Bill quit his good management job at Hewlett-Packard — where his personal mentor was the legendary co-founder Bill Hewlett — to join an uncertain but interesting startup.
"There were months when there were no paychecks," recalled Gay in an interview with the Weekly.
The startup — 3Com — turned out to be wildly successful. As CEO from 1981 to 1990 and board chair from 1987 to 1993, Bill grew the data networking firm into a global, $1 billion-plus publicly traded company.
The wealth created from that venture has since allowed the Los Altos Hills couple to pursue many other dreams.
In the case of Gay, a former schoolteacher and principal, she's been able to create and grow her own startup — the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Under her direction since its founding in 2000, the center has offered professional training to more than 23,000 educators in the effective use of classroom technology and more engaging, high-quality instruction in math and related subjects.
For Bill, his success at 3Com allowed him to execute on a three-part idea he'd hazily concocted as a 20-year-old, broke college graduate. The plan — which he calls "learning, earning and serving" — was to spend one-third of his career learning about business; another third building a business and the remainder giving back.
His learning phase took place at General Electric and then at Hewlett-Packard, where on his very first day in 1967, Krause was introduced to company president Bill Hewlett in the cafeteria. He began accompanying Hewlett on sales calls for an early programmable machine they called a desktop calculator. Krause later went on to turn the money-losing HP 3000 computer into a $1 billion business for the company and, still later, to manage HP's first personal computer division.
Intrigued by the then-novel idea of connecting PCs into a network, Krause embarked on his risky but ultimately successful "earning" phase, joining Ethernet co-inventor Robert Metcalfe and others in the early days of 3Com. Among the company's first customers were the young Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim.
Now in his "giving back" phase, Krause mentors young entrepreneurs through the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and also is a senior adviser to the private equity firm Carlyle Group. Having served on boards of more than 15 publicly traded companies, he now sits on the boards of two startups, Forward Networks and Smartcar, as well as the privately held Veritas. Gay currently serves on the boards of the YMCA of Silicon Valley, the Foothill-De Anza Foundation, Children Now, the Mountain View-Los Altos-Los Altos Hills Challenge Team, as well as the community board of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
For both Krauses, most of the other "giving back" flows from their shared passion for education. They've funded the Krause Innovation Studio at Penn State University — Gay's alma mater — and the Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics at The Citidel, Bill's alma mater.
An early agenda for the Krause Center at Foothill College sprang from Gay's observation, as a local school principal in the 1980s and '90s, that computers and printers in many classrooms were gathering dust because teachers didn't know how to use them. She set about helping educators master the new machines to improve student outcomes. Today's young teachers are well-acquainted with technology, and the focus of the Krause Center for Innovation has shifted.
"We still do a lot of the technology-based training, but that isn't the driver now," Gay said. "One of the things that most concerns me is that, here we are, a math-driven society (where) computer science is so big in our valley, and yet most of our teachers only have had one semester of math in college so they aren't really well prepared to teach students.
"So, we're trying to give them some of the basics and make them more highly engaged in robotics and computer science — to make them more excited about teaching and excite the students about learning."
The center operates five state-approved certificate programs in areas such as technology, online and blended learning and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).
When the coronavirus pandemic closed schools last year, the center was well-positioned to work with teachers who needed intense help in online and blended learning.
Both Krauses are particularly enthusiastic about the Krause Center's bright and airy, state-of-the-art makerspace at Foothill, which is equipped with laser cutters, 3D printers, sewing machines, vinyl cutters, soldering irons, hand and power tools, and more.
Bill Krause believes 3D printers will become to manufacturing what microprocessors were to computing, making it possible to bring many processes back to the U.S. The Krauses thus feel it's critical to educate students in the skills available in the MakerSpace.
"Given Gay's involvement, education has been a natural focus for our philanthropy," Bill said. "Education, from our point of view, is really the foundation of all benefits to society. An educated person is fundamental to a successful society, to a peaceful society, to a successful economic environment so the Social Security checks can keep coming."