He is William Keyser
The Startup Owl is me: Will Keyser. I am the Managing Director of Venture Founders LLC and creator of the Startup Owl website.
I am a veteran entrepreneur myself and have the scars to prove it. What you need to know is that I have been helping other people start and develop companies and non-profit organizations for the last 20 years in the USA and Europe. It’s my passion and my work. I can be there for you, too.
The work I do is generally with values-driven clients with a powerful sense of wanting to change the world in which they work. They have been as varied as an arboretum in France, a green fashion retailer in Durham NC, an online fitness business in Boulder CO, a leadership development company, in South Africa.
So it’s no surprise that I was on the board of a venture capital firm that had a mission of creating and preserving jobs, rather than making fortunes for shareholders, though it continues to make profits—retained and re-used in the business, not distributed to shareholders.
I am still directly involved with doing a startup myself—with a long-time friend and business associate. The company, Eyes2Health LLC, presently in hibernation, detects diseases of aging at the earliest time using low-cost, non-invasive diagnostics that utilize the many biomarkers that are present in the human eye—the body’s only transparent organ.
Venture Founders LLC is based in Putney, Vermont and Georgetown, Texas. The company was founding B Corporation. B Corporations are a new type of corporation which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Venture Founders has clients across the USA and around the world.
First venture at 10
My first entrepreneurial venture was at 10 years of age—trading with weekenders on the turnpike back into New York City from Long Island where I lived—selling them bunches of lilies of the valley!
I never really stopped starting and carry on to this day. In a way, starting to teach on an MBA program was a new venture. Each new course that I design and deliver is a business in itself. I have created courses on organizational behavior, strategy and entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurial blood runs in my veins. I have merchant banking on one side and rope manufacturing on the other. My earliest US ancestor-entrepreneur was Assur Levy, an immigrant to New Amsterdam (NYC) in 1650. But I can count banking, scrap metal, watch making, farming, and other sectors among ancestral businesses.
Educated in the UK, USA and France, I attended the University of Westminster (UK) and the London College of Communication (UK), as well as l’Université de Besançon (France), and l’Université de Lille (France).
After participation in Outward Bound Mountain School (I did Outward Bound again, sailing off the coast of Maine in an open boat, when I was 69) and an Arctic expedition, I did my military service as an officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps in Germany. I have been adVenturing ever since (taking up cross country skiing at 70, for example, learning alongside a 2 year-old).
Backed into business
After a number of non-career jobs (interpreting, teaching, farm laboring, taxi-driving, journalism…), I ‘backed into’ business when I took on the responsibilities of marriage and family.
Soon I found that business was engaging, and simply a special form of social organization with a well-defined purpose. The objections I had built up through student days were not overcome, but transformed into benefits. With several decades of experience, I now believe that entrepreneurs and small business can make major collective contributions to social and economic development.
Always aiming to have my own business, I worked in several small entrepreneurial companies, moving up to senior management. I was appointed business development manager of a major international management consulting company, before starting a new division. During the 13 years there I was seconded to Britain’s national economic development office as a senior industrial adviser. All wonderful experience that did not stop my craving to found my own business. So that’s what I did with a partner, selling it to the staff after eleven years.
Retirement and After
I moved to France imagining retirement. Sure I had time, but was restless and found myself doing the board of a regional venture capital company, running a local radio station and ultimately starting a new business that has become Venture Founders. After moving to the US (for a second time) about ten years ago, I was invited to teach on an MBA program. For seven years, I was a professor of strategy and new venture creation on the MBA in Managing for Sustainability at Marlboro College in Vermont. Now I am back to consulting and mentoring, most recently as project mentor to a new Institute of Entrepreneurial Development In Botswana in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Who knows what’s next—maybe working with you!
Otherwise known as the Startup Owl–“a wise old bird”