It happened by accident. Chris Redlitz, a man who spent his life in Silicon Valley running and investing in technology companies, found himself in jail. But not for committing a crime. He was invited to San Quentin State Prison, a mere 15 miles from where he works in San Francisco, to talk to a group of inmates about business and entrepreneurship.
“It was a favor to a friend because she knew I ran a venture firm,” Chris Redlitz, managing partner of Transmedia Capital. “She knew I had some understanding of business, and many of the men inside San Quentin approached her telling her they had questions, but no one to talk to. So she invited me in.”
Redlitz didn’t think much would come of it. “Frankly, I was reluctant to do it,” he explained. “My expectation was that they weren’t going to understand what I do, they'd give me some blank stares, I'd walk out, and that'd be it."
But his friend kept pestering him. And one evening, he finally agreed to visit. That night inside San Quentin would change his life.
“What was scheduled as a 30-minute talk turned into an evening-long discussion,” Redlitz explained. “There were about 50 guys in the room, and they had business plans and everything. I was dumbfounded by their desire and interest in creating a better life.” Redlitz shared his experience with Beverly, his wife, and business partner. “This is incredible, what I saw," he told her. It didn’t take long for the couple to do what they’d done many times before as entrepreneurs: they rolled up their sleeves and did some market research.