|Impacting the world is the name of his game. The co-founder of Electronic Arts, Jeff Burton had humble beginnings, but has played his career by ear. With a passion for innovation and helping tech startups and entrepreneurs find their footing, Jeff is now a startup mentor adviser, as well as the CEO and Chairman of Woodside Creek Ventures. He helps new and aspiring companies define their goals and gain confidence in their marketplace.
Although Jeff admitted he was never much of a gamer, he had served as international market manager at Atari prior to EA’s creation. EA was born in 1982 from the emergence of home computers by a group of six Stanford Business students, whom Jeff said, “just wanted to have a successful company.” From a big idea to one of the most influential video game companies in the world, Jeff took us back in time through his journey to demonstrate how his career and passions have evolved.
“We saw an opportunity, and it was sparked by one of our classmates named Trip Hawkins. He pulled us all together actually, and we had dinner in his home one evening… and talked about what kind of company we might want to start and how we wanted it to feel and how we wanted it managed. That was the beginning of the creation of the company… I realized it was one of the most outstanding, talented, and brilliant teams I’d ever been in touch with. There was no way I could avoid joining the company.”
Jeff spent seven years with EA, facing all the challenges that came with it and witnessing firsthand its massive growth and solidification in the venture capitalist community. However, a realization began to materialize for him. He took particular pleasure in the building process of the company, rather than the maintaining aspects, and Electronic Arts was simply becoming too big. He decided it was time to branch off and pursue his own joy.
“In my later years, my goal began to be to spend time with startup companies and be an adviser and a mentor to them. [I want to] help them get through the rough times that when you’re doing it, you feel like you’ll never make it. It’s always helpful to have somebody around that can say, ‘Yeah, it feels like that. I know I’ve been there, but here are the kinds of things you got to think about and do in order to keep yourself motivated, to do what seems like an impossible task, but it never is impossible.’” Have a big dream. Think big. Believe in the vision and the opportunity to have an impact on the world. Align yourself with a team of smart, capable individuals that measure up as “top tier people of highest integrity and intelligence.” These are some of the most fundamental pieces of advice Jeff would offer entrepreneurs and founders of companies. Lack of confidence is only natural, but it’s getting past that and having concrete and well-defined goals in place that make or break a new company. Education, particularly in this digitally changing world, is also of primary importance.
“One of the most powerful ways to change the world is to be engaged in educating people,” Jeff stressed. “Education is the most powerful force in any country in the world, so augmenting that education by whatever means is an extremely important goal to me. I try to be involved in aspects of industries where education is crucial, in place, and can make a big difference. I focus primarily on industries that can be viewed as great educational opportunities.”
Sonophilia has certainly fit this criteria for Jeff. As a relatively new member of the network, the mission instantly resonated with him. For him, a central tenant of starting any company is developing creative strength and purpose, as well as understanding how a creative idea can be turned into a commercial endeavor.
“Turning the creativity of the world, which everybody has some inside them, is the most valuable asset when it comes to making an impact… I think that’s probably the most important feature of being successful in life, because you have to keep an open mind and take into account all sorts of components and aspects of living and thinking and coming up with new ideas all the time. That’s what I found in Sonophilia. It’s a group of people that are just outstanding.”
Creative leadership is a force that must come into play in order to overcome unexpected obstacles. Success comes from having a constant creative drive. On a final note, Jeff said: “To move along the mission of [any] company requires creativity and motivation as much as it requires anything else.”