Sometimes it’s worth pausing from the day to day flurry of news, trends, and controversy to talk about what really matters, and this is one of those times. Scott Martin, a friend, serial software entrepreneurial, philanthropist and inspiration, passed away April 29 after a truly heroic fight against cancer. Scott left two lovely children, Hannah and Jack, and an equally lovely wife, Christie. He was 46.
The reason I’m mentioning him here is that Scott was one of those people who did good for the industry but also did good for others. And the fact that the two are possible is why his story is interesting to us all.
I first met Scott when he was at CrossWorlds, and later when he founded DiCarta, and then Determine Software. But the first time I really got to know him was in the Oakland airport on the way to a business meeting. While I was off in dubious service to the software industry, Scott was on the way to ride his bicycle in a charity event to raise money for cancer research. So instead of the usual conversation about the market, VCs and the latest technology trends, we found time to talk about the human side of life. It was a pattern that marked my interactions with Scott throughout the years.
Scott’s ability, truly tireless, to work on helping others was all the more amazing because, at the time we first met, he hadn’t yet contracted the cancer that would be his undoing. And after he got cancer, a virulent form of leukemia, he didn’t stop. Scott continued to raise money for charity causes even after he became sick, had a bone marrow transplant, went into remission, and then relapsed again. In the meantime, he pioneered the contract management market, founded two companies, raised venture capital from his hospital bed, and astonished me and everyone else by his drive to do it all. Oh, by the way, he also managed to be a loving father and husband, and a friend to all those who knew him.
I bring up Scott and his all-too-short life as a challenge to all of us. While we live in a Darwinistic world, and work in an even more Darwinistic software industry, we don’t have to live our lives this way. It is possible to do good and be successful, to fulfill our fiduciary responsibilities to our shareholders and our moral responsibility to the rest of humanity. This imperative truly transcends religion, politics, and the day-to-day hustle we all find ourselves drawn to.
If Scott Martin, stricken with cancer, skin yellowed by jaundice and body weakened by chemotherapy, can still work on making the world a little better for someone else, then those of us blessed with health and well-being should think about what we can do beyond worrying about sales and revenues and what’s the latest market threat or market opportunity.
To their credit, many companies and individuals take the time to do good for the world. Some, like Salesforce.com, have woven philanthropy into their corporate charter. Others, including most of the larger software companies, donate money, time, and good will to a variety of causes.
That’s a good start. My challenge is that we as individuals can also do more, without sacrificing success or the bottom line. I know from knowing Scott that I can do more, and so should the rest of us. You can do it because of your faith, because of your politics, because of the PR value — it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that virtue is its own reward, and taking the time to add a little value to the world that isn’t necessarily measurable in dollars per share or profit margins is one of the most virtuous things you can do.
Even if the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, it’s worth trying. Scott got me to sign up to be a bone marrow donor, contribute money to Lance Armstrong’s charity, and, sadly, write this column and hopefully force you to read it and think about something a little different today. And if that thinking produces some action on your part, all the better. I know Scott would have liked it that way.