Chad Waite has been an important fixture in the Seattle venture capital community for 25 years, joining OVP Venture Partners well before the region boasted tech giants with names like Amazon.com, Expedia and F5 Networks.
To many in the industry, Waite is one of the founding fathers — the grand poobah if you will — of the Seattle venture scene. And it’s because of that legacy that Waite was honored at the Evergreen Venture Capital Association’s annual holiday dinner, held Tuesday night at Jon Staenberg’s private dining venue The Vude.
Outgoing EVCA president Andy Dale said Waite was the person to know in town when he was trying to break into the venture business.
“Of course, Chad was always there,” said Dale. “Forever, Chad and OVP have made contributions for us.” Meanwhile, incoming EVCA president Greg Gottesman called OVP the “godfather” and “standard bearer” of venture capital in the Northwest.
“Chad has been an incredible force in this community for so long,” said Gottesman.
In past years, the EVCA has chosen a “Deal of the Year” at the holiday party. But that was supplanted this year by the “Lifetime Achievement Award” for Waite, who arrived in Seattle in 1987 after working in venture capital for Hambrecht & Quist Venture Partners.
The honor is a bit bittersweet, given that OVP announced earlier this year that it planned to get out of the venture business after nearly 30 years. It still has an active portfolio of companies, including Talyst, DataSphere, NanoString and others. But OVP is no longer making investments.
“I am very deeply honored to receive something like this from peers,” said Waite during his remarks last night. “That is much more important than almost anything else. When you have been doing something for 30 years, it is quite an achievement to be able to be recognized.”
Waite, an early backer of companies such as WatchGuard, Seattle Genetics, Corixa, FileNet and Adapx, also recognized the dozens of entrepreneurs that he has worked with over the years.
“Really, the award goes to all of the people that I’ve backed that have been successful. I always thought … that the best deals were the ones where you can get the hell out of the way and let the guy who is running the company, run the company. You don’t have to change it, you don’t have worry about it, and you don’t have to manage it. You just let them do their job. This is mainly for them.”
Waite, who has relocated to a ranch outside of Kalispell, Montana, joked that some of the venture capitalists at the dinner should come to the ranch to learn how to milk a goat, shear a sheep or shoot some wild turkeys.
OVP’s Lucinda Stewart noted that Waite’s breadth of investing, from biotechnology to software to advanced materials can’t be matched. And she recognized her partner for helping dozens of companies go public, a track record not matched by anyone else in the Seattle venture scene.
“The fundamental unique thing about Chad is that, like Champagne, he’s universally liked by 99.9 percent of people that he comes in contact with,” she said.
In other news, Madrona Venture Group’s Gottesman said that he planned to broaden the focus of the venture capital association, getting more angel investors and corporate investors (like Concur and Microsoft) involved. He also said the group will work hard to make sure that Silicon Valley investors make more bets in the Pacific Northwest.
“In 2013, that will be our goal, to see if we can aggressively get more folks investing in startups in the Pacific Northwest,” Gottesman said.