Kevin Warnock

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Archive for the ‘Hansoo Lee Fellowship’ tag

Venture Capitalist Brad Feld wrote on his blog a nice tribute to Hansoo Lee

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Screen capture of http://www.feld.dot com, March 21, 2013. Article "Dying Much Too Early" by Brad Feld.

On March 18, 2013 I wrote a tribute to Hansoo Lee, who died March 4, 2013 at age 35 from cancer.

Prominent venture capitalist Brad Feld wrote yesterday, March 21, 2013, a touching tribute to Hansoo Lee on his blog. Feld’s blog post was republished on Business Insider.

Here is Feld’s post, in its entirety, for posterity in case the above links ever disappear. Please read this version only if the links above don’t work, so as to not take traffic away from those sites. I generally only copy entire posts like this when I want to be sure some important text is readable for decades, like these lovely words from Brad Feld:

“I woke up to an email today from Aaron Schwartz, founder of Modify. I don’t know Aaron other than our email exchanges but he thanked me for Venture Deals which he said has been very helpful to him.  His note went on to say:

A close friend of mine, and one of my best friend’s co-founders just passed away after a 15-month battle with non-smoker’s lung cancer. I thought the below article was incredibly revealing about how meaningful a partner and leader can be for a start-up. If you think it would be useful to other entrepreneurs, I hope you’ll take a moment and share it.

I went on to read Farewell Hansoo, We’ll Miss You, a beautiful tribute by Bhavin Parikh, the CEO and co-founder of Magoosh. At the end, I had tears in my eyes. Hansoo is 35 and just died of cancer, which was discovered a year ago. I have several friends fighting cancer right now and had one die last year and this story really touched me – of the intimacy of the relationship between co-founders, the beauty of spirit of Hansoo, and how rapidly loved ones and partners can be taken from us.

I just made a donation to the The Hansoo Lee Fellowship to support entrepreneurs. The fellowship will provide  a stipend and mentorship to help Berkeley-Haas MBA students pursue their venture full-time for their summer internship, as Hansoo did. MBA students will receive a summer stipend of $5 – $10K, Mentorship from Haas alums focused on entrepreneurship, and office space.

At the minimum, I encourage you to read Farewell Hansoo, We’ll Miss You. And if you are inspired, make a contribution to the Hansoo Lee Fellowship.”

Photo of Brad Feld from his blog downloaded March 22 2013

Brad Feld

Here is the heartfelt tribute that Bhavin Parikh wrote and that Feld noted above. Again, I generally only copy complete posts like this when I think there is a chance the original won’t be on the Internet for decades and decades, and when I think the likelihood of irritating the original author is low. Please read this text below from Parikh only if this link does not work:

“Hansoo Lee was a visionary, a close friend, and my co-founder at Magoosh. On March 4, 2013, at the age of 35, he lost his 15-month battle with lung cancer. Hansoo changed my life, and I will be forever grateful.

The beginning

Hansoo and I were classmates in the full-time MBA program at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He came to Berkeley-Haas fully aware that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship. In fact, he wrote the following in his MBA application:

“I believe in the power of a well-operated, sophisticated organization that generates social and economic value. My career goal is to found and lead this type of organization.”

In our first semester at Haas, Hansoo and I joined Pejman, another Haas classmate, and his friend Vikram in creating Magoosh, an online education product initially focused on test preparation. Hansoo quickly emerged as a leader among the group. He was deeply passionate about changing the world through education. He served on the Board of World Savvy, an education non-profit, for several years prior to Haas and continued to do so during and after. Unlike the rest of us, Hansoo had worked at a startup before and knew what it took. He acted with conviction and focused on getting things done instead of trying to make the perfect decision. He had a bias towards action, a value we hold dear at Magoosh today.

Hansoo and I pursued Magoosh full-time during the summer, foregoing traditional paid internships. We worked out of the basement of his apartment for 10+ hours a day. That summer, we released Magoosh in small iterations, from just one page with a question, video explanations, and a text box for email addresses, to over 200 GMAT math questions with full-on video explanations. Early into the first semester of our 2nd year, Hansoo and I were the only remaining full-time members of Magoosh. We were at a crossroads: Should we go back to corporate America or continue to work on Magoosh full-time after graduation?

Hansoo, the visionary

Hansoo was fearless. The decision to pursue Magoosh full-time was a no-brainer for him despite Magoosh having very modest revenue and no funding. His confidence was unparalleled and often led to tension between us. But I later realized that while I could only see what was right in front of us, Hansoo could see through the fog. He had a vision for Magoosh of making high quality educational material accessible to all, and he had confidence in us to see that vision through.

