The New York Times pointed out that there are a number of Silicon Valley executives that have proved to be poor candidates for public office. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman was a gubernatorial candidate that put in $140 million of her own money in the campaign and ended up losing. Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina was a Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate representing California and lost that race. And former Facebook executive Chris Kelly lost the Democratic primary in the bid for attorney general. However the Rust Belt state of Michigan has embraced a Silicon Valley executive veteran and a native to the state by the name of Rick Snyder.
Rick Snyder was born in Battle Creek and received a Bachelor of General Studies with high distinction from the University of Michigan in 1977. He followed that up with an MBA (1979) and a Juris Doctor degree (1982) from Michigan within a few years. After graduation, Snyder worked at Coopers & Lybrand (now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers) from 1982-1991. He was named partner in 1988 and ended up heading the M&A division in Chicago.
Snyder was offered a position at Gateway in 1991 as an EVP. Five years later he was named President and COO in January 1996. He held this position until August 1997 and returned in 2005 to serve as the chairman of the board.
In 1997, Snyder decided to return to Ann Arbor in order to start a venture capital company with a $100 million fund called Avalon Investments Inc. He co-founded this company with Gateway co-founder and billionaire Ted Waitt. Snyder worked as president of Avalon until 2000. After leaving Avalon, Snyder co-founded an Ann Arbor based investment firm called Ardesta. Ardesta primarily invests in nanotechnology and microtechnology companies. Snyder worked at a partner at Ardesta while campaigning for governor of Michigan.
In 2007 Taiwanese manufacturing company acquired Gateway while Snyder served as the chairman of the board. Gateway was known for outsourcing American jobs while Snyder was chairman of the board. However he said that it was not something he voted for and he said he worked on trying to bring jobs to America when he served as the interim Gateway CEO in 2006.
One of Rick’s job creation success stories is HealthMedia Inc. HealthMedia Inc. is a business that provides Internet based wellness tools. The idea for the company was crafted on a whiteboard by Rick and U of M professor Vic Strecher. The company created about 130 jobs in Michigan and the company was acquired by Johnson & Johnson.
Snyder also wrote the business plan and served as the first Chair for Ann Arbor SPARK. SPARK’s goal is to encourage establishing the Ann Arbor region as a place for business expansion. SPARK also speeds up the development of start-ups in the area by providing them with valuable services.
On November 2, Rick Snyder was elected as Governor of Michigan. He brands himself as “One Tough Nerd.” In Michigan, Silicon Valley executives are proved as not being poor candidates for public office after all.