Interview with Founder of Ask.com: Garrett Gruener reveals what creative things he has done for his employees

As the founder of Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com), Garrett Gruener is also co-founder of Alta Partners, a life sciences venture capital firm, and CEO and Executive Chairman of Nanomix, a nanotech company. With this much on his plate, Garrett shares with us that he still has a very flexible schedule and spends a lot of time mentoring his daughter.

VivianandNanxi: Hi Garrett, thanks for doing this interview with us!

Garrett Gruener: Sure, no problem. Let’s do it!

V&N: So the first question is, what projects are you currently working on?

G: Well, I’m a venture capitalist and an entrepreneur. On the entrepreneurial side, I’m running a point of tier medical diagnostics company built on nanotechnology. I chair a sort of green energy company and then I’m doing a set of investments these days principally as an angel, that is, on my own. And I’m a managing director of a venture capital firm in San Francisco.

V&N: How do you organize your time between these commitments?

G: Obviously, I depend a lot on my assistant in San Francisco. I manage my life obviously through my calendar. I have a few set of structured meetings throughout the week and other than that, I just sort of handle whatever seems to be the top priority at the moment.

V&N: How much time would you say you spend on personal life versus work life?

G: I think they really blend together. I don’t spend an awful lot of time sitting in an office, but I’m always available via email or voicemail and so on. You know, I really don’t know how to put the accounting on that. The advent of smartphones of which I was a very early adopter is highly liberating in one sense. I move through my day in a very unstructured fashion and I can probably get a lot of time to do things that I want to do, but a lot of what I want to do relates to work. So in some sense, I’m on a lot of the time and I don’t rigorously try to separate the two.

V&N: What do you do during the day to maintain a balance, if at all?

G: At this point in my life, I pretty much do what I want to do so it’s not a matter of balance, it’s a matter of what is it that I want to do. I’m not very concerned about it.

V&N: That’s so good! Most people want to be where you are.

G: In that sense, I’m pretty intuitive about it. When a company is in trouble, and these companies are in trouble all the time at one stage or another, then it gets a lot of attention. Other times, I fully ignore them for a period of time. I do a lot of travel so it’s not uncommon that I will be working on a project even if I’m physically a long way away.

V&N: As entrepreneurs, we try to come up with creative ideas. What is the most creative thing you have thing for someone?

G: My daughter recently started working for a consulting firm and in the area of her interest. She’s a recent graduate so it’s been fun to coach her from the sideline of what it’s like to enter the business world, which is a change associated with this technology that certainly did not exist when I was entering.

V&N: What is something creative you have done for people you work with?

G: Recently with this company, we took the whole company to Cirque du Soleil, which was a nice thing. They’re all working very hard on a project which is extremely high-tech and also which is integrating many different levels of development. So, you know, there’s a lot of pressure to make that happen. We took some time off and took the whole company to the show, which is of course amazing, in a totally different realm. It was the new one over in San Francisco called Totem.

V&N: What made you choose that?

G: It was convenient and the Cirque du Soleil shows are always amazing. They’re always astounding so we thought it was something everyone would enjoy, and they did. You look at how difficult it is for [the Cirque du Soleil performers] to accomplish what they do and you look at how difficult it is for [our nanotech company] to accomplish our goal and going to the show appears a bit more valuable.

V&N: What’s the nicest thing someone at your company has done for you?

G: Making this thing work! Haha I’m not sure if there’s anything specific I can point to, other than the fact that they are a bunch of very smart and energetic young people. I love working with them. Day in day out, they’re pushing it forward and that’s what matters to me.

V&N: If you had 20 minutes to do something nice for someone, what would you do?

G: For my daughter, I do it all the time whether it’s helping her with her new position or one of the things she gets for the holidays. The best things are the things that are experiences, which help her move forward in her career. A recent one is this trampoline thing over in San Francisco that we went to together, which was pretty wonderful. It’s a whole park dedicated to trampolines. We were jumping up and down. It’s called House of Air. I think you’d enjoy it!

V&N: What’s something nice your daughter did for you?

G: She’s just a great kid haha Lots of lots of lots of wonderful things.

V&N: If you had $5 to do something nice, how would you use it?

G: Well, $5 isn’t very much so I would probably give it to a charity that the person I’m doing the nice thing for thought would be a good charity. I think dollars spent that way is better.

V&N: To conclude the interview, do you think creativity is important in entrepreneurship?

G: Absolutely. I feel that entrepreneurship is all about making something out of nothing and figuring out creative solutions that others haven’t seen. So people who were entrepreneurs have to be highly creative.

So if you do lots of creative things for your significant, friends, or family, consider being an entrepreneur!

Image credit: AltaPartners.com

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Comments
One Response to “Interview with Founder of Ask.com: Garrett Gruener reveals what creative things he has done for his employees”
  1. Any guy that brags on his daughter and gives money to chairty should be awarded a gold man-card. He sounds so warm & sincere…
    Nice interview!

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