “We’ve 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 don’t 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, he’s also spent the past year running the new Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund. It’s “a welcome relief,” he says, to manage a telecommunications fund in one of the world’s hot markets.

Reischel pictureW hat makes Gary Rieschel so effective at what he does? Stamina, for one thing. While the Energizer Bunny persona many people apply to him isn’t exactly how he sees himself, Rieschel does admit that “I don’t do anything halfway.”

“He’s also extremely smart—that goes without saying,” says Heidi Roizen, one of Rieschel’s partners at SBVC. But it’s 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, she’s observed how he operates in the not-always-straightforward world of the venture capitalist. “It’s 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 doesn’t just look at the technology; he looks at what makes the people tick. In some cases, we’ve chosen not to do business with a company whose technology was very good because we didn’t believe the people had the right motivation.”

Rieschel’s human-relations skills were evident even in his undergraduate days, according to Ruben. But he’s gained new dimensions from his international experience, including more than four years in Tokyo as general manager of Sequent’s 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, there’s 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, we’ll have translators that tell me in English what you just said in Chinese. But translating the words won’t give us the empathy or cultural understanding to communicate clearly. We need to be continually sensitive to each other. That’s the only way the next generation will shed the prejudices we’ve 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 People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. “When Yucca graduated from high school,” Rieschel says, “her family didn’t 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. “He’s never been one to put on airs,” says Heidi Roizen. “Here’s this stately person and intense businessman who’ll walk into a meeting in T-shirt and sandals. That’s the wonderful thing about Gary, and very reflective of Reed: he’s just very genuine. What you see is what you get.” End of Article

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.

 
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2001