I have a nonstandard background as a business and social entrepreneur. I spent a decade leading labor unions before starting a federal agency and two technology companies. I have advised Fortune 500 CEOs as a consultant with McKinsey & Company and worked early on as a journeyman machinist in a Silicon Valley defense plant.
After Clinton was elected President, I proposed to Robert Reich to create a new federal agency in the Labor Department that would do for American workplaces what the Agricultural Extension Service did for farmers: research, identify, and promote best practices. Clinton liked the idea and named me to create and lead the Office of the American Workplace as US Assistant Secretary of Labor.
With bookseller Richard Weatherford, I founded Alibris, a Silicon Valley-based e-commerce pioneer. I raised tens of millions of dollars of venture capital for the business, hired engineers, logisticians, and marketers and built the company into one of the first “long-tail” e-commerce companies. The New York Times declared that Alibris had built “a mighty brand on the spines of old books,” Deloitte named Alibris to its Technology Fast 500 and awarded the company a coveted place on its list of North America Fast 50 high growth companies. I am also the founding CEO of RedLink, an innovative sales platform for academic journals.
During the 1970s and 80s, I organized unions in the Northern California hospitality, healthcare, and manufacturing industries. After business school and several years with McKinsey, I advised unions and companies restructuring their ownership and operations in the steel, auto, airline, media, and telecommunications industries. I frequently helped unionized workers become partial, reluctant owners of troubled enterprises.
More recently, I served as Executive Director of the San Francisco campus of Hult International Business School. Hult provides students from 120 countries with a one-year, hands-on business education in six cities around the world and helps them secure jobs in the US, Dubai, and Europe at substantially higher salaries than they earned previously. The Hult Prize has become a high-profile contest to catalyze the thinking among social entrepreneurs around the world.
I live in Oakland, California and hold honors degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Harvard Business School.
Photo Credit: Luigi Semenzato