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Eric Benhamou – Living the American Dream

December 1, 2004

We first encountered Eric Benhamou some years ago when he was still CEO of 3Com, the perrenial second-fiddler to Cisco in the networking market. Interviewing CEOs is always a stodgy affair, with PR handlers keeping the execs “on message” and leaving little room for the kind of light-hearted banter that can actually give you a feel for someone’s character. That said, you almost always come away from such meetings with some sense of the person’s underlying qualities. Gordon Moore is gentle and grandfatherly, Jim Barksdale is a country gentleman, and Michael Dell plays the self-effacing Texas hayseed who possesses uncanny business sense.
If you want a sense of Eric Benhamou, check out the website for his recently established venture fund. He offers the following preamble: “I will put my own money at risk, not others. I will coach, but will not be a consultant. I will invest my time and experience at the service of the CEO and the company first, and its investors second. I will teach, but will learn as well. I will insist on upholding the highest standards of governance and the best management principles and techniques, but will take myself seriously only some of the time.”
We remember liking Benhamou the first time around – and now we like him even more. Sure, his message is a bit earnest, but who cares – it’s better than most of the corporate piffle you read. The site also includes a timeline of his life, a feature that would be self-indulgent were it not so interesting. Benhamou is a naturalized American citizen who left his home in Algeria to eventually strike it rich in Silicon Valley.

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