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Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, speaks frequently of the virtues of having a “beginner’s mind.” It’s a metaphor for affecting the humility of a novice, a willingness to learn new things despite having already found great success. It’s also a euphemism for feigning the attributes of the youth even if, like Bezos, your 30s are decades in the rear-view mirror.
Fortune’s Jeff Roberts has written a lovely feature article, published online this morning, about another mature tech-industry leader with a beginner’s mind. Alan Patricof, a seasoned venture-capital and private-equity investor, is 82 but has the hunger of a man a third his age. He found success with investments like Apple (AAPL) and AOL, but spend just a little time with Patricof and you’ll feel his visceral desire to find the next tech and media leaders. A Democratic party fundraiser, Hamptons habitue, and a tech-conference hall rat, Patricof is as aggressive as any wet-behind-the-ears associate on Sand Hill Road—but far more accomplished.
I marvel at the “mature” people I know who refuse to act their age. There’s undoubtedly a downside to their ambition: Many won’t get out of the way for the next generation. That doesn’t appear to be Patricof’s problem. He has empowered a bevy of younger investors, primarily his partners Dana Settle (a friend of mine for many years) and Ian Sigalow, who are responsible for the more recent hits of the firm they founded with Patricof, Greycroft Partners.
There’s another endearing element to the Greycroft story: The firm’s networks primarily are in New York and Los Angeles, perennial second fiddles to the only venture-capital market that truly matters, Silicon Valley. Just as China is no mere copycat anymore, Greycroft shows that it’s possible to succeed outside the nice-slacks-and-down-vest world of the San Francisco Bay Area investment world.
Beginners, young and old, have something to prove. And sometimes they do.