John Otterson is a widely experienced man when it comes to investment, and this stems from his childhood up to his long-haul involvement with Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) Capital. Otterson has more than 19 years of venture capital experience making him a valuable asset to the company where he is responsible for private equity fund investments and Limited Partner relations.

John Otterson grew up in a business-inclined household where he was able to absorb the entrepreneurial cycle of birth, growth and sometimes failure of a company. Otterson became involved in a couple of start-up companies himself but started his corporate career when he came across SVB as a business school student. He has been working for the organization for 17 years and currently is with SVB Capital, the private equity arm of the bank.

During his many years with the company, he has seen great and difficult times and cycles where different sectors come in favor, like the internet boom of the late 90s. Otterson’s experience leads him to be “cautiously optimistic” about the business environment in the State and around the nation especially for technology companies.

Greater Good Radio brings John Otterson, managing director of SVB Capital, and his extensive knowledge and familiarity of the investment industry and venture capital sector. In this interview, John talks about how his family act as a significant entity that has put him to where he sits in his career, family and community involvement.

John speaks of passion as his driving force to success. “Do something that you’re passionate about,” he said. “Think about what drives you so you can tap your passion, that’s a tremendous source of energy.”

For budding entrepreneurs, don’t miss out on the after show where John Otterson points out what it really takes for a sound investment to venture capitalists. Learn more about John’s relentless pursuit of balance between his career, family and philanthropy only here on Greater Good Radio.

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John Otterson
Managing Director
SVB Capital

John Otterson joined SVB in 1990 and has more than 19 years of venture industry experience. In his role at SVB Capital, Otterson is responsible for private equity fund investments and Limited Partner relations.

Otterson previously served as a member of SVB’s Corporate Finance Division, facilitating origination efforts for emerging technology companies across the U.S. Previously, Otterson spent nine years with Silicon Valley Bank’s Technology Practice, where he founded and led SVB’s San Diego commercial banking office.

Otterson currently sits on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego, and the Investment Sub-Committee for the University of San Diego.

In August 1994, Otterson co-founded the UCSD Cancer Center Luau and Longboard Invitational, an annual event that brings together the surfing community and more than 1000 participants in a celebration of life. The event attracts such surf legends as Mike Doyle, Robert August and Rabbit Kekai. To date, it has raised over $2 million for the Rebecca and John Moore’s USCD Cancer, which ranks among the top centers in the nation conducting basic and clinical cancer research, providing advanced patient care and serving the community through outreach and education programs.

Otterson is also an active volunteer in Project Concern, a non-governmental organization focused on saving the lives of children and families around the world by preventing disease, providing access to clean water and nutritious food and promoting sustainable development.

Otterson received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Berkeley and a graduate degree with honors in finance from the University of Southern California.

About SVB Financial Group’s Community Involvement
At SVB Financial Group, we’re deeply committed to dedicating resources to positively impact our local communities — to make them better places to live and work for everyone. Our employees support a wide variety of programs by volunteering time and donating money to help make our communities better places to live and work.

In addition to conducting programs that support local nonprofit organizations, SVB Financial Group, through The SVB Silicon Valley Bank Foundation, makes grants on a quarterly basis to organizations and programs that share our goal of serving and improving the community. The foundation provides grants to organizations that improve education, the arts, and the quality of life in our surrounding communities. For more information about SVB Financial Group’s corporate social responsibility activities, please go to

Below is a partial listing of the organizations we support:

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, the nation’s oldest and largest youth mentoring organization. BBSA enables one-to-one mentoring relationships between adult volunteers and children primarily from single-parent families. There are more than 500 BBSA chapters throughout the United Sates, including in each community where an SVB Silicon Valley Bank office is located. Several of our employees have become Big Brothers or Big Sisters, each making a positive difference in the life of a young child.

Businesses United in Investing, Lending and Development (BUILD), a social venture chartered in September 1999 that bridges the divide between youth in East Palo Alto and Eastern Menlo Park (“EPA”) and the business and intellectual resources of Silicon Valley. BUILD empowers youth from low-income communities to excel in the classroom, on the job, and beyond by giving them an education in entrepreneurship. By encouraging students to develop their own small businesses, BUILD extends traditional entrepreneurial education far beyond the classroom and provides students with real-world business experiences. Intensive involvement of local business and community leaders in mentoring and support of the students, and an operating youth incubator are central and distinctive components of the program. SVB Financial Group employees volunteer their time and support and serve as judges at events like the Youth Business Plan Competition, the annual culmination of a year of hard work by BUILD’s students and their mentors.

Entrepreneurs Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the ties between entrepreneurial companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and the communities in which they operate and their employees reside. Entrepreneurs Foundation enables companies to incorporate corporate citizenship, community involvement and philanthropy into their corporate culture. Since its inception, over 140 companies have joined Entrepreneurs Foundation and established corporate citizenship programs. SVB Financial Group employees act as key liaison to facilitate links between Entrepreneurs Foundation and the Venture Capital community and early stage companies.

The Illinois Coalition, a nonpartisan private/public partnership of the state’s leaders from business, labor, government, education, and research. It is dedicated to one overriding goal: to strengthen the Illinois economy through advances in science and technology. SVB Financial Group has long been a supporter of Illinois Coalition initiatives. That involvement has included providing the coalition with guidance relating to its investments in seed-stage companies and referring a number of opportunities to the organization for review.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, a comprehensive endurance training program for runners, walkers, cyclists, and triathletes to benefit the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society. The goal of Team in Training is to increase funding to support the society’s mission while promoting fitness and healthy lifestyles. SVB Financial Group employees participate by training for the rides/runs as well as coaching and mentoring the participants. Over the past few years, some 25 SVB Financial Group employees have actively participated in Team in Training and raised upwards of $100,000 for Leukemia research. Additional support has been provided by The Silicon Valley Bank Foundation.

Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit, nondenominational organization providing free home repairs to low-income families, seniors, and disabled persons. Each year, thousands of skilled and unskilled Rebuilding Together volunteers set aside the last Saturday in April to donate countless hours of service and perform millions of dollars worth of home repairs. SVB Financial Group’s participation in Rebuilding Together has grown to include participation in National Rebuilding Day and support of the Dreams Happen fundraiser. In addition, a representative serves on the organization’s board of directors. In recognition of its commitment to Rebuilding Together, SVB Silicon Valley Bank, the primary business unit of SVB Financial Group, was awarded the 1999 Katrina M. Wollenberg Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Salvation Army Adopt-a-Family Program, which pairs a needy family with hosts that provide gifts and food for Christmas. Families included in this program have suffered hardships that have temporarily set them back such as being burned out of their home, having a primary earner die or became ill, having a grandparent or family member suddenly become the guardian of a child/children or becoming unemployed. SVB Financial Group employees participate by adopting families in Santa Clara (Calif.) County.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, a private, nonprofit organization that collects and distributes more than 26 million pounds of food each year to low-income children, adults, and seniors. The food bank currently serves an average of 167,000 individuals each month, of which nearly 60 percent are families with children. SVB Financial Group employees support the Second Harvest Food Bank by participating in the National Food Drive Challenge. Information about the national organization can be found at

Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the nation’s leading private funder of breast cancer research and community programs dedicated solely to breast cancer. It was established in 1982 by Nancy Brinker in honor of her sister, Susan G. Komen, who died of breast cancer at age 36. The Foundation is also an advocate for education and provides life-saving information about early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

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