The Churchill Club survived for decades as Silicon Valley’s leadership forum, spanning the eras of chip startups, dotcom companies, and social media. But it has been felled by the coronavirus. RIP.
Churchill Club CEO Karen Tucker today announced the long-running Silicon Valley thought leadership forum will cease operations.
“After an amazing 35-year run, I am sad to report that Churchill Club must disband, Tucker said, in an email. “The proliferation of technology and business-related events and speaker forums—in both the digital and real worlds—has been making it increasingly difficult for small non-profit organizations such as ours to compete and thrive.”
“We were exploring changes to our business model and potential new directions and partnerships when a dip in short-term corporate sponsorship occurred early this year. The impact of reduced financial support has now been compounded by the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us to make this unfortunate and difficult decision,” Tucker concluded.
Working closely with the Computer History Museum, Churchill Club has arranged for all current members to be offered complimentary memberships to CHM. Members will be contacted individually to take advantage of the offer.
A storied history
Churchill Club has been an independent thought leadership forum in Silicon Valley since 1985, pursuing a mission to strengthen innovation, economic growth and social good.
The first meeting of Churchill Club was November 12, 1985, featuring Robert Noyce, integrated circuit pioneer and founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Churchill Club was founded by Rich Karlgaard, now publisher of Forbes magazine, and Tony Perkins, former editor-in-chief of Upside Magazine and AlwaysOn. They and a group of friends created an organization dedicated to producing programs where “important people say important things.” They named the club after the great orator, Winston Churchill.
The Churchill Club stage brought tech industry giants, legends, rock stars and other critical thinkers together in iconic conversations to examine the implications of “what’s new, next, and not widely known,” unfolding trends and future opportunities. Speakers have included IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, current CEO Satya Nadella, and former CEO Steve Ballmer; Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and former chairman Eric Schmidt; Oracle founder Larry Ellison; Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings; SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk; LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner; Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg; Intel co-founder, the late Andy Grove and former Intuit chairman, the late Bill Campbell.
Among prominent investors who have graced the stage were Vinod Khosla, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Ben Horowitz, Ron Conway, Mary Meeker and Roger McNamee. The Churchill Club stage also hosted a diverse collection of luminaries from outside of tech who have had impact for societal good, including the filmmaker James Cameron, actor James Caan, best-selling author Michael Lewis, Hollywood talent über-agent Ari Emanuel, government leaders such as former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and philanthropist and author Chelsea Clinton.
They even let me moderate a session about video games once with former Microsoft games chief Peter Moore. I remembered going to hear luminaries like Intel chairman emeritus Gordon Moore, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and movie maker James Cameron.
Live events were the Churchill Club’s bread and butter. Its annual VC Top 10 Tech Trends and the Churchills awards programs were coveted tickets, as was its long-running holiday Gadgets program, which was co-hosted by journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.
A hallmark of the club was its education, professional development and networking opportunities that were core to the promise of the organization. Its discussions attracted audiences of senior executives in a variety of strategic roles, investors, start-up entrepreneurs, policymakers, academics, non-profit leaders and influential journalists—because Churchill Club curated its audience to get the right people in the room, the people who played integral roles within the ecosystem to make change happen.
The club was exemplified by its logo—the bowler, also known as the derby, which became a symbol of class equality throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The bowler leveled the visual playing field, encouraging more openness toward others and their ideas, which is exactly what the club strived to do for the past three-plus decades.
“We sincerely thank our staff, volunteers, members and sponsors for their support over the years,” Tucker said.
Those interested can relive some of the greatest moments at the Churchill Club on YouTube.