Funding is fun for venture capitalist John W. Otterson

John W. otterson
John W. otterson

John Otterson joined SVB Capital, the venture capital investing arm of Silicon Valley Bank, in 2001 and has more than 20 years of venture industry experience. He is responsible for venture fund investments, as well as global limited partner relations. He previously spent 11 years with Silicon Valley Bank’s Technology Practice, where he founded and led SVB’s San Diego Office, supporting local success stories such as AMCC, Cymer and HNC Software.

He currently sits on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Rady School of Management at UCSD, the Preuss School Founder’s Circle, as well as the Moores Cancer Center Advisory Board.

Otterson co-founded the UCSD Moores Cancer Center’s Luau & Longboard Invitational in 1994 and remains on the Board of Advisors. This annual event has raised more than $5 million in support of MCC early stage projects. He has also played a key role in launching the Moores Cancer Center’s Spring Sprint Triathlon fundraiser in 2011. His eleemosynary activities have also included the La Jolla Playhouse, Project Concern International, and Best Buddies.

What brought you to La Jolla?

The first time, in 1970, I was a second grader and the move was mandated by my parents when my father took on a CEO assignment for a local data storage company, Cipher Data Products.  The second time, in 1990, was my choice — a choice driven by the region’s growing entrepreneurial community, solid academic research institutions, and La Jolla’s unique environment.

What makes this area special to you?

The venue and people!  La Jolla is blessed with wonderful weather and an exceptional marine environment. That combination has attracted many interesting people from across the globe, creating fascinating clusters in the marine sciences, life sciences, academia, entrepreneurial sector, and of course the surfing community!

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

My biggest pet peeve is when visitors to local beaches leave unsightly traces of their visit, whether trash, graffiti, or human waste. If everyone made an effort to cover his or her own tracks, our greatest local natural resource will be preserved for future generations.

Who or what inspires you?

My parents have been a profound inspiration in my life. My father instilled a love of entrepreneurship and innovation that has led to my 20-year career with Silicon Valley Bank supporting the innovation sector worldwide. My mother provided an exceptional example of the importance of eleemosynary engagement, inspiring my co-founding of the UCSD Moores Cancer Center Luau & Longboard Invitational nearly 20 years ago. Together, my parents demonstrated the durable importance of family and friends, and transitory nature of wealth and possessions.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Before we get to the guest list, I’d want to secure Tapenade and Giuseppe to tag team on catering. That would be complimented by Shari and Garen Staglin covering the wine list!

As far as a guest list goes, I think

William Shackleton

would add incredible perspective on leadership and motivation gained through his ill-fated expedition to Antarctica where his ship was sunk and yet not a single crewmember was lost. 

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