When Henry McCance started at Greylock Partners in 1969, the venture capital industry had less than $100 million flowing into it each year, he estimates. Now, it's roughly a $20 billiion-a-year sector of the financial world that has backed companies whose products are, in many cases, staples of modern living.
Five years ago, McCance, now Greylock's chairman emeritus, started a nonprofit research foundation called the Cure Alzheimer's Fund.
"I've seen the power of what a passionate, bright entrepreneur, coupled with some farsighted investors, can do in terms of changing an industry and transforming how the commercial world works," he says. He hopes his foundation can bring about a similar transformation in medical research.
It all started about 10 years ago, when McCance's wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a degenerative neurological disorder. McCance found that most doctors' advice seemd primitive, at best, suggesting patients do things like take Advil or vitamin E to slow the disease's progression.
He connected with a few other wealthy families with a strong interest in Alzheimer's research, he says. Veteran investors Jacqui and Jeff Morby and philanthropists Phyllis and Jerome Rappaport joined him as the founders of the fund, he said.
First, they set out to find the brightest researchers. This falls directly in line with McCance's first tenet of venture capital success: Find the visionaries.