Eli Zelkha

Adjunct Professor

Eli Zelkha teaches entrepreneurship, venture capital and strategy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Graduate School of Middlebury College.  He also lectures on Scenario Planning and Uncertainty at Stanford University School of Engineering. He is currently General Partner at Concepto Ventures (London/Madrid).

Eli founded, developed, and sold several successful ventures including Euro-Profile/iProfile (sold to Virgo Capital ’08), Palo Alto Ventures (sold to 21st Century Venture Partners ’04), and Kandahar Designs (sold to InterLink, Ltd.) He has served as chief strategist and managing director at corporate venture funds at UB Networks, Tandem Computer, Compaq and Philips NV. Eli led the team that invented and initially developed Ambient Intelligence, a paradigm for human-centric electronic environments that are embedded, context aware, personalized, adaptive and anticipatory. The European Commission continues playing a crucial role in the development and funding of research in the field of Ambient Intelligence.

From early 2005 to February 2008, Eli was Founder and CEO of Global IT Profiles, the leading US and European IT business intelligence service, which he successfully sold to a Virgo Capital, private equity fund.  Between 1998 to 2004, Eli was Founder and Managing Partner at Palo Alto Ventures, a venture firm, that coupled venture investments with a scenario based strategy practice. Eli spearheaded transformative strategy and new venture initiatives for  major corporate clients including Philips Electronics, as well as start up investments in companies such as TIVO. Eli successfully sold Palo Alto Ventures to 21st Century Venture Partners in 2004. Previously, Eli was Vice President of Strategy & New Ventures at Compaq.

From 1995 to 1997, Eli led efforts to develop Tandems turn around and re-positioning strategy as Vice President of Corporate Development.  Over the course of his tenure, Tandem’s market capitalization increased from $850 million to the $4.3 billion valuation realized in the company’s acquisition by Compaq.    Prior to Tandem, Eli led Corporate Strategy in the turn around of UB Networks, which sold to Newbridge Networks for $100 M.

Prior to attending business school, Eli founded and developed Kandahar Designs into Afghanistan’s largest soft goods exporter employing 1,000+ people.

He is a founding director of the Dutch Twinning venture capital network, and has served on the boards of Silicon Artists, Spain, Assurance Auto, and Assurance Habitation, France, PayPod, India, and NovaR&D and LiveWall, USA.

Expertise

Venture capital, corporate strategy, art of failure, start-ups, entrepreneurship, mergers & acquisitions, technology.

Education

Eli holds an MBA from Stanford School of Business ('85) and a BA from Colgate University. He speaks four languages (Arabic, Farsi, French, Dari).

Publications

He is the author of numerous published articles including, “The Copyright Question: Making The Net Safe And Profitable For Copyright Content” (PC Week) and “Exploring the Multi-medium” (Internet World), "From Devices to 'Ambient Intelligence'”, "Scenarios for the Future of Consumer Electronics",  "The Future of TV" and "Imagining the Future of Digital Displays."

Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

IPOL 9647 - Art of Failure      

Spring 2011 - MIIS

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MBAG 8647 / IMGT 8647 - Art of Failure      

Success, the high altar of our culture. Failure, the dungeon of our culture. But our success culture is in deep and fundamental conflict with entrepreneurship, innovation, risk-taking, learning and, inextricably, failure. Success without failure is simply …. luck. Innovation is a double helix built with creativity, risky exploration, testing assumptions, sweat, failures, learning, retrenchment, re-creation, re-exploration, re-learning, mutation, and eventual victory. Failure is not the opposite of success, but its compliment.

This course overturns the common knowledge of failure and success, and proposes that failure has to be embraced as an essential platform for innovation and success. The course examines the frequently contradictory views of failure in the Silicon Valley and venture capital arenas. We will also hear, first-hand, the failure/success stories from Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists, as well as venture leaders operating in developing countries. We will examine the state-of-the-art entrepreneurial methods for embracing failure such as Y Combinator, Fast Failure and Failure Tolerant Leadership.

The course will review the academic literature on failure, discussing its causes and prescriptions for prevention. In particular, we will look at the engineering view of failure, including the FMEA approach (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) and the possible application of this approach to the business world. We will also examine and discuss cross-cultural views of failure and risk-taking.

We will examine how the pace of competitive knowledge offered through modern communication technologies, has caused some of the old, classical methods of planning and managing business risk to be supplanted by more agile methods which incorporate frequent, real-world, testing of scenarios and assumptions – and explicitly incorporating knowledge from “failures.”

We will examine current research on the psychology of failure. Students will participate in diagnostic tests to help them understand their own unique patterns and proclivities to fail. They will also examine their own resilience and paths to recovery and renewal.

Spring 2011 - MIIS, Spring 2012 - MIIS, Spring 2013 - MIIS, Spring 2014 - MIIS, Spring 2015 - MIIS

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MBAG 8694 / IMGT 8694 - Wks:Intl&Corp Venture Capital      

This course offers a practical, “real world” understanding of venture capital from both the entrepreneur's and the venture capitalist's perspective. It examines how VC investments are evaluated and structured, and explores strategies for attracting and negotiating venture investments. A key focus is on strategically driven, corporate venture investing and the potential tensions and divergence of interests between the entrepreneur and the corporate investor. We also examine alternative models for introducing venture capital funding mechanisms in various European & Asian countries. The course heavily leverages recent Silicon Valley deals, and involves direct student interaction with the actual entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporate executives driving these transactions. To emphasize the risky and volatile nature of venture work, we will examine a mix of dramatic success stories, horrific failures and deals where the outcome remains uncertain. The course is a two-day intensive seminar and uses a combination of guest speakers, case studies, discussions, and student presentations. The class is particularly appropriate for those with a strong interest in new ventures and considering careers as entrepreneurs, venture capitalists or corporate development executives.

Fall 2010 - MIIS, Fall 2011 - MIIS, Fall 2012 - MIIS, Fall 2013 - MIIS, Fall 2014 - MIIS

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