For many leading Silicon Valley executives, Bill Campbell was a not-so-secret weapon—a trusted advisor who made them household names, even if his own name was virtually unknown outside the Valley.
Campbell—who passed away at age 75 in 2016—was a successful college athlete turned professional football coach, first at Boston College, then at Columbia University. After his coaching career came to an end, he took the lessons he learned (and imparted) on the field and put them to use in business, first as an ad man and marketeer at J. Walter Thompson, Kodak and Apple, then as CEO of Claris, GO Corporation and Intuit.
By almost any measure, Campbell was a successful executive. But where he truly made his mark was in shaping other executives, many of whom went on to create billions of dollars in economic value themselves. The list of leaders Campbell coached over the years is a Who’s Who of modern tech royalty: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; Apple’s Steve Jobs; Chegg’s Dan Rosensweig; eBay’s John Donahoe; Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg; Flipboard’s Mike McCue; Google’s Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Sundar Pichai; Handle Financial’s Danny Shader; Nextdoor’s Nirav Tolia; Twitter’s Dick Costolo; Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. Venture capitalists Ben Horowitz, Bill Gurley and Jesse Rogers. University presidents Lee Bollinger (Columbia) and John Hennessy (Stanford). Vice President Al Gore. The list goes on and on.