Warren V. “Pete” Musser, the Safeguard Scientifics founder who over the years championed many tech investments along the Route 202 corridor, has died at the age of 92.
Safeguard confirmed the news in a statement, saying the founder died at Bryn Mawr Hospital early Monday morning after experiencing cardiac arrest.
“Pete was a pioneer in private equity and venture capital. He loved work, and in a career spanning over six decades, he went to the office five days a week until the end,” Musser’s family said in a statement. “His presence will be deeply missed in all of our lives; and while we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his remarkable life, and the legacy of innovation, humility, generosity and integrity he leaves behind.”
Musser began his career at Pennsylvania Bell (which today, most of us know as Verizon), and went on to start his own brokerage firm, Philadelphia Securities Company, with a coworker.
By 1953, they’d started another venture, the Lancaster Corporation. The founders sold stock in the company and set out to invest in the field of atomic energy. One of its first investments? A company they later sold for $600,000 and went on to become broadcast giant Comcast.
The deal that launched Comcast kicked off a career in which Musser supported a plethora of tech investments in Greater Philadelphia, as Technical.ly wrote in an in-depth 2017 profile of the investor.
The first tech breakthrough was a check-writing machine from the Safe-Guard Corporation, a company Musser’s firm acquired in 1955. The machine was such a hit that by 1966, the Lancaster Corporation changed its name to Safeguard Industries.
Musser’s personal worth, which topped at a billion dollars in the year 2000, dipped when the price of Safeguard’s stock went from $98 a share to $6 by the end of 2000. But, as Musser’s friends and family would tell you — he learned and bounced back.
“The main thing is: Don’t get so caught up in your own enthusiasm that you can’t weather a change in the cycle,” Musser said in 2017. “That’s what a lot of us entrepreneurs have the habit of doing: Get so caught up in it and then get caught short when it doesn’t happen. That was exactly my cycle. Of course, there’s no excuse for that at all. You’re supposed to know better.”
Members of Philly’s tech and entrepreneurship community herald Musser as a legend, a role model and one of the original founders who gave innovative companies and people a chance.
“We were far too small for Safeguard to be interested in investing — I simply wanted to learn from him,” Duncalfe wrote in a Tuesday morning email to Technical.ly.
Over the course of many breakfast meetings, Duncalfe said that she learned from him, but that Safeguard never invested in any of her companies.
“That’s not why Peter spent time with me — he simply loved entrepreneurs,” she said.
Ronald Anderson, dean of Temple University’s Fox School of Business and the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, said that after a student would have a conversation with Musser, they would come away with the “spark” needed to take their idea from a concept to reality.
“Pete is known for helping launch companies like QVC and Comcast, but his ultimate legacy will be how he empowered so many others to pursue their dreams,” Anderson said.
We’ve reached out to more of his peers and mentees for comment and will be updating this story as we hear back from them. Here’s what other folks had to say in memoriam:
Pete Musser was the OG VC. From Comcast to QVC, Pete shaped the world as we know it – and a generation of entrepreneurs and investors. His civic leadership transformed Philadelphia – serving as a role model for us all. https://t.co/F6MVSe8uwO
— Josh Kopelman (@joshk) November 25, 2019
So sad to hear Pete Musser passed away. He was a true legend and pioneer in the Philadelphia tech ecosystem and beyond. I can’t wait until we can share his life story he told just a couple months ago. https://t.co/7zZi812X6J
— Chris Fralic (@chrisfralic) November 26, 2019
RIP, Pete Musser. One of a kind.
— Eamon Gallagher (@PHLStartupLaw) November 25, 2019
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our great friend and former board member, Pete Musser. Pete played an instrumental role in Brandywine’s growth, helping us lay the foundation that shaped who we are today. He was a big thinker, a gracious mentor, and a visionary leader.
— Brandywine Realty Trust (@BrandywineRlty) November 26, 2019