Scott Bonham: Money Manager
Scott Bonham, Sc’84, was a money manager of tech stocks at one of the world’s largest investment management organizations in 2000. Over dinner with newly appointed IBM president and COO Sam Palmisano, he did the unthinkable.
“I suggested IBM abandon its PC strategy,” laughs the 1984 Queen’s electrical engineering grad. Palmisano didn’t miss a beat. “He suggested if you don’t like our strategy, sell our stock.” Bonham was taken aback at first, but then he figured his dinner companion might be onto something. “All I was doing was buying and selling stocks. I was in my late 30s. I wanted to build something significant.” In the midst of the recession gripping the United States, Bonham and three co-founders launched a California-based venture capital company, GGV Capital, and staked a claim to help entrepreneurs in and across the world’s two largest economies— U.S. and China.
“Every day was a street fight,” remembers Bonham of the company’s early days. “Today it seems obvious to invest in China, but in 2000 no one had done it successfully; everyone thought we were crazy.”
The gamble paid off. Fifteen years after that fateful dinner, GGV Capital has $2 billion under management. Successes include an early investment in China e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, widely expected to become the largest-ever initial public offering in America since its filing in May.
Bonham attributes his success to hard work, “strategic serendipity” and a piece of advice he received almost 30 years ago from Queen’s School of Business faculty member Norm Macintosh. Bonham was considering leaving his job at General Motors, where he’d worked since graduation, to attend law school. Macintosh suggested he apply to Harvard Business School instead.
“He gave me the idea and the confidence to apply,” says Bonham, who earned a Harvard MBA and settled in Silicon Valley in 1989. Bonham remembered that advice five years ago when a group of Canadians in Silicon Valley created the C100, a non-profit focused on helping Canadian entrepreneurs succeed in Silicon Valleythrough mentorship, partnership and investment.
Bonham was recently named the C100’s co-chair, a role he says will give him the chance to pay forward the mentorship he received from Macintosh. “For me, it was having someone say I could do it. That nudge was all I needed. Queen’s engineers are world-class but often underestimate their potential. We could be the people behind the next Google. We could change the world.”