Basic Info

Jim Hornthal
Contributor Status:
Initial Contribution Date:

Career Info

Primary Industry:
Transportation, Travel / Leisure
Personal Career Headline:
Parallel entrepreneur, angel investor, philanthropist, & entrepreneurship educator

My AdVert

Career Snapshot:

Parallel entrepreneur, angel investor, philanthropist, and entrepreneurship educator, Jim is the co-founder and Chairman of Algorithm Engines, Zignal Labs, GLIDR (formerly LaunchPad Central) and M34 Capital, and he sits on several private company boards including Growcentia and NeuroTrainer.

As an entrepreneur, Jim is best known as the Founder of Preview Travel, one of the first online travel agencies. Jim took Preview Travel public in 1997, and later initiated its merger in 2000 with a division of Sabre Holdings to create, where Jim served as Vice Chairman.

His private investment fund, Hornthal Investment Partners, has made investments in over 50 early stage companies, including Lending Club, Lyft,, Hightower Advisors, Krave Jerky, KIND Snacks and Hipmunk. He has also been an investor in several venture capital funds, including funds managed byTPG, Swan & Legend, Sonoma Brands, and Kleiner Perkins.

Jim has been a Lester Center Fellow for Entrepreneurship at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley since 2002, where he now leads the teaching team for The Lean Launchpad course Jim has also taught the course at Princeton and Stanford, and has been part of the National Science Foundation’s iCorps Teaching Team at UCSF and Stanford.

Philanthropically, Jim focuses on mentoring social entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in the Middle East who are working to make the world a smaller place by bridging gaps between conflicting regions and nations.

As prior Chairman of the YPO/WPO Peace Action Network (PAN), he gets to work with business leaders who believe that business leaders have a responsibility to engage and help create jobs, a vital part of improving the prospects for a sustainable peace.

Jim is an advisor to Just Vision, Revinate and Localized and is an active member of The Council on Foreign Relations and the Skoll World Forum.

His TED Book is “A Haystack Full of Needles”, and he freely shares his views and perspectives on innovation and entrepreneurship with anyone foolish enough to care on Twitter: @hornthal.

AdMission Statement (AKA Personal Brand Pitch):

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago in a room covered in black-light posters. In addition to classic images of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and The Beatles, there was a poster with a quote that was originally said by George Bernard Shaw, but popularized later by Robert Kennedy, which became my life motto;

‘Some men see things as they are and say, why?
I dream things that never were and say, why not?’
My motivation has always been about innovation and has guided my personal, professional and political life since I was a child. It fueled my entrepreneurial tendencies, even at an early age, where I was constantly creating new ventures in my grammar school, high school, and college. Creating uncommon things and helping others to fulfill their inspiration drives me daily. I fall in love with individuals with a passion for what they do, and as an active angel investor, I have supported scores of entrepreneurs and artists in pursuit of their dreams.”

My AdVice

How did you get into the industry?:

In 2012, Steve Blank (best known as a pioneer of the lean startup movement) and I were teaching lean startup concepts at Stanford and the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Subsequently, the curriculum was modified and adopted by the National Science Foundation to become the foundation for their new program to bring promising technology to market faster, called I-CORPS. As the vision for the larger system came into view, we realized that it would require a back-end “operating system” to scale and manage the volume of evidence that teams would need to discover their repeatable, scalable business models. We wound up creating Launchpad Central to enable the NSF I-CORPS program to scale. Our experience working with over 20,000 teams in various academic and government programs in the US and overseas led to our launching GLIDR in 2018. Since then, we’ve built GLIDR into a leading tool for product managers, startups, and corporate innovation professionals, providing them with a comprehensive tool to help them run the experiments and gather the evidence they need in order to figure out what to build.

Emerging industry trends?:

Until very recently, true “product management software” didn’t exist. Product managers were forced to use a patchwork quilt of tools and resources to manage their tasks and achieve their goals. More often than not, product managers resort to using platforms designed for project management. The problem with that approach is that project management is all about optimizing the how and the when of what to build, but not the why and the what to build.

