Speaker: William Rosenzweig

Business Lessons from a Quiet Gardener

William Rosenzweig learned he had been awarded the Nobel-level prestigious Oslo Business for Peace Award via a Google news alert -- and immediately assumed it was spam.  "I printed it out and went around the office and asked people, 'Does this look for real, or is this like a scam thing where somebody generates an e-mail that inserts your name here?'" said the educator, entrepreneur and investor.

It was in fact real.  A 2010 recipient of the Oslo Business for Peace Award, selected by a committee of Nobel Laureates for “the highest distinction given to a businessperson for outstanding accomplishments in the area of ethical business,” Will has spent more than twenty-five years integrating the practices and perspectives of an entrepreneur, venture investor, and pioneering educator in order to help transform global corporate business practice.  He is one of just a handful of leaders whose work has catalyzed positive change from a previously narrow and disconnected metric comprised solely of financial returns, into the current ecosystemic perspective which includes care for our planet and each other as part of a redefinition of “actual” return. 

Will credits his childhood, in part, for preparing him to operate within what he refers to as the "schizophrenia of capitalism."  "I am the product, literally, of a rocket scientist and a humanities professor who's a Shakespeare scholar," he has said.  He’s also the beneficiary of life lessons from the family’s Japanese gardener.

Now a constant gardener himself, Will is co-founder and Managing Partner at Physic Ventures, the first venture capital firm dedicated to investing in keeping people healthy.  He has been involved in growing the health and sustainability sectors through his work as an entrepreneur and investor in Odwalla, Trinity Springs, Winetasting.com, Yummly, and Brand New Brands, a functional food incubator he founded in 2004. 

In 1990, he co-founded and was CEO of The Republic of Tea, an award-winning specialty tea company that is credited with creating the premium tea category in the United States “sip by sip, rather than gulp by gulp.”  The Republic of Tea is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017.

In accepting the Oslo award, Will remarked:  “The people who know me best know that at heart I am just a quiet gardener. … A gardener sees the world as a system of interdependent parts -- where healthy, sustaining relationships are essential to the vitality of the whole. ‘A real gardener is not a person who cultivates flowers, but a person who cultivates the soil.’ In business this has translated for me into the importance of developing agreements and partnerships where vision and values, purpose and intent are explicitly articulated, considered and aligned among all stakeholders of an enterprise - customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, and the broader community and natural environment.”

Will pioneered the development and teaching of the first MBA courses in Social Entrepreneurship and Social Venture Development at the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley, where he has served on the faculty since 1999. He has been a Price Kauffman Fellow and a visiting faculty member at London Business School.  Currently Will is teaching, along with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, the most popular undergraduate class at UC Berkeley:  Edible Education, a course that “explores the future of food, its diverse systems and movements.”  And in November 2014, Will joined forces with The Culinary Institute of America to launch The Food Business School.  As Dean and Executive Director of The Food Business School, Will is working with industry experts to create specialized programs that enable and empower entrepreneurs to design, deliver, and lead transformative innovations that address the world’s most pressing food challenges—and its greatest business opportunities.

As co-author of The Republic of Tea: How an Idea Becomes a Business, which was named one of the 100 Best Business Books of All Time, Will asks a question that possibly reflects for him a persistent issue:  “Can poetry make a business?” 

The sum of Will’s vibrant and prescient journey in transforming business values continues to inform the world.  He serves as Senior Advisor to Generation Investment Management, a global investment management partnership chaired by Vice President Al Gore.  From his UC Berkeley classroom have emerged world-class businesses such as World of Good, Indiegogo, GoodGuide and Revolution Foods, and his now closed VC firm supported firms including Gazelle, Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacies, Recylebank and WaterSmart Software.  His work has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Sound Money, Business Week, USA Today, and the San Francisco Chronicle.  In 2014, Will was named on the Purpose Economy 100 list of leaders who are “the first to research, develop, and shape markets that foster community, expression, and impact,” and in 2016, he was recognized as one of the 7 shapers of the future of food by Bon Appetit magazine.

What has emerged most recently in Will’s garden, Ideagarden, springs from his earliest roots as a professional magician, jazz cornetist, mime, and student of film at Cornell.  Ideagarden contains Will’s musings and reflections on topics including Entrepreneurship, Garden, Innovation, Livelihood, and Poetry. 

Join us in conversation with this remarkable and visionary leader!

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