Josh Berman, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and MySpace co-founder, talked about his journey to becoming a tech leader and the importance of networking in his keynote address at the Michigan Ross School of Business on Oct. 5. The Business+Tech initiative hosted Berman as a keynote to its inaugural +Tech Literacy Download, which took place from Oct. 4 to Oct 7. Speaking on the relevance of tech literacy, Berman said “I think technology is at the cornerstone of everything that’s going on in today’s world, so understanding technology, whatever your career path goes into, it’s critical.”
After starting his career as an accountant, which he was drawn to for its job stability and compensation, Berman realized finance wasn’t for him. After two years at PwC, he enrolled at the USC Marshall School of Business to pursue his MBA.
Berman said his network at Marshall was fundamental in providing him with the tools to succeed in the technology industry and beyond. Commenting on the strength of Michigan Ross’s network, he encouraged students to “Recognize, embrace it, and most importantly, act on it, leverage it.” USC Marshall alumni were the first people Berman went to prior to founding his first company and later when he was starting his first venture capital fund, “There was no better win for me from business school than meeting that foundation of people,” he said.
Following his graduation in 1997, Berman knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, but returned to the corporate world and kept in touch with his classmates. A few years later, he partnered with Chris DeWolfe, another USC Marshall alumni, to found three internet companies, including ResponseBase and Xdrive technologies. Their third venture, MySpace, went on to become the largest social networking site in the world from 2005 to 2008. Acquired by News Corp in 2005, MySpace’s success was made possible by an early focus on the site’s technical infrastructure and understanding the customer and product, Berman said. Explaining the site’s demise, he said
Berman then went on to manage the startup incubator Slingshot Labs and co-found the e-commerce platform BeachMint, where he would later transition to a CEO role following a merger with Condé Nast’s The Lucky Group.
In 2016, he made the switch to venture capital, founding Troy Capital Partners, the name a nod to USC’s mascot the Trojans, and the fintech company Quid. “What I’m excited about as an investor today, is that 20 years from today, five or eight of the next ten companies have not been created yet,” Berman said. His enthusiasm for the technology industry’s possibilities extended to the student audience, “Through your network, by getting a great job, a great career, you have an opportunity to help start those companies, work for those companies, consult for those companies or interact with those companies.”