Right from the start, I knew Keith was one-of-a-kind. Whip-smart. Funny. A real “I’d-follow-you-anywhere” leader. After college I joined him at GMFanuc Robotics, a joint venture between GM and Fanuc, the Japanese robotics company. Keith quickly rose to the top and, at 26, became GM’s youngest-ever VP. He led an amazing team of young engineers to sell 942 robots in a single year—a moonshot at the time. Fanuc is now the largest provider of industrial robots in the world.
In the late ‘80s, Keith moved west to test his mettle in Silicon Valley. He joined the four other founders of Rasna, focusing on providing sophisticated analytical software for the everyday design engineer. The company combined computer aided design (CAD) with Analysis software, to invent GEA technology and created a new category: Design Optimization. Rasna then expanded the category to Mechanical Design Synthesis. Under Keith’s leadership as the COO, Rasna grew quickly and was about to file for an IPO with Morgan Stanley, when Parametric Technology swooped in and acquired us.
After Rasna sold, and while “hanging out” as Benchmark Capital’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Keith grabbed his old team and some top-notch engineering talent from Next to create Ariba in 1996. The seven founders started without a business plan or working prototype. But, they raised $6M in two days (big money back then) with only Keith’s “product/market architecture” sketched on a paper tablecloth and seven principles he affectionately nicknamed “The Magnificent Seven.” These were his simple philosophy of the critical success factors necessary to take a company to what he coined “escape velocity.”
All these companies were focused on driving massive productivity improvement on a global scale. After Ariba, Keith took the time to give back to the two organizations that gave him so much in terms of leadership and education. First, he became global President of the Sigma Chi Fraternity and its 350,000 lifetime members from 250 universities. Keith transformed the organization and focused its mission exclusively on values-based leadership development, supported by a culture of mentor-based service and stewardship that is thriving today.