The venture capital icon speaks with Rich Kleiman on “Out of Office” about his new book, the foundations of his wildly successful Greycroft Partners, and seeking out new adventures in his 80s.
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To say that Alan Patricof is inspiring is the understatement of the century. The 87-year old venture capital pioneer checked in with Rich Kleiman on the newest episode of Boardroom’s “Out of Office” podcast to discuss a wide range of topics stemming from Patricof’s extensive entrepreneurial journey to what keeps him motivated to take on new challenges despite everything he’s accomplished as an investor.
While OOO conversations are always enlightening, this one is particularly special. As the father to one of his lifelong best friends, Rich — or Richard, as it is in the context of the episode — considers Patricof as a defining figure in his own life. The two discuss Patricof’s upcoming book, No Red Lights: Reflections on Life, 50 Years in Venture Capital, and Never Driving Alone, taking new risks in your 80s, and what he identifies as the keys to his successful career.
Patricof is a native New Yorker. His first memories include slinging newspapers at the 104th Street subway stop at the age of six; he looks back on this as the first sign of his hustler’s spirit. While his college years took him to Ohio State, he returned to Manhattan immediately thereafter to pursue a career in investment banking.
However, for the LinkedIn generation, his origin story is hard to wrap your head around:
“I started at 120 Wall Street… and went up to the top floor building and knocked on the door and asked the secretary if there were any jobs open, and walked down the stairway to the first floor and then went to the next building,” he remembers. And after three or four months, he was hired.
“I happened by luck to end up in a very high-quality investment counseling firm… as a security analyst. And that’s how I started my career.”
After spending his early professional years on Wall Street, Patricof left to start his own endeavor at the age of 33, which would go on to become Apax Partners. He invested in small companies that had big potential — venture capital before it had a name. From mice breeding companies to New York Magazine, he became involved with a whole host of projects, but he was able to work closely with them as they grew.
“And I just loved being involved with the startup of these companies and being really intimately involved as opposed to buying and selling stocks, which would go up and down. And many days, I had no idea why it went up or down; it was just a psychological whim of whatever was happening in some exogenous factor in the stock market,” Patricof says.
As he broke off and did his own thing, he was among a new frontier who redefined the deal.
“There was no venture capital industry. It was a private deal market… You really had to chase and find deals. You had to convince people to take your money. I mean, there was not a flow of deals where you sat in your office and just answered the telephone. I mean, it was going out and doing whatever you could to make yourself known… Come and see me and I’ll put money in your business if I like it.”
Throughout his career, Patricof remained committed to central tenets that informed his success. One of those, which he alludes to in his book’s title, is the importance of partnership.
Throughout his career, he has identified individuals who hold complementary skillsets to his own — and even amidst high-dollar deals and the stress of the financial industry, they’ve been able to maintain personal relationships that are equally important to him.
But beyond the office, he’s also committed to living a full life. At 87, that means signing up for his sixth New York Marathon and purchasing his first ticket to Burning Man. His commitment to cool is so effortless that he accidentally stumbled on the Converse X Comme de Garçons collab as the perfect gift for his grandkids.
“I gave [my seven grandkids] all a great Valentine’s Day present. I gave them pairs of sneakers, this Converse sneaker. It happens by accident to have red hearts on the side of the sneaker, which was not why I bought it. I didn’t even know when I did it, but I gather that’s the hot brand for kids these days.”
Through his three businesses — Apax Partners, Greycroft, and his newest venture, Primetime Partners — Patricof has built a lasting legacy and worked with some of the biggest names, from America Online and Office Depot to Venmo and Apple and beyond. However, he is quick to point out that he’s lived a dynamic life beyond the four walls of an office.
My life is just not business… I’ve spent time in politics,” he says. “I’ve spent times in the art field and the music field.”
Plus, he’s well known for his bustling social agenda, which often includes three events a night — just another part of his commitment to no red lights.
With nothing stopping him, Patricof has a whole lot of life to live.
We’ll be looking out for him at the finish line in Central Park next November.