He dragged me, often kicking and screaming, through many of Magoosh’s milestones. In October 2010, Hansoo spent weeks convincing me that we should raise a seed round. I still recall a three hour walk we took around Berkeley’s campus debating the merits of fundraising that ultimately he won out. And the process was easier than I expected, thanks to the previous 12 months that Hansoo spent building relationships with potential investors. I could always come up with thousands of reasons to defer a decision, but he would usually get his way, and we would take action. His way was the right way — make decisions and move forward — it’s why Magoosh is successful today.

Hansoo’s cancer

In late December of 2011, I received a crushing email from Hansoo. “Hey Bhavin. I’ve been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer…” I could barely read on. I was 3,000 miles away visiting my wife’s family in Massachusetts, but my heart was with Hansoo in California. I didn’t understand. He was fit, active, and a non-smoker. He did everything right. How could this happen to him?

He stepped away from Magoosh operations as of January 2012, but he remained fearless about his prognosis and the company’s future. His positive attitude was infectious. I still can’t believe that during this time he provided me with support because he knew running the company as a sole founder would be difficult.

Unfortunately, his condition worsened throughout the year. Despite going through various advanced treatments, he faced complication after complication. Our weekly walks turned into monthly phone calls and then just the occasional email. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through, and I wanted to do more for him. But whenever we spoke, he told me to focus on Magoosh. He was watching from a distance and loved seeing the team’s progress.

On Monday March 4, 2013, Hansoo passed away due to complications from his cancer. We had spoken for nearly an hour just two weeks prior, and I’m grateful that we were able to chat then. I was able to tell him about his impact on Magoosh.

Hansoo’s impact on Magoosh

Hansoo left a lasting impact on our daily lives at Magoosh. He was the impetus behind our daily standup meetings and the weekly one on ones between managers and employees. He cared so deeply about crafting an amazing culture and brand that he led us through an exercise to define our core values when we had only 4 full-time team members — we still hold those values dear today. He was transparent with our vision and finances because he believed in providing everyone with purpose and autonomy in their work.

I’m reminded of him everyday when I walk into the Magoosh office. Magoosh would not be what it is today without him. We’ve grown into a successful business and have helped thousands of students improve their GRE and GMAT scores thanks to Hansoo. He was our leader, and we’ll miss him.

How you can help

To honor Hansoo’s memory, we have created the Hansoo Lee Fellowship. The Fellowship will provide a stipend and mentorship to help Berkeley-Haas MBA students pursue their venture full-time for their summer internship, as Hansoo did. Students will receive:

  • A summer stipend of $5 – $10K
  • Mentorship from Haas alums focused on entrepreneurship
  • Office space donated by Magoosh

This fellowship is a realization of Hansoo’s vision. He always looked for opportunities to give back, and this is our way of celebrating him. To donate to the Fellowship, click here.”

Written by Kevin Warnock

March 22nd, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Memorial service for my friend Hansoo Lee, who passed away March 4, 2013 at the age of 35

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Program for the memorial service for Hansoo Lee, March 18, 2013, Golden Gate Club, page 1

This afternoon, March 18, 2013, I attended the memorial service for Hansoo Lee. Lee died from lung cancer on March 4, 2013 at thirty five years of age. Lee was born February 21, 1978.

I didn’t know Lee particularly well because we probably saw each other just a dozen times. Most of those times were at Cal Founders meetings at various venues in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cal Founders meetings are informal monthly gatherings where entrepreneurs discuss their business challenges. The big benefit to these meetings is the wide variety of advice that may be gleaned from the diverse attendees. I like to characterize the meetings as board of directors meetings where one may actually be completely frank about issues, with no worry that what you say may later be used against your company.

Since Cal Founders meetings are designed to encourage sharing of meaningful obstacles and opportunities, I feel like I learned quite a bit about Lee during these meetings. A person’s character comes into focus rather quickly when you hear them give and receive advice.

Program for the memorial service for Hansoo Lee, March 18, 2013, Golden Gate Club, page 2

Lee was a standout at Cal Founders meetings, and for good reason. He was a smart, driven, accomplished and capable entrepreneur. Sadly, the majority of entrepreneurs I meet never deliver much in the way of results. Lee stood out because he actually delivered results. He was quick to cite statistics about growth, and he knew exactly how to bring customers to his business, and could specify exactly what results would come from specific steps. This kind of precision is less common than you might imagine.

I recall examples that demonstrate how impressive Lee was as an entrepreneur, but I won’t share them with you, since Cal Founders meetings are by design confidential, to encourage open dialogue. I doubt Lee would mind my sharing some examples, given that they paint him in such a favorable light, but I am loath to break confidentiality even in light of the sad circumstance of his too early passing.

Intel Global Challenge winners 2010. This is a screen shot from Intel website.

I remember seeing Hansoo Lee the evening his startup Magoosh won USD $10,000 in the 2010 Intel Global Challenge business competition. The Intel Global Challenge is a big deal, and it is very competitive because Intel invites competitors from all over the world to participate. I have watched the finals awards ceremony for years and I conclude the competition is more competitive than the Berkeley Startup Competition, which itself is quite competitive.

I am comfortable sharing some of what I learned this afternoon in a public memorial open to all at the beautiful Golden Gate Club inside The Presidio. Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, The Presidio used to be a United States military base before it was vacated and turned over to visitors to and residents of San Francisco to enjoy.

The Golden Gate Club overlooks the San Francisco Bay through giant windows perhaps two stories tall. These windows showcase the Bay is if it is a work of fine art in a museum.

Here’s Lee’s biography from the program handed out today at the memorial:

“Hansoo was born in Athens, Georgia [USA], lived briefly in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and spent his formative years in Pensacola, Florida. He was an outstanding scholar-athlete, graduating from Pensacola High School in 1996. He attended Amherst College where he was on both the ski and tennis teams and double-majored in Economics and Fine Arts, graduating in 2000. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area after graduating from college and worked at a small internet startup before joining Walmart.com where he founded the strategy group. He then went to the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, to hone his skills as an entrepreneur. He and two of his classmates founded an education test preparation website, Magoosh, in 2009 during their time at Haas. Hansoo was the first CEO at Magoosh, which he and his business partner, Bhavin Parikh, worked on full-time after graduating from Haas in 2010. They have grown it into a successful, socially minded and profitable business in less than three years.

Hansoo had a love of the outdoors, travel, food, music, and the arts. All of these he enjoyed most with his friends and family. He had a particular love of sports and he described himself as a team player. This was true in all aspects of his life, personal and professional. He maintained close friendships from his early childhood and continued to make close friends throughout his his life. He met Wendy Lim four years ago and they were inseparable from the start; they became engaged last year. He is survived by Wendy, his parents Chung Ho and Hi Whan Lee, his brother and sister-in-law Hanmin Lee and Barbara Morgenthau and their beautiful children Mimoh and Taemoh.”

There were over two hundred people at Lee’s memorial.

I was impressed with how many people boarded aircraft to attend. The majority of the members from his class that belonged to his fraternity at Amherst were there, and two of them spoke at the podium sharing their memories of Lee. I learned that Amherst had banned fraternities, so fraternities were tiny and presumably somewhat hidden. As a result, when I write ‘majority’ I mean three fraternity brothers out of a total of five in Lee’s class attended Lee’s memorial. Counting Lee, four fifths of the entire class was represented. That I believe is a testament to Lee’s good spirit. Remember, Lee graduated from Amherst a dozen years ago.

Program for the memorial service for Hansoo Lee, March 18, 2013, Golden Gate Club, page 3

About two dozen of Lee’s friends walked to the microphone and shared their memories.

Two of his friends met Lee in the first grade. One of those friends entertained us by explaining Lee’s love for business even as an eight year old. Lee was a pro at profitably buying and selling baseball cards. He studied baseball and developed the rare ability to identify future star players while they were still rookies in their careers. This skill allowed Lee to buy the correct rookie cards while they were still low cost, and then sell them years later when the players became stars. I learned Lee joked that he planned to pay for college with his card trading empire begun as a child.

I learned about Lee’s first skiing trip as part of a high school engineering club he belonged to, and how his enthusiasm for skiing caused him to wear out a pair of ski pants in just a night of tumbling on a slope covered with inadequate snow and uninvited mud.

Lee’s fiancée, Wendy Lim, delivered the most emotionally moving remarks.

I cried.

Wendy Lim is really impressive.

Lim described herself as Lee’s opposite, but pointed out how well they each complimented the other.

Wendy Lim described Lee as the love of her life, and told us she had never before known love like that which she shared with Lee. It’s so sad Lee was taken from her so early after her lifelong search to locate him.

I introduced myself to Lim and expressed how sorry I am for her loss.

I also had the privilege of expressing the same sentiments to Dr. Chung Ho Lee, Hansoo’s father, Hi Whan Lee, Hansoo’s mother, and Dr. Hanmin Lee, Hansoo’s brother.

Magoosh.com website home page screen capture March 18 2013

The Hansoo Lee Fellowship has been established at the Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley. Lee started full time work on his startup Magoosh during the summer break between his first and second year at business school. This concerted several month effort I suspect really accelerated the progress at the company. The idea for the Fellowship is to help other student teams pursue their dreams during that pivotal summer break. The fellowship will provide a cash stipend, office space and advice from mentors to one lucky team each summer. If you are able and would like to give money to fund the Hansoo Lee Fellowship, please do so by following this link to the official UC Berkeley donation page for this fellowship.

Farewell Hansoo Lee. I am glad that I got to know you a bit during your exceptional life.

Program for the memorial service for Hansoo Lee, March 18, 2013, Golden Gate Club, page 4