Five Questions For … Mercury Fund Co-Founder Blair Garrou

Houston—Blair Garrou is the kind of guy who prefers juggling a lot of balls at once.

When oil prices cratered in the 1990s, business slowed down at his employer, a mergers and acquisitions firm.

“I had some time on my hands and there was this new organization called the Houston Technology Center so I started volunteering,” Garrou says. “They were looking for someone with financial analyst skills, who could help startups with business planning and financial modeling.”

In 1999, he joined the HTC as director of operations, a position that he says uncovered an interest in tech startups and innovation. “I was fascinated by how these companies were funded and how they were built by entrepreneurs,” Garrou says.

After spending four years concentrating on tech deals at Houston private equity firm Genesis Park, Garrou decided to form, along with Houston investor Dan Watkins, the Mercury Fund.

In the decade or so since, in addition to building up Mercury, Garrou became a frequent presence at Houston tech events, mentoring startups at Station Houston (where he is a co-founder), the former Surge Accelerator, and student accelerators at Rice University and the University Houston. “All of this set me down a road to just continually look for opportunities to improve Houston and help it to live up to its potential,” he says.

This week, we have “Five Questions for … ” Garrou, who speaks about perfectionist tendencies, “L.A. Law,” and why his HTC boss sent him for media training. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: How do you relax outside of work when you want to tune out the noise?

Blair Garrou: I tend to run with music on. My wife Amy and I are big music lovers. We see a lot of concerts, listen to a lot of music, especially alternative music. When I’m able to run in the off-hours I use my iPhone and I can tune everything out and enjoy.

X: What leadership lessons did you get from your parents?

BG: Probably the best leadership lessons that I received from my parents were persistence of message and enablement. One of the things that my parents did is they stuck to the plan, in schooling and programming. When I was young, the importance of work was really stressed to me. I worked for money starting at age 12, cutting lawns and then went into delivering newspapers. I bagged groceries, worked in department stores, and eventually I worked in a shoe department at a sporting goods store.

You need to be able to do effective time management, whether that’s playing a sport or working along with school. My parents really showed me the value of work and juggling a number of things at an early age. A lot of people will say to me, ‘How do you get it all done?’ It’s always been second nature to me to have multiple things all at once and being effective at them. [The lesson was:] You will have a number of activities; you will stick with them, and that commitment in the short or long term is key.

The other piece is, when you have good teams, enabling them to do their best and giving them lots of rope for success or failure. That’s the best … Next Page »

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