I grew up in Germany at a time when Germans seemed poor (1970’s). At Harvard Business School, where I was a Baker Scholar, I learned that common sense and empathy were more important than intelligence and big words. As a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, I learned that the world is always changing and developed an instinct for which way the wind was blowing. Most important, as a goofy child with no discernible gifts other than parents and grandparents that loved me regardless of how poorly I performed in school, sports or piano, I came to accept failure as a natural stepping stones to lofty ambitions.
Richard Rohr, in Falling Upwards, writes “the first half of life is discovering the script and the second half is actually writing it and owning it”. Thanks to good luck and wonderful partners at Delphi Ventures, I was given the freedom to step out of the venture capital business at 42 and start a new journey that led me to Romania. Prior to my first trip to Romania in 2003, I had never met a Romanian.
Over 11 years, and 98 trips between the United States and Romania, I have been involved in numerous charities, founded 4 businesses, and set up democracy foundation in Romania, and become an advisor to a think tank in Washington.
In May, 2015, while biking on the Greek Island of Patmos, I decided it was time to write down what I am learning. I am not sure who the audience is, but hope my experiences are relevant to Americans. We live in a world of stunning social, economic, and environmental change.
For years people asked me why I love Romania so much. On a rainy Saturday in 2011, I sat still long enough to answer that question for myself. Tears kept falling on my keyboard as I reflected on the kindness, resiliency and humility of Romanians that had been given none of the opportunities that were afforded me, an American baby boomer that was never called to serve in the military (like my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather), benefited from stock market and asset prices appreciating 25 times between my 21st and 41st birthday, and was part of a generation of Americans that drove the world wide financial system off the cliff in 2008.
In a word, my love for Romanians is based on gratitude. If you are interested, this is my story.