J Thomas McMurray, Ph.D. is an independent investor in technology, healthcare and environmental service companies. He is currently an investor in EvoApp, Schoolhouse and Launchbox Digital in the Research Triangle area and co-founder/funder of several start-up non-profits including The Ocean Foundation, Tag A Giant Fund and Blue Cloud Spatial. He founded Marine Ventures in 2000 which funds innovative ecosystem protection projects in North America. He currently serves on the board of EvoApp, The Ocean Foundation (chairman), Tag A Giant Fund and The Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.
From 1990 to 1998, Dr. McMurray worked at Sequoia Capital, one of the most successful venture capital firms in the world from investments in Cisco Systems, Yahoo, Nvidia, Redback Networks, Paypal and Google. He started working at Sequoia in 1990 and was a general partner in Sequoia Capital VI(1993) and Sequoia Capital VII (1996) and a Technology Partner in Sequoia Capital VIII(1998). Some of Dr. McMurray's investments at Sequoia include Vitamed (IPO, acquired by Medtronic), Cardiac Pathways (IPO, acquired by Boston Scientific), Rita Medical Systems (IPO, acquired by Angiodynamics), Percusurge(acquired by Medtronic) and Therasense (acquired by Abbott).
Prior to Sequoia, Dr. McMurray worked for several start-up companies in Silicon Valley including Ardent Computer and Key Computer Labs (acquired by Amdahl). From 1986-1987, he was an associate professor and associate dean at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. From 1980 to 1985, Dr. McMurray was employed by Flow Research in Kent, Washington as a research scientist focused on hydrodynamics of underseas vehicles and wind energy systems. Dr. McMurray has three engineering degrees from Duke University: B.S.M.E. (1976), M.S. (1978) and Ph.D. (US Geological Services Fellowship, 1980).
What do you spend your time on these days?
Investing in start-ups, deal flow, due diligence, advising several start-ups
Chairman at Evoapp - at the company several days a week.
President Marine Ventures – funding sustainable environmental businesses
Blue Cloud Spatial – another start-up that I am funding in the environmental media business
What connections do you have to Duke?
Board of Nicholas School, graduate of Pratt,
What do you think have been some of the keys to your own career success?
Taking calculated risks with a lot of leverage, willing to step out into new markets of opportunity, always work with incredible smart and talented people, persistence…
What types of businesses are you attracted to? Are there key industries, markets, or characteristics you look for?
Technology based businesses in large emerging markets where leverage is high.
Many students wonder if they can get started as an entrepreneur while they are still in school. What advice would you have for them?
Just do it. The more you do it, the better you become.
If you had one piece of advice for students that are pitching to you in the Duke Start-Up Challenge, what would it be?
Tell me how an investor in your business would 1) make a difference in the world and 2) make a lot of money that would support investing in more and more start-ups, create more jobs, more donations to charity, pay taxes, solve the major problems in society…
Tom will be one of our Finals Judges on March 31, 2011. Learn more