Funding the Next Generation of Leaders with Greg Becker

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In 2018, 67% of all US venture-backed companies with an IPO used Silicon Valley Bank. Today, about 50% of all venture-backed tech and life science companies in the US use them.

SVB is the future of banking, and Greg Becker, CEO of SVB, is leading the charge. When Greg (Twitter | LinkedIn) started over 25 years ago, SVB only had $50 million assets under management. Now, they have $57 billion.

In this episode, Chad and Greg talk about how SVB is funding the next generation of leaders in the Valley and around the world. Greg also shares his philosophy for company and career growth and how he overcame one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

Don’t miss out on our Ultimate Book Bundle Giveaway! Everyone who enters will win a prize. Sign up to get a copy of the 100 Business Ideas eBook and for the opportunity to win a book bundle of your choice. Head over to mission.org/books today!

Show Notes

[4:40] What Makes SVB Different?

“I’ve got the coolest banking job in the entire world… at Silicon Valley Bank, we work with the coolest companies in the entire world.” – Greg

  • SVB works exclusively with high-growth innovation companies. They work with clients from startup phase to large public companies.
  • SVB’s client service is set up in a very specific way in order to target and engage innovation companies in ways that are most helpful to them.
  • Greg joined SVB when he was 25 and has been with the company for 26 years. Over that time, he’s seen SVB change direction significantly. In fact, at the time he started, the market value of SVB was only $50million and they were being threatened to be delisted from the NASDAQ.

[9:45] Thoughts On Intrapreneurship And Growth

  • Greg views SVB’s ability to expand, think differently, and experiment with new things as not just a growth driver for their company, but as an obligation they have to innovation.
  • He’s not motivated by pressure to drive growth. He’s driven by pressure to capitalize on the opportunity they’ve been given. It may be a subtle difference, but it’s an important one.

[11:40] How Greg Became COO

  • Throughout his life, Greg focused on cultivating curiosity, learning new things, always doing his best, and pursuing unique ideas. He didn’t seek out the leadership positions he’s attained; instead, these values have led him on a path toward them.

“It was really a bunch of different roles, always thinking about what was best for the company, and how we can grow the business overall. You combine that drive with being around some great people and that just kept getting me in positions where I was getting promoted and taking on more responsibility.” – Greg

“And each time [I got promoted], I have to admit it was a little bit over my head, it was a little bit of a reach, but that reach, for me, was always a motivator. It’s like, okay, failure’s not an option, so what are you going to do? You don’t have all the answers, so who can you talk to? Who do you engage with to truly understand what are the best approaches?” – Greg

  • His biggest takeaway from opening up SVB’s Colorado office by himself early on in his career: Success in business is about building relationships in the community.

[15:10] Decision-Making

  • There is no one right way to learn something new or educate yourself about a topic. In fact, he believes having many, many inputs across the board is the best way to learn.

“Any decision you make, whether it’s starting something new, or taking a new role, it’s all about different points of view. You need to get as many data points as you can, without making the process too slow, to come to the conclusion that you can be in a position to make the decision that you think is the best decision.” – Greg

  • You have to find that balance between doing too much research and acting too slowly and not doing enough research and acting too quickly.

[16:40] What Is Venture Capital, And Why Does It Matter?

“[Venture capital]’s the most impactful capital anywhere in the world, and maybe, anything in history.” – Greg

“Venture capitalists are putting money in the fastest growing, most impactful companies around the world.” – Greg

  • Venture capitalists support entrepreneurs in ways that typical investors or lenders can’t. They don’t just provide capital; they also give introductions, provide support, and share knowledge.
  • Further Reading: How Venture Capital Works Forbes article.
  • Roughly 17% of GDP in the US is being fueled by VC backed companies, so VC investments have a huge impact on the overall economy.

“The way products get cheaper over time is through venture capital, in a sense, and all the technology we enjoy is mostly backed by VCs.” – Chad

  • Venture capital gets bad press because VCs are so selective. But being selective is necessary because the only way they will continue to make money is if they invest in the best.

“The market is not empathetic.” – Greg

[23:00] How And Where To Find A Mentor

  • Greg had an executive that acted as a sponsor for him throughout his career. Over time, he’d give Greg more and more responsibility and coached him into the role he holds now.
  • Greg recommends expressing disagreement when you feel it, even to superiors. The best leaders will respect and welcome a little push back.
  • But how do you find a mentor? Find opportunities to help or support the people that inspire you. This will often build a reciprocal relationship where they become interested in you and your success as well.

[27:00] Overcoming Mistakes

  • The most important thing to do when you make a mistake is to be transparent about it. Take 100% responsibility for it.

“If you make a mistake, just own it, learn from it, and move on.” – Greg

  • Years ago, a deal Greg was working on fell apart. The company thought they’d be able to recover most of their losses. But when Greg inspected the paperwork, he found that missing signatures meant that they would not be able to get their money back. In that moment, he knew he was facing some serious scrutiny. Even so, he took responsibility.

[30:20] Lightning Round

  • Fav book: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
    • Main takeaway: It’s so important that the team learns to row together.

“When truly everybody is on the same page, the speed by which you can move is almost unbelievable. It’s life-changing.” – Greg

  • To stay on top of industry news (and to avoid having to hop from site to site), he has a data feed that pulls in information from all his favorite news sources.
  • Favorite outdoor activity: Biking
  • Greg’s final CTA and advice for working parents is to, from a very early age, engage your kids in what you do. It makes them feel involved in their parents’ lives in a way a lot of kids don’t.

To learn more about Greg’s work and to connect with him, go here. To find out more about how Silicon Valley Bank is changing banking, check out their website or follow them on Twitter.


Episode 231