Donna Novitsky has gone from a career in Industrial Engineering to honing her marketing skills at an enterprise software startup that she helped build from nothing to $100 million in revenue. From there, she joined the Venture world before becoming an entrepreneur and the CEO of Big Tent, a company that provides free online technology and facilitates the organization of real-world communities.
Novitsky lives in the San Francisco area with her husband and their two children, ages 9 and 10. In addition to her work with Big Tent, she teaches at the School of Engineering at Stanford University, is a former board member of the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, and volunteers extensively at her children's school. How does she do it all? She credits her husband, John. "He is my huge support system."
You have a degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University -- pretty different from venture, marketing, and entrepreneurship! Tell us about the career path that took you from engineering to Big Tent.
It's been a lot of years. From Industrial Engineering, I got a job in Europe and worked there for a couple of years, and then I went to business school in the Boston area. From there, I got a job working for Sun Microsystems. That actually is not an unusal job for an IE major, although they did call it "Imaginary Engineering!" IE, as it was taught at Stanford, had a lot of economics and finance and marketing, and a lot of different discussions in addition to the engineering side of it; it wasn't hardcore computer science, more like applying technology to real-world siutations.
I was at Sun for about six years, during really the high-growth age of the late '80s, and worked with a lot of great people. From there, I went to my own start-up, Clarify, an eneterprise software company. We didn't have a product, we didn't even had a demo -- we had a dream: $100 million and 500 employees and a public company over 7 years. It was truly living the silicon valley dream. I was married at the time, but had no kids -- we put all of our effort into that company! And then I had my son in 1998, our daughter 1999. It was time for a change; I needed a job with more flexibility so I could be a mom. I wanted to raise my own kids. But work was really important to me, it's a big part of who I am. At this point was when I tried to figure out how to balance. So, I changed jobs, went to work for Mohr, Davidow Venture as a venture partner. I was there for about 8 1/2 years. ...