The gig: Billy O'Grady, 31, heads the Southern California technology and venture capital banking group at
An inspirational father: O'Grady grew up in the industrial hub of Rochester, N.Y., home to companies such as Xerox Corp. and
Buying innovation: While attending St. John Fisher College in Rochester during the early 2000s, O'Grady started working at Kodak's digital healthcare unit. He saw Kodak purchase two smaller companies whose technology was of interest rather than develop new tools in-house. "It jump-started my interest in working in the innovation community," O'Grady said.
Dog food: After graduating with a bachelor's degree in sports management, he had two issues to tackle. His mom wanted him to find a job in healthcare insurance, and he wanted to leave Rochester. "I wanted to see the rest of the world, experience different cultures and go to a city that was on the up and up and more prone to be a melting pot," he said.
He secured a job at Petco Animal Supplies Inc. in San Diego, analyzing data to find ways to optimize sales, perhaps by asking a vendor to raise the price of a dog food package that sold well or reassess bags that didn't. In working with vendors using natural ingredients to disrupt traditional practices, he had another taste of innovation. "When you get into it, you realize there are more dogs in this world than kids," he said. "It really put me at the forefront of enjoying entrepreneurism."
Chance meeting: As fires ravaged San Diego in 2007, the parents of one of O'Grady's roommates had to evacuate. They settled on their daughter's couch, where O'Grady conversed with the father as they watched "Nacho Libre." The father worked at Silicon
The big leap: As O'Grady sat across from start-up founders for six years, the desire to build something of his own kept gnawing at him. At City National Bank's burgeoning technology group, he finally has a start-up-like challenge. He started in June. "We're growing our brand name and making sure people really know that what sets us apart is we bank the whole company, and that's its employees, its founders," O'Grady said. "From Day One ... until the point at which they are acquired for a nice payday."
Ballplayer: With his dad coaching, O'Grady played the shortstop position in baseball starting at age 5. He idolizes 40-year-old
O'Grady had planned to become a sports agent, but a media relations internship at the minor league
Advice: "Put your head down, work hard, find an industry you love and surround yourself with smart people and then smarter people."