Since over 80% of new products, features, ventures, and other innovations fail, it’s far more important for teams to answer the why and what before they get to the how and when. In order to gain an understanding and make market-based decisions, product managers would need to have access to other department’s tools and content to bring together all of the information they need (e.g. demand info from the sales team, customer feedback from the support and success teams, usage data from the engineering and ops teams).

That’s why we built GLIDR as the centralized system of intelligence for product managers — and that’s where we see the industry going.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

Our vision as a company is to accelerate the future by empowering innovators of all types with the tools they need to achieve uncommon things. In pursuing that vision, we have found that innovators across the globe struggle to identify the biggest problems that are worth solving and in turn designing and bringing to market the solutions that are needed to address those unmet needs. From roadmap through discovery, launch, and iteration, GLIDR represents a new, comprehensive and integrated approach to product management that puts feedback, discovery and validation at the center.

What's next for the Business in the near future?:

As we roll out our own customer-validated roadmap we will be releasing several new integrations with other tools in the product manager ecosystem to enable teams to pool their most important product knowledge and analysis into one powerful place.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?):

Like most startups, we’ve pivoted several times. We faced a challenge with an initial target audience that was too small, and with sales cycles that were too long and unpredictable. We addressed that challenge with a pivot towards a larger audience and shorter sales cycles by offering a self-serve SaaS solution.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?:

We want GLIDR users to feel empowered and enabled to make faster, better product decisions that ultimately make their products more successful.

My AdVantage

What do you do best?:

I think I have a fairly refined capacity for pattern recognition; fusing analogies from disparate industries and companies helping to find new opportunities, acting as a catalyst for growth.

What makes you the best version of yourself?:

An insatiable curiosity across a wide spectrum of industries, countries, and technologies.

What are your aspirations? (Personal and Business):

To help other entrepreneurs accelerate their best future. The business gets to do this by providing a powerful toolkit in the form of GLIDR. Personally, I get to do some of this as an educator, mentor, and angel investor.

Biggest Success?:

Creating new channels for communication between business leaders across known areas of conflict. The Peace Action Network within YPO (Young Presidents Organization) has helped cultivate constructive dialog, hundreds of collaborative investments, and helped create millions of new jobs in the Middle East.

  1. If you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll confess.
  2. Work hard, have fun, make history …
Favorite People/Role Models?:

There are a handful of influencers and leaders that inspire me, some of which you may know, others less likely.

Fadi Ghandour for his work on innovation and entrepreneurship in the Middle East

Bobby Sager for his activist philanthropic agenda

Paul Cook (my first mentor) for his pioneering leadership in business and science, his insatiable curiosity and his sense of humor

John Doerr (an early investor in Preview Travel) for his brilliance at pattern recognition and change and his ability to recruit and retain a world-class team of partners

Bethany Hornthal who founded a non-profit called that provides financial subsidies for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy that don’t want to lose their hair, but cannot afford to pay the cost of recently FDA-cleared scalp cooling therapy.

All five of these people are fearless, brave, and don’t take no for an answer. And I find that to be pretty darn inspiring.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

I enjoy places that are most like San Francisco, but not in California. Cities like Boston, Sydney, Barcelona, Paris, and Shanghai.

Favorite Products/Objects?:

NeuroTrainer – VR training to improve concentration, multi-tasking, peripheral vision and visual acuity.

Ayo Glasses to beat back jet lag.

Upright Go to help my failing posture.

Current Passions?:

Bicycling and being trained by our new puppy …

What Else To Know

Tell Us More:

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Coffee (about 6 cups should do it …)

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

CorporateBro on Instagram

What should everyone try at least once?

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

Walking on Crissy Field

Primary Location

Are you sure you want to manually enter your location? Have you tried typing the first few letters?

SUBMIT your location My Location is Not Listed (enter manually) clear location