Mark W. Saul was passionate about building startups, but he was equally happy catching a wave at Point Dume in Malibu. Saul, a general partner at Foundation Capital, died on Sept. 9. He was 42.
“He was extraordinarily diligent and had a remarkable intellect,” says Paul Koontz, a general partner at Foundation. “He would quote Shakespeare and Greek philosophers and also speak articulately about modern trends in technology. He applied that intellect in very probing ways. He didn’t ask vague, open-ended questions.”
Friend James Breyer, managing partner of Accel Partners, met Saul when they attended Harvard Business School. “We kept in touch through the years while he worked in product management and the venture capital business,” Breyer says. “He was a very smart, hard-working executive who cared deeply for his family and building young companies.”
Although Saul had been a general partner at Foundation for just four years, most of the firm’s partners had known him for about 10 years from his time as a technology entrepreneur and executive. The partners are a close-knit group. “We often socialized together and vacationed together,” Koontz says. “Mark was as much a friend as he was a partner.”
With a shock of blonde hair and tan complexion, Saul is remembered fondly for his love of surfing. During an offsite about two years ago, he convinced his partners to give it a try. “That was quite a scene, the seven of us out on the waves,” Koontz says. Despite the best efforts of Saul and a surfing instructor, none of the partners learned how to surf, but they all had a blast trying, he adds.
Born on Aug. 13, 1961, in Atlantic City, Saul made his home in Malibu with his wife Kellie and sons William and Matthew. He held bachelor’s degrees in history and engineering from Stanford University and an MBA “with distinction” from HBS. He also served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
Prior to joining Foundation in 1999, Saul spent nearly two decades as an executive at technology companies. He served as chairman and CEO of Acuity, where he refocused and successfully sold the company to Avaya. Before that, he was VP of marketing for Network Appliance, VP of sales for Pure Software and served in various sales and marketing management roles for Auspex.
Saul also proved to have a good eye as an angel investor. He was an investor in Grand Junction Networks, which was sold to Cisco, and Interwoven before it went public. He also sat on the board of Interwoven.
At Foundation, Saul sat on the boards of four startups: ONStor, Solar Flare Communications, Hammerhead Systems and Aktino. Foundation’s partners came together at a two-day offsite shortly after Saul’s death to work out a transition plan for his board positions.
Saul was found dead on Sept. 10 at the Hotel Sofitel in Redwood City, Calif., the apparent victim of a drug overdose. The cause of death had not been determined by the San Mateo County Coroner’s office when Venture Capital Journal went to press on Oct. 15.
“What we know is that no one here saw anything [in Saul] other than an extraordinarily committed and intelligent partner,” Koontz says. “And when you talk to the CEOs of the companies Mark worked with, that’s what they saw as well. It’s a very sad loss of a friend and partner.”
A funeral service and internment for Saul was held on Sept. 19. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the American Cancer Society at 50 W. Hillcrest Drive, Suite 208, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 91360.