Robert F. White

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration

Bob White is a Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School where he currently teaches Entrepreneurial Finance, an elective course in the second year MBA curriculum.

Bob was one of the founding partners of Bain Capital in 1984. He served for 20 years as a partner and Managing Director of the firm and is currently a Special Limited Partner. From an initial fund of $38 million, Bain Capital, and its affiliated advisors, currently manage over $75 billion in five asset classes (private equity, venture capital, public equity, leveraged debt, and absolute return) in eight countries.

Bob White is a Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School where he currently teaches Entrepreneurial Finance, an elective course in the second year MBA curriculum.

Bob was one of the founding partners of Bain Capital in 1984. He served for 20 years as a partner and Managing Director of the firm and is currently a Special Limited Partner. From an initial fund of $38 million, Bain Capital, and its affiliated advisors, currently manage over $75 billion in five asset classes (private equity, venture capital, public equity, leveraged debt, and absolute return) in eight countries.

Prior to joining the faculty, Bob was a Resident Fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, following his role in national politics. He served as Chairman of the 2012 and 2008 Romney Presidential Committees, and had served previously as the Chairman of Governor Romney’s Gubernatorial Transition Committee.

Bob started his career at Price Waterhouse & Co. where he earned a C.P.A, and Bain & Company consulting.

Bob has served on numerous non-profit, private and public company Boards of Directors. He is a Trustee of Bowdoin College, and served on the Board of Deans Advisors at the Harvard Business School and the Board of Governors of the London Business School.

Bob received an A.B. degree in Mathematics and Economics from Bowdoin College in 1977 and an M.B.A from Harvard University in 1982.

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. BOLT: Seed Venture Capital Firm

    Robert F. White and William A. Sahlman

    BOLT is a different kind of seed venture capital firm built to serve the needs of early-stage startups at the intersection of hardware and software. In the past decade, the cost of entrepreneurial experimentation has dropped dramatically, particularly in web and mobile applications. Teams can generate and test hypotheses quickly and efficiently. What used to take millions of dollars and years can now be accomplished with thousands of dollars and in a matter of months. As a result, the rate of exploration has exploded. The drop in the cost of creating and testing such ventures has resulted in the formation of new kinds of venture investment firms. A prominent example is the accelerator or incubator. These firms evaluate hundreds of proposals, choose a small number of teams, and then provide help, mentorship, a little capital, and access to networks in return for a share of the equity. More recently, there have been a number of parallel changes in the world of hardware-based ventures. Important factors include: • low cost but powerful design and simulation software • versatile, inexpensive 3D printing technology • access to high quality, low cost manufacturing capabilities in places like China Almost every hardware venture incorporates software and data capture, transmission, and interpretation, all of which benefit from the trends described earlier. Unlike pure software ventures, companies that have important hardware components need access to expensive and complicated machinery, ranging from lathes to printed circuit board prototyping equipment. These companies also need expertise in operating this equipment and transitioning from prototypes to final products. Ben Einstein, Axel Bichara, and Scott Miller, the founders of BOLT, recognized this trend and created a seed venture firm focused on the unique needs of these ventures and entrepreneurs. BOLT has all the elements required to design, develop, prototype, test, and make ready for manufacture novel combinations of hardware and software. They have equipment, skilled staff, and access to experienced mentors and networks that can help ventures accomplish more in less time and with less money than would otherwise be possible. They provide a place and process to help create the next generation of independent hardware companies. In addition, they provide financial and investment advice and coaching to their portfolio company management teams. Einstein was a product design and development guru, Bichara was an entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist and Miller was an expert in engineering and manufacturing. They closed on a $4 million fund in early 2013 and opened a space in downtown Boston that contained a remarkable array of equipment and talent to attract and nurture high potential ventures. This multimedia case offers insights into the BOLT team, the facilities, the process and a few of the ventures that chose to work with BOLT. It also provides insights into the evolving world of entrepreneurship and venture capital. The case focuses on the founders’ decision to raise a second fund and expand to a second location.

    Keywords: entrepreneurial finance; entrepreneurship; finance; strategy; venture capital; accelerator;

    Citation:

    White, Robert F., and William A. Sahlman. "BOLT: Seed Venture Capital Firm." Harvard Business School Video Case 815-702, March 2015. View Details
  2. Equity Compensation in Startup Ventures

    Ramana Nanda, Robert White and Stephanie Puzio

    Setting equitable and "market" level compensation for founders and early employees of startups is one of the most important elements of a new venture. It is not only central to attract and retain the best human capital for the startup, but is critical to align incentives between investors and management. This note provides a framework to think about compensation in startup ventures and is intended for entrepreneurs thinking about starting a venture, as well as for employees looking to join a young high-potential startup.

    Keywords: entrepreneurial finance; equity; Finance; Entrepreneurship;

    Citation:

    Nanda, Ramana, Robert White, and Stephanie Puzio. "Equity Compensation in Startup Ventures." Harvard Business School Background Note 815-074, March 2015. View Details
  3. Fast Ion Battery

    Ramana Nanda, Robert F. White and Stephanie Puzio

    John Davidson, a partner at Ware Street Capital (WSC) and a board member at Fast Ion Battery, had just received a phone call from Don Lerner at Bluelock Ventures telling him that Bluelock would not participate in the $5M bridge financing for Fast Ion Battery. Lerner's call could not have come at a worse time. Fast Ion was running out of cash and needed another round of financing urgently to continue developing its revolutionary battery.
    Davidson faced a real dilemma. On the one hand, the company was finally gaining traction with developing its technology and the search to replace the current CEO had yielded two prospective candidates who were extremely well-suited to drive the company forward with a more capital efficient business model. On the other hand, Ware Street Capital and the two other investors had already invested $10 million into a company that had not performed up to investors' expectations. Would they be throwing more good money after bad by providing the bridge financing? Moreover, would other, later stage, investors be willing to provide the significant amounts of capital required to get the company to an exit event given the changing climate for clean tech investments?
    These questions became more pressing following Lerner's call that Bluelock had chosen not to continue backing Fast Ion. Was Fast Ion Battery worth saving?

    Keywords: venture capital; entrepreneurial finance; real options; term sheets; Clean Technology; Entrepreneurship; Venture Capital;

    Citation:

    Nanda, Ramana, Robert F. White, and Stephanie Puzio. "Fast Ion Battery." Harvard Business School Case 815-025, September 2014. (Revised March 2015.) View Details