SM: Troy, let’s begin by looking into your past. Where does your story begin?
TM: I am from the Bay Area. I was raised by a disabled single mother, and I was the oldest in the family. I had a younger sister and learned responsibility very early.
SM: What part of the Bay Area are you from?
TM: Inner-city Oakland and then later Castro Valley. My father was a biker. Once my mother got multiple sclerosis and my father left, my grandparents stepped in. My grandfather was a surgeon and he moved us to Napa. From the time I was nine I lived in Napa. My mother has been in remission for about ten years now.
I felt that I had a responsibility to help because I was the oldest and I was the only male in the home. I started working to help when I was twelve. I had a paper route and any odd job you can imagine. I started working full time when I was fifteen. I got serious about school in high school and afterwards I went to Sacramento State. It was the nearest college I could go to and still be home within an hour. I worked full time through college as well.
Coming out of college, I joined Andersen. At the time I thought I wanted to go into M&A and finance. I started off on the accounting side and did that for a year. I learned that I would repeat that experience every year for the rest of my life and quickly realized that was not for me. However, it was a really good start to a business career because I got to understand an important side of business. After my first year I transferred over to business consulting focusing on small and midsized businesses.
That was a fabulous experience. I was young and had no idea what I was doing, yet people were bringing us in to solve problems that they could not figure out. I loved it and it was fascinating. Every engagement was different and I loved it. I worked for Andersen until I was twenty-five when AT&T recruited me. In the early 1990s AT&T had a vision that it was going to be the e-commerce backbone of the new economy. It had infrastructure which was underutilized, and it needed a strategy built to help companies transition into the new economic model. We had very interesting projects like print-on-demand for books.
I joined AT&T to run business development for the west. On my fourth day with the firm they sent me to New York to run a project that had fallen off the rails. I ended up doing strategy consulting for the next four years. I got to the point where I loved the consulting life but did not want to live on the road. I wanted to have a family. I had just met a wonderful woman who ended up becoming my wife, so I asked to move back to the West Coast. I moved back to a project with a client who had some ethical issues going on. One of the things Andersen was really good about was instilling good business ethics.
SM: They were not too successful doing that when it came to Enron.
TM: There were certainly some rouge elements. The entire Houston and San Diego offices had issues. To me that is a shame because they spoiled a lot of good names. When I transferred back to the project on the West Coast I was co-lead on the project. I was not comfortable with some of the decisions being made because I felt were not ethical, so I called for a partner review. In the end I was told to close my mouth, so I delivered my resignation. At that point I wanted to see if I could do it. I was tired of helping people and talking about what they should do. I wanted to see if I could do it myself. I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Turns out I found exactly what I was looking for.