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Hidden Gems: Meet David Ferran of Torrey Project

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Ferran.

Hi David, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My business career began in 1978 when I graduated from college and started my first technology company. I raised my first million dollars of VC money at the age of 23, bought my first public company when I was 33 and did my first public offering (IPO) before I was 40. After a successful run on NASDAQ my company was a victim of a hostile takeover. (long story with a many lessons learned) After selling that company, I was recruited by the board of another publicly traded technology company. My CEO assignment there was to execute a complete turnaround and restructuring of the business. After three years, my work was done and I was recruited to execute another public company turnaround in the semiconductor sector. This involved shutting down and restructuring operations around the globe.

I then opened a global M+A advisory firm and spent 11 years working with large wall street financial institutions on multinational and multibillion dollar mergers and acquisitions. After 11 years of transaction work, I wanted to get back to my roots so I started another semiconductor equipment company. With 11 million dollars in venture backing, I was able to build that business up, structure it for sale and ultimately sold it to a large publicly traded Japanese company in 2016. It was then that my real journey began. Since that time, I have dedicated myself to a non-profit that I set up to help train a new generation of socially responsible entrepreneurs. I learned too late in my business life that there is more to running a business than just making profit. I have learned of the importance of Purpose and the appropriate role for corporate leadership in creating value for all stakeholders. I now work with business leaders in an effort to harness the power of business as a force for good in the world. Let’s talk!

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My business life has been anything but a smooth road. Between starting a company with no experience, no mentors and no role models to working in a highly cyclical industry, dealing with the greed of wall street investors and the shockingly bad behavior of public company board members and several self-inflicted wounds over the years, I have been beaten, battered and am heavily scarred but I still have a fire in my belly and these days that energy is being focused on my mission of transforming the way we go about capitalism here in America, and someday, around the world. I believe that the power of business can indeed be a force for good but we need to change the way the system works. It is a daunting challenge and my friends and family think I am nuts to try, but there is too much at stake. We have to put an end to the damage we are doing to our planet, our society and our democracy.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Torrey Project is a 501 C 3 non-profit based in North County San Diego. Founded in January 2019, we are passionate about our mission of transforming capitalism and harnessing the power of business as a force for good in the world. We have conducted 5 30 Bootcamps for first-time entrepreneurs. In those programs, we emphasize the pursuit of Purpose as well as Profits. We teach young entrepreneurs how every single business, regardless of the size, the product or the service offered can have a positive impact. We teach “Stakeholder Theory” which calls on business leaders to take all stakeholders into consideration when making strategic decisions. This means creating value for employees, customers, suppliers and business partners. It also challenges business leaders to consider their impact on the communities in which they do business.

Finally, there is a component of stakeholder theory that speaks to the need for businesses to care for the environment and to act in ways that promote the betterment of society at large. It is a tall order indeed but when broken down into bite-size chunks, it is doable and it is well worth doing. We are currently working on additional educational programs and we have recently launched a major initiative in which we are trying to raise a $25 million fund to invest in first-time BIPOC entrepreneurs with an emphasis on female entrepreneurs. These people have been left behind and have been locked out of the tremendous opportunities that entrepreneurship can create. We believe that all people should have an opportunity to escape poverty and participate in the American dream, and we are trying to make that possible.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Funny question. I have always been an enormous risk taker. Pretty much every company I have started has been a huge risk. Some have worked out better than others but I always learned a lot through the experience. I am also a risk taker in life. I have traveled to some of the most remote parts of the world, skied some of the most demanding slopes and spent plenty of time underwater with sharks. I don’t think I will ever stop being a risk taker but I am choosing the risks I take a bit more carefully these days. I am becoming more mindful in my risk taking behavior. For example, when I was younger I frequently took on risk without stopping to think about the potential negative consequences for those around me. I was somewhat narcissistic in my approach to life. There was a lot of “What’s in it for me?” going on and not a lot of concern for the benefit or the risk for others. In my older years, I am learning to think about the impact that my thoughts, words and deeds have on others. I am still inclined to embrace tremendous challenges and take significant risks but I do so more mindfully and with a clear understanding of what’s in it for all.

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