I only met David Morgenthaler once, but he left an impression.
The legendary Cleveland investor passed away on June 17 at age 96. Our lone encounter took place at a nanotechnology conference in Akron in 2007. I found myself sharing a lunch table with Morgenthaler and an executive with a nanotech firm that he was interested in.
Even at that time, it was clear that Morgenthaler was one of the oldest people in the room. Nanotech then and now attracts a younger crowd. But in our lunch conversation, it was evident that Morgenthaler knew just as much, if not more, about nanotech than most of those attending the event did.
Morgenthaler was a widely-respected venture capitalist. His Morgenthaler Ventures firm famously invested in Apple Computer back in 1978. That's the kind of call many people would retire on. Decades later, Morgenthaler invested in Siri, the voice recognition firm later acquired by Apple. There really was no need for him to be so knowledgeable about nanotechnology in his late 80s.
But he clearly was. And his intellect and curiosity late in life should be an inspiration to today's business leaders, both in the plastics industry and beyond.
In 2012, Brett Larkin of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote an excellent column about Morgenthaler. The headline on the column described Morgenthaler as “Cleveland's quiet business visionary.”
Here's my favorite quote from that piece. Morgenthaler is discussing the view from his home on the shores of Lake Erie: "When I shave in the morning, I look out the window and see 20 percent of the world's fresh water flowing past my house. I've thought about how we use that to build an economic future for 50 years. I haven't found it yet, but the answer has to be there."
Even in his early 90s, David Morgenthaler was looking for answers. Let's hope we all can do the same.