John M. Grillos is a director, mentor and CEO with decades of experience helping companies and management teams reach their full potential. His experience encompasses a wide variety of product and service companies. He has been a highly influential director of 25 for-profit and non-profit organizations. As the CEO he has successfully turned around six companies ranging in size from $3M in sales to over $250M in sales. He is an angel investor, leveraging his considerable experience as a professional venture capital investor.
His current activities include:
- Mentoring entrepreneurs beginning their careers post completion of their undergraduate or graduate degrees, and budding entrepreneurs reentering society from prison.
- Teaching entrepreneurship to students attending a higher education specialized entrepreneurship immersion program.
- Advising several early stage companies in one of their fund raising cycles.
- Coaching the management team of a fast growing mobile security company.
- Chairing the mentoring programs of two philanthropic organizations focused on the Greek-American community in the US.
- Member of the board of directors of one of the Greek-American organizations and the mobile security company mentioned above.
John has been the Managing Director of four venture capital firms (founded two of them) with combined capital under management exceeding $500 million. He compiled a top quartile track record during his decades of investing. He financed dozens of successful technology product and service companies. As chairman and CEO he founded MVC Capital (in partnership with Draper Fisher Jurvetson), a $330M NYSE listed venture capital fund. The fund invested in 27 companies. Prior to that John founded ITech Partners, an angel fund that invested in 14 startups, many of which had successful liquidity events.
His venture capital career began when he joined Robertson Stephens and Company (RS&Co.) as Managing Director. During his nine years with the firm he managed the early stage information technology investment practice. He originated two dozen early stage investments and turned around two companies in the firms portfolio prior to his joining the firm. John remains active as an early stage angel investor in technology companies. Most recently he led two angel investment rounds in Vysk communications, an early stage mobile phone security company. The company has a patented exoskeleton for leading smartphone models that provides state of the art encryption of voice and date communications.
John has considerable operating experience helping companies grow or regain a foothold in their industries. He managed 6 successful turnarounds—two corporate training companies (CBT, NTT), three enterprise software companies (SPSS, Summit Design, Tesseract), and a hardware/software company (Vtel). John’s most recent operating role was as the owner and CEO of NTT, Inc. The company was a leader in skilled trades training for large enterprises globally conducting over 1,200 instructor led courses annually, covering 50 course subjects in the National Electrical Code, safety and compliance. During the depth of our most recent recession the company was on the path to bankruptcy. John bought it and over the next three years developed the management team, grew the core business and initiated two new service lines. John sold the company for cash to a higher education institution producing a return on invested capital of 3 million percent.
Prior to NTT John founded WorldSage, Inc. with the goal of rolling up a number of European accredited colleges. Under his leadership as Chairman and CEO the company raised capital, purchased and merged into a public shell company, and purchased its first school before being swept up in the bloodbath of 2008. In order to help the many angel investors suffering financially from the recession, he sold the company’s single school and returned remaining capital to shareholders.
John had a key investment and operations role with CBT Systems (which subsequently became SmartForce and later merged into Skillsoft). John joined the board of CBT when he initiated the RS&Co $3M investment in the company. He helped the company become a successful public company with a market value of $4 billion (valuing the RS&Co. stake at 50 times cost), 1,700 employees and revenues exceeding $250 million. When the company experienced a severe value downturn he took the role of COO and helped the company reposition itself and reestablish its value to investors. During that period the company’s equity value increased ten fold.
John’s turnaround experience began when he was hired as the turnaround CEO of Tesseract Corporation, an enterprise HR software supplier. During his tenure the company grew revenues four fold, which resulted in a successful sale of the company. He subsequently became the COO, then CEO of SPSS, Inc., a now public supplier of statistical analysis, graphics and decision support software. During his three year tenure the company doubled revenues to $30 million and repositioned itself for long term success.
For 11 years following completion of his graduate studies, John rose through the professional ranks of American Management Systems, a major provider of consulting and business application development services to major enterprises worldwide. For his last five years with the firm he was Vice President and Business Unit Manager responsible for West Coast consulting and application system development practices. Prior to that he held client and project management positions. Assignments included management of “Project Independence”, President Nixon’s computer based study of how to make the U.S. independent of foreign sources of oil.
While attending college and graduate school, John developed engineering, software development and project management skills with the Institute for Computer Research (ICR) at the University of Chicago and Bell Labs/Western Electric. He held the positions of Manager and Principal Designer at ICR responsible for developing computerized experimental control and data acquisition systems for the Medical, Chemistry, Physics, Astrophysics and Biology Departments of the University. Prior to that he was an Associate Engineer for Bell Labs and Western Electric Company with responsibilities for product manufacturing, product development and telephone company site engineering and equipment installation.
John earned his MBA from the University of Chicago, with concentrations in finance, accounting and information science. He also earned a BS in applied math, electrical engineering and computer science from Illinois Institute of Technology.
He served in, and was honorably discharged from, the United States Marine Corp.