From the heights of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Atlantic to visit the Titanic, SDSU alumnus, Chris Haver (’90, finance) has had many adventures, including those that come with being a serial entrepreneur.
Currently a partner in Phoenix-based Haver Williams, he has founded over a dozen technology or real estate development companies in 10 different countries. Many of those companies are still in operation.
Haver, a Phoenix native, started his college career at the University of Southern California, but transferred to SDSU when he decided that living in downtown Los Angeles wasn’t for him. “Living at the beach and going to school was a dream for an Arizona kid,” he said.
It was during his years at SDSU that Haver first embarked on adventure travel. In 1989, he climbed and then skied on Mt. Everest. “The experience of traveling and the challenge of climbing was very motivating and suited my sense of adventure,” he said. After graduating from SDSU in 1990, he continued along those same lines until January of 1996, when he became the first American to climb and ski the Seven Summits which are the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
Haver’s love of adventure continued into the world of business as well. During his senior year at SDSU, he met John Knight. Knight was one of the owners of Knight & Carver, a yacht refitting and repair company who also happened to own waterfront property on Mission Bay. Haver convinced Knight to hire him to establish the Mission Bay Organizing Committee in order to develop facilities for the teams that were competing for the America’s Cup in 1992 and 1995. “I didn’t know much about development or sailing, so John took a big chance when he hired me,” said Haver. “The good news is that his investment in me and my crazy idea yielded significant return-on-investment for him and for me.”
College tests your intellect as well as your ability to work with people.
After earning his finance degree from SDSU, Haver spent one more year at Knight & Carver then left to run the Mission Bay Organizing Committee full-time. But he didn’t leave either college or his first corporate experience without learning some lessons – mostly about working with people. “College tests your intellect as well as your ability to work with people,” said Haver. “Business is ultimately about people. But during my experience with Knight & Carver, I realized that I preferred the creative process of developing new companies more than people management.”
It was this realization and his early business success that led Haver to become a serial entrepreneur and the eventual founder and/or principal in 16 companies. His current venture, Haver Williams, is a private equity investment firm specializing in “green tech”.
While Haver enjoys the risk of being a serial entrepreneur, he still enjoys the risk of adventure travel with one of his culminating experiences being a trip to the site of the sunken ship, Titanic. He and one of his business partners were able to visit the ill-fated ship’s final resting place in 1999 aboard a deep sea submersible owned by P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. “There’s nothing like sitting 12,500 feet below the surface on the bow of the Titanic to gain perspective,” said Haver. “It was a very emotional and powerful experience.” He will continue his love of exploration next year with a trip to Antarctica to ascend, then ski down, “a previously unclimbed mountain.”
As Haver well knows, those who enjoy risk and success also must be willing to fail at some point. Thus, his advice to today’s SDSU students: “Persistence, persistence, persistence,” he said. “Don’t ever give up and don’t let failure discourage you. We all fail at some point – take it as a lesson learned.”
Don’t ever give up and don’t let failure discourage you. We all fail at some point – take it as a lesson learned.