Carnegie Mellon University
April 27, 2016

Alumnus Shares His Secrets To Success

By Shilo Rea

Lane Bess








The road to building three billion-dollar companies wasn’t always easy for Lane Bess (DC’83). Bess, who majored in managerial economics at Carnegie Mellon University, recently returned to campus and shared how he overcame obstacles and found success.

The entrepreneur turned investor told a packed roomful of students that one thing he is extremely thankful for is his CMU education.

“It forced me to be better, and it ultimately helped me,” Bess said.

Bess was CEO of Palo Alto Networks — the fastest growing technology security traded on the New York Stock Exchange. He was instrumental in building and leading Zscaler, an innovator and leader in cloud-based Internet security services, and led Trend Micro Internet Security to market on a global scale.

During his talk, “Road to Building Great Companies: Tapping Into Your Entrepreneurial Spirit,” Bess covered five areas that anyone starting a business should consider:

  • Knowing who you are – whether it’s an entrepreneur, founder or CEO
  • Creating a vision and defining your company
  • Executing – a go-to-market productivity model
  • Raising capital – finding the right investing partner
  • Establishing the right culture

Ashvin Niruttan, a freshman majoring in information systems, hopes to start his own company one day and found Bess’ talk extremely beneficial and full of solid advice, such as how having the right people do the right job is key.

“Getting the chance to listen to successful alumni and learn about what it takes to succeed in the real world is an invaluable,” Niruttan said. “It’s also a real confidence booster to know that I’m attending an institution that has produced such great people.”

Bess stressed that students don’t have to decide if they want to be start their own companies right away. Earlier in his career, Bess worked in senior sales and marketing roles at NCR Corporation and AT&T before making the switch. In 2015, he founded Bess Ventures and Advisory, and he currently serves on the boards of Zscaler, vArmour and ZeroFox.

“I have a huge interest in entrepreneurship, and down the road, I’d like to make my mark in venture capital as well,” said Julien Naegeli, a sophomore with a double major in information systems and statistics and a machine learning minor. “Seeing someone who has similar interests and goals and has been successful with them gives me hope and makes me excited for the future.”

“Road to Building Great Companies” was the second lecture in CMU’s Dietrich College Entrepreneurs Speaker Series. The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation also sponsored the talk.

The first lecture in the series, “I Never Learned to Spell ‘Successful,’” featured Javier Soltero (DC’98), who shared his experiences navigating the technology industry.

Watch Bess’ entire lecture

View photos from his visit