Dave Cope joined Purfresh in 2004 as chief marketing officer and was promoted to CEO in 2006. Prior to Purfresh he was president and CEO of BizGenics and held a variety of executive positions for Extricity, Marimba, Illustra, and IBM. Mr. Cope holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from San Jose State University.
SM: Dave, let’s start with your background. Where are you from?
DC: I was born and raised in San Jose. My family is from the Bay Area as well. My grandfather played football for the University of Santa Clara, went on to play for the New York Giants, and then opened a chain of sporting good stores across the western United States. We are a longtime California family.
I went to school locally and got degrees in chemistry and biochemistry. Unfortunately, like a lot of graduates I was not sure what I wanted to do. I thought that I might want to go into medicine, so I went to work for a hospital for a short while, but then realized that I did not want to give up my twenties and thirties to go to med school. I then decided to join a tiny little company called IBM, where I was a scientist.
I worked in advanced polymer chemistry development. I can remember reading a book by Lee Iacocca talking about his transformation from technology into business. My family was in business, and I was intrigued by it. Iacocca wrote that he used to be the best engineer in the world, but he then realized that there were only three people in the world who cared. That is when he decided to go into business, and I really related to that. We did some very interesting things at IBM, but it was very technical.
I was married, we had our first child, and we owned a home when I decided to go into sales. It was a huge risk, in hindsight. I loved it and it went very well. It was lucrative, but in those days if your salary was x, you did 65% of x as your base and everything else was on commissions. I can remember being young, at home, and with a child and knowing that I had to hit 120% of my quota every month just to pay my mortgage.
It was very high risk, but I loved sales. I moved up in IBM and ultimately ended up running their electronics industry. I had sales, marketing, and consulting worldwide reporting to me. I met a number of people through that career and then along came the Silicon Valley boom. A buddy of mine, Skip Glass, joined a startup called Illustra. He tried to get me to go there for a few years, and I finally did it. I can remember my first and second day there wondering what I had done.
It was a pre-revenue company, but it was also really cool. They had the first database that could natively handle rich content. It fundamentally changed everything, and the Internet was just getting started. All of a sudden I found myself immersed and have never looked back. Illustra was acquired by Informix, and I have gone on to a couple of different startups.
SM: Did you stay with Informix at all?
DC: I stayed there a little while. I ran marketing worldwide for them and then decided to become employee number 10 at Marimba.