Santa Clara University

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Alumni Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rob Dunaway



Rob Dunaway, 1981 SCU alumnus and serial entrepreneur, shares his vast business experience in various industries below: 1981 SCU Law School graduate Rob Dunaway has a unique perspective on entrepreneurship – he not only has mentored hundreds of startups and growth companies as a venture capital and intellectual property attorney, he also returned to SCU Law School in 1984 and taught a pioneering course on Computer Law, was a board member of the Computer Law Journal for many years, and managed to find time along the way to start or co-found several companies. 

Following law school graduation, Rob fell into the fledgling ‘computer law’ field by co-founding a Mountain View law firm that specialized in representing software companies. This was the first law firm of its kind and they experienced the early, exciting days of the personal computer explosion when personalities like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Phillipe Kahn (Borland Software), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Larry Sonsini (Wilson Sonsini) and other industry present day technology/VC gurus still attended computer club meetings. In the early ‘80’s, Apple, IBM PC and IBM PC clones were fueling the personal computer revolution. Rob and his firm were involved in several note-worthy events such as the sale of the first PC word processor to IBM and precedent setting copyright infringement cases.  

Rob and his two law firm co-founders, Dan Remer and Paul Remer (Paul was also a SCU Law School graduate) then wrote a best-selling guide to startup company management published by Microsoft Press called Silicon Valley Guide, which was one of the first books on how to grow and manage a startup technology company. Along the way, Rob also revised Dan Remer’s seminal book, Legal Care For Your Software, the first non-legal book specifically focused on the legal protection of computer software. 

A New York law firm eventually proposed a firm merger and a couple of years thereafter, Pillsbury Madison & Sutro, one of the nation’s largest law firms ( now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman) enticed him into their Silicon Valley Technology Group. There he represented both startups and public companies such as Sun Microsystems, Tandem Computers, Diamond Multimedia, S3 and many others. In 1996, he moved to Phoenix, passed the Arizona bar, and commenced representing entrepreneurs and small to mid-size companies in both states, in addition to becoming a sought after Board of Directors member for young companies. The move gave him time to pursue some side projects and a serial entrepreneur was unleashed. 

Rob’s passion is education. He strongly believes that education is the most important factor in allowing people to pursue their dreams, and opines that better education can solve many of the nation’s problems. “Imagine if every person received the type of education available at Santa Clara University or the Law School! There is no telling how high the tide might rise in the United States if a quality education was easily accessible to every young person,” says Rob. He helped found and sits on the Boards of three very successful educational non-profit organizations. 

Rob assisted good friend Dr. Gary, a nationally known educational expert, in founding the non-profit Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE), the nation’s premier OER (Open Educational Resource) company. MITE develops and provides for free to high school and college students the next generation of AP and core coursework, incorporating rich media learning objects in revolutionary new, online subject matter courses. Funded by the Gates, Hewlett and Macarthur foundations among others, MITE is leading the way to a new educational model not only in the U.S. but around the world, as MITE’s courses are translated into several languages. 

Next up, Rob conceived and co-founded the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, a non-profit that presents the annual Arizona Entrepreneur’s Conference, a top cutting edge social media issue showcase held every November. Profits from OTEF fund entrepreneurship classes provided for free to at-risk groups such as women victims of domestic violence, homeless youth and laid off workers. It is Rob’s belief that every person has the capability to start and profitably run a business and OTEF has many inspiring success stories. 

His latest educational startup is big - the Catholic University of the West, a new Catholic university in formation, due to commence classes in September of 2013. The Southwest has virtually no Catholic universities or colleges, unlike the rest of the U.S. where a Catholic university exists for approximately every 350,000 Catholics. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Idaho have no Catholic university, as well as most of Colorado and Texas. The new university will serve approximately 7.2 million Catholics in the Southwest. all of his entrepreneurial activity has involved education. Wine and chocolate are two of Rob’s passions and in 2006 he co-founded with good friend Sam Pillsbury, a veteran Hollywood director (Quiet Earth, Free Willy 3), the Pillsbury Wine Company, an Arizona vineyard and winery specializing in Rhone Valley style wines. “Arizona soil is perfectly suited to grow Rhone Valley varietals and we have helped lead the burgeoning Arizona wine industry into national prominence,” commented Rob. “We sell everything we can make, we use only Arizona grown grapes, and we consistently win blind taste tastings and get high review scores.”  

Chocolate is also a big part of Rob’s life and he is writing a book on the history of chocolate in addition to owning one of the nation’s largest collections of chocolate memorabilia. Wine and chocolate; not a bad combination. With a big smile, Rob says there isn’t anywhere on the planet that he can’t go and deduct his expenses! 