Jeremy Wilson is president, CEO and managing partner of NewRoad Ventures, a Bentonville-based venture capital firm. He is also the founder and chairman of Now Diagnostics, a Springdale firm that develops diagnostic tests. Both companies started in 2012. Wilson also spent 16 years working for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and about four years at Rockfish.
Q. How does a venture fund work?
Date and place of birth: Jan. 11, 1972, Little Rock
Family: Wife, Andrea; sons Hudson, 9 and Sawyer, 7; and daughter, Emerson, 2
Education: Bachelor’s degree in finance and financial management from the University of Arkansas and executive education from Harvard Business School
First job: Summer archaeology digs starting in the third grade for the next 10 years
Reality show I could see myself on: The Shark Tank
Worst habit: Not listening, I’m too busy thinking
If I had an extra hour each day I would spend it: Driving my kids to and from school every day
You would be surprised to learn I: Build furniture and live in a 5-acre farm with about 20 chickens in Bentonville
Advice for my children: Don’t lose sight about what you really want to do in life
Favorite drink: Cabernet franc
If I could only eat one meal the rest of my life it would be: Pepperoni pizza
Dream vacation: A 30-day RV trip I took with my family
Pet peeve: Drama. Life’s too short
A. Essentially we raise capital from outside investors and ourselves into a pool of capital and either create new businesses or invest into existing businesses. Our approach is a little different than most. We like to partner with large corporations and sit down with them to really understand what issues and needs they have and what opportunities they see. Then we will either go find a company that already has the solution or we'll create that opportunity ourselves. In our first fund we created or co-founded about half of the 14 companies.
Q. How do you measure personal success?
A. When I feel most successful, it's a balance. I have a balance between my faith, my family and my work. If I try to put metrics around the work side I would say when I can look at hard data, like 200 jobs at double the state average salary, I feel successful. I can look at 14 companies that have grown rapidly; a portfolio of investments that is up about four times in valuation over that last two years or so. For me personally it's about when I feel that balance.
Q. What's next for you?
A. I don't know. I think I have several more years of pouring my heart and soul into this business. We want this company to be known as the "Berkshire of the Ozarks." We want to have a long track record of taking capital and putting it into companies that grow and scale quickly, add to the ecosystem of the area and add to the ecosystem of the country. We can create new jobs and new technologies and businesses that were never dreamed of before.
Q. What is the biggest challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?
A. Changing paths. A lot of people start with one path and they stay on that basic path for most of their careers. It doesn't mean they're not growing or evolving or moving up in the company, but it's the same sort of type of job. One of my mentors at Wal-Mart was a guy named Tom Schoewe, chief financial officer for 10 years, and he would always tell me there are basically two paths within the company: One is the support role and one is an operating role. You can choose either path and both are fine, but they have different characteristics. Support roles tend to be safer, pay less, be a lot more stable and less glamorous. The operating roles tend to be more dangerous; you make a bad decision and you get fired and you have more outward pressure. It took me a while to understand which I wanted to go down. I had a finance degree, so I naturally figured it was on the support side.
Q. What advice do you give as a mentor?
A. Surround yourself with good people who make you better. You don't know what you don't know; no one knows everything. One of our core values here is humility. There are two pieces of advice I would give people in their careers: recognize you need good people around you and don't be afraid to ask them for counsel.
Q. Who has been the most influential person in your life?
A. There are two. One is Lee Scott, and that's from a leadership perspective. He took the time to teach me lessons, to educate me, to challenge me, to let me fail. I was in my 20s when I took over investor relations for the largest company in the world. I shouldn't have been in that role; there was nothing smart about that, but they let me do it. At times I think they let me make bad decisions that turned out OK. They supported me when I made good decisions as well.
The other person is Don Soderquist (Wal-Mart vice chairman and chief operating officer from 1988-1998). I never worked directly for Don, but I got to travel with him a lot. I got to see how Don approached people, approached problems, developed organizations. What I loved about Don is he had this real balance of softness and firmness. He had high expectations for the organization, but he gave people a lot of grace. One time he told me that if you do what's right you will never be wrong. He said it's a hard thing to do, but if you carry that philosophy through your career and through your life, you will look back at the end of it and feel very good about the things you've done. I've tried to do that.
Q. If you could go back in time and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
A. I would spend more time as a younger person -- high school through college -- really trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I don't know if it's my generation or what, but you sort of had this pre-determined path for you. I don't know that I would end up in a different place; I would like to think I wouldn't have. But I would have liked to be more thoughtful about what I wanted to do with life.
NW News on 03/27/2016
Print Headline: Driven leader seeks new roads