Robert C. McCormack, '68
--senior vice president of Chicago office
--vice president, principal, and managing director of Chicago
--cofounder of Morgan Stanley Ventures
U.S. Department of Defense
--deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial and
--deputy assistant secretary of defense
for production support
U.S. Department of the Navy
--assistant secretary of financial management and comptroller
2001 Distinguished Alumni Awards
The IT Man
Robert C. McCormack, '68, secured
his success in the information technology and business services
arena at the start of the Internet age, when the words "new
economy" were still new and the market had not yet soared.
Called "Mac" by his friends and colleagues, this year's
winner of the Distinguished Entrepreneurial Alumnus Award has
a talent for spotting tomorrow's most lucrative business opportunities
As a managing director at Morgan Stanley in the 1980s, McCormack
helped build Morgan Stanley's technology investment banking group.
Later, as cofounder of Trident Capital in 1993, he had a front-row
seat at one of history's most important technological shifts.
One of the first venture capital firms to specialize in information
technology, Trident invested in such companies as MapQuest, CSG
Systems, Questra Corporation, and Cognizant Technology Solutions.
Thirty-five years ago, McCormack arrived at Chicago GSB with
few entrepreneurial intentions. "I was interested in finance
and very quickly got interested in investment banking," he
After graduation, McCormack pursued this interest in investment
banking and accepted a position at Dillon Read. During his 13
years with the firm, McCormack worked in corporate finance for
the Chicago and New York offices, gaining experience in domestic
and international financing and cross-border mergers and acquisitions.
As senior vice president at Dillon Read, he oversaw its midwestern
corporate finance business. Later, McCormack moved to Morgan Stanley,
where he served as vice president, principal, and managing director
for the firm's Chicago office.
But it was at Dillon Read that McCormack discovered his proclivity
for entrepreneurship. "I started in the health care financing
business, building it up from scratch. Before that, it didn't
exist--anywhere," he said. "I just evolved into entrepreneurship.
It was fun to start things." He also was also an original
investor in his classmate Dennis Keller's company, which later
With the success of Trident Capital, a private equity investment
firm he started with one of his Morgan Stanley colleagues, it
is hard to deny McCormack's gift for spotting the next big thing.
Trident's investment helped launch MapQuest, a digital mapping
company that America Online acquired in June 2000 for nearly $700
million in stock. The electronic product, which provides maps
and driving directions and is entirely free to Internet customers,
was a novel idea. So novel, in fact, that even the nation's largest
mapmakers hadn't considered it, McCormack said.
|"I just evolved into entrepreneurship--it
was fun to start things."|
"Not many people understood that there was a
real market for digital geographical information," he added.
According to McCormack, the traditional map publishers didn't
understand how they would make money on a free product. "What
they missed was that whenever you call a major corporation call
center--when you call Sears to talk about your stove not working,
for example--the person you call has MapQuest on their screen,
so they know where your house is and where to pick up the unit,"
he explained. "Companies pay a lot for that."
Recognizing the important and profitable role digital mapping
would play in the Internet economy, MapQuest convinced numerous
Internet portals to sign long-term contracts just as the World
Wide Web was taking off.
"MapQuest was the sole supplier of geographical information,"
McCormack said. "The only two [portals not signed on] were
Microsoft and AOL. We had everybody--Yahoo, Lycos, Excite--everybody...
And then, of course, AOL bought the business."
Trident invests at all stages of business maturity--from start-ups
to established companies--and currently works with more than 50
corporations in such sectors as the Internet, infrastructure management,
outsourcing, transaction services, and wireless.
Asked to account for Trident's impressive portfolio, McCormack
stressed drive and teamwork. "We concluded at the very beginning
that we had to be very focused on what we did. All the partners
would participate with the due diligence because it's not your
deal, or my deal--it's our deal."