Jon Fisher ’94

AAVC Spotlight

This year, the Alumnae/i Association, AAVC, turns 150. Throughout 2021, the College will be celebrating this anniversary by highlighting a few of Vassar’s most notable alumnae/i in architecture, arts, business, education, entertainment, health care, humanitarian efforts, law, social justice, and technology.

Jon Fisher ’94
Photo: Frankie Frost

Occupation:

CEO and Co-Founder of CrowdOptic

Accomplishments:

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jon Fisher is a self-described “ideas guy” who founded his first tech company before he had even finished college. He is also an author, public speaker, philanthropist, and inventor listed on more than 100 patents. Says Fisher, “My dad and I joke around, ‘That’s more than Einstein!’”

Fisher began his college career as part of Vassar’s class of 1994, but returned to his native San Francisco after two years in Poughkeepsie because he had an idea that just couldn’t wait: to create the technology that would allow people to buy cars online from existing inventories at dealerships. It sounds simple now, but it didn’t exist then. As he and his high school best friend developed the idea, Fisher attended night school at the University of San Francisco (USF) to finish his college degree in organizational behavior. “The degree was to make sure that if all this stuff didn’t work out, I’d have that,” he explains. But work out it did:

Fisher’s first company, AutoReach, was eventually acquired by AutoNation, the largest automotive retailer in the United States. “This technology really became pretty ubiquitous in terms of how ultimately you buy cars over the internet,” he says. “So that was fun!”

Fisher went on to other ventures and is perhaps best known for co-founding Bharosa, a security-software startup sold to Oracle in 2007. The product Bharosa developed became Oracle’s Adaptive Access Manager. “That’s used by more than a billion people now,” he says. “Basically, it’s the foundation for how bank transactions and authentications and fraud detections are done.”

These days, Fisher leads CrowdOptic—a maker of “intelligent streaming” technology where multiple camera views are synthesized to provide real-time information in a variety of contexts from security to the operating room. This became particularly helpful during the pandemic for medical training that could no longer be done safely in person—and even for virtual consultation during surgeries. “We’re allowing really hyper-granular views of surgeries by doctors and by executives who really can’t get into the hospital room anymore,” Fisher notes, “so that was actually pretty fulfilling to try to contribute that way.”

Contributing to the well-being of others is important to Fisher, and it’s an ethic he tries to instill in new generations of entrepreneurs. In a commencement speech to USF business grads that went viral in 2018, he asserted it is possible to be successful without destroying yourself, your marriage, and the planet. “The most traditionally successful people I know were very often divorced, and they told me sacrificing their families wasn’t worth it,” he told the graduates. “We build good companies that great companies buy and take around the world as our path of least resistance to contributing to the world.” 

Looking Back:

Fisher enjoys playing piano, and was sold on Vassar as soon as he saw how many instruments awaited him at Skinner Hall. “When I saw that on the tour, I fell in love,” he says. Being from the Bay Area, he had to adjust to the Poughkeepsie winters. Yet he soon came to appreciate their beauty. “When you got out there and you saw the blanket of snow on campus, that was really, really special,” he recalls. As a second-year student, Fisher may well have received the best housing deal in the history of Vassar: a three-room suite in Joss all to himself. “I had two roommates fail to show up, so I had three rooms for the whole year,” he remembers. “I just couldn’t have had more of a nice time and more fun there.”

Looking Forward:

As Fisher and his 11-year-old daughter, Avery, peddle to her school on a tandem eBike each day, he thinks a lot about the earth’s changing climate; it’s a crisis in need of some good ideas. “My daughter’s future depends on a healthy planet, and I will work as hard as I can to make it happen for her and future generations,” he told the USF grads. “Love may be the greatest motivation we humans have, greater than success or money.”

Posted
October 25, 2021
AAVC Spotlight
Alumni