Mike Dorsey: From Investment Banker and Impact Investor to Entrepreneurship Instructor
Tell us about your new endeavor!
I’m currently teaching a course on Entrepreneurship at Foothill College, a community college in my local area.
How did you decide to pursue these opportunities?
I met Amava CEO, Mark Silverman, through the Stanford Distinguished Career Institute (“DCI”). He told me about Amava and it hit me that it is like an online version of the DCI program for anyone who wants to participate. The DCI emphasizes three pillars for sustaining a meaningful life: purpose, community and wellness. The idea is to have our health span equal our life span. Mark explained that some Amava Members are looking for paying jobs, some for volunteer work and most for a sense of purpose in both. It got me thinking. We talked about how our local public school district doesn’t have enough substitute teachers to fill demand. So, I thought about what I could teach–what I knew about from my years of experience–and then looked at the Community College system.
My business experience, primarily investing in social purpose companies, is very relevant to what my students want to learn. The final project is a business plan for what they want to accomplish. I enjoy enabling my students with tools and expertise (my own and that of guest speakers I bring in) so they can start their own businesses and improve society. My students are a diverse group from any perspective–age to ethnicity to work background. It is a challenge to offer them lessons they can use, but I find that the intergenerational exchange has many virtues. I see them learning from one another and it is a wonderful recipe for improving society. I’m so glad I had that conversation with Mark about Amava. The mission of Amava is one that I love and that I think is more likely to address social ills than many social programs that are in place.
What advice would you give to someone in the same circumstances?
You can do something you haven’t done before. Don’t be self-limiting.
Given your vast experience both professionally and personally, do you have a top 5 or 10 list of things that you would tell people if they would like to follow in your footsteps or follow a similar path?
-Don’t waste your time trying only to make money when you can make money and improve the world at the same time.
-It’s essential to work with people who share your values.
-As Mike Lewis talked about in his recent book When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want, it’s ok to do something crazy that you’re passionate about, just don’t do something stupid.
-Be strategic and plan.
-Talk to 100 people who are doing things you are interested in.
-Stay open to what you hear. There may be something adjacent that you never thought about that turns out to be a fit for you.
Mike Dorsey is a venture capitalist, investing in social purpose companies for 16 years –primarily in cleantech and health care companies. He also worked as an investment banker to emerging growth companies for 20 years. He has recently become an entrepreneurship instructor at Foothill College.