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Scott Maxwell

Engineering Alum Honors Prof. Maury Hull with Fellowship

Posted on: December 14, 2012

A graduate of the UC Davis College of Engineering has endowed a graduate fellowship to honor a faculty member who greatly influenced him.

"University professors can have a profound effect on people's lives," says Scott Maxwell, who earned both an undergraduate and master's degree in mechanical engineering at UC Davis, and today is founder and senior managing director of OpenView Venture Partners. "Professors probably don't hear that often enough, and they should. In my case, it was Maury L. Hull. He was a big part of my growing from boy to man; he's a special person in my life."

After consulting with the UC Davis Office of Development and External Relations, Maxwell decided to honor his former professor with a gift of $100,000 to endow a fellowship. A professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, Maury Hull currently directs the Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory and the Biomechanical Engineering Laboratory.

Maxwell, a kid who loved to tinker, entered UC Davis in 1980 and first encountered Professor Hull in an upper-division mechanical measurements class. "That course sounded boring, but Maury made it unbelievably interesting," Maxwell recalls. "He had a style that attracted me: friendly and outgoing. He was enjoyable to be around. I learned things in great detail, and was totally obsessive about every single measurement system, and how it all worked."

With Hull's encouragement, Maxwell began lecturing at Sacramento State University, while working on his master's degree. During this period, Maxwell also got a job designing robots to help make physical therapy more productive, by applying different forces and speeds while guiding a patient's arm or leg through a range of motions. This work transitioned smoothly to Maxwell's doctorate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he assisted in the design of a mechanical device to reduce tremors in people with brain injuries or Parkinson's disease.

During his time at MIT, however, Maxwell realized that he was "too commercial" to go into academia, despite encouragement from Hull. ("I wasn't sufficiently on the theoretical side of the spectrum.") A parallel master's degree in the science of management, from MIT's Sloan School of Management, pointed Maxwell to his eventual career.

"The abstract tools of engineering are equally helpful with such work. Engineers are designers; we can use those tools to design something mechanical, or anything else. Engineering also involves a lot of analysis, which can be used (for example) to analyze a cost structure or an economic model."

By the time Maxwell completed his doctorate, in 1990, he already was doing financial services work at the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company. During the next decade, he rose through various positions at Lehman Bros. and Putnam Investments, and Insight Venture Partners.

Maxwell founded OpenView Venture Partners in 2006. OpenView helps companies turn their vision into reality, and typically invests $5-$15 million in expansion-stage technology firms that show solid growth and achieve $2-$20 in annual sales. OpenView's dozens of clients, past and present, include Astaro Internet Security, ScriptLogic, Xtium, Skytap, Acronis and RealityDigital.

More than anything else, Maxwell wants the fellowship to be Hull's well-deserved moment to bask in the spotlight.

"What you go on to become doesn't matter; it's the launch you get," Maxwell insists, acknowledging his own shift from mechanical engineering to venture capital. "It's remarkable, what a professor can do for you; it's a sacred trust. Granted, students must be ready for that kind of mentoring, but when it works, it's truly powerful."

More info:
Maury Hull, UC Davis
Scott Maxwell, OpenView Venture Partners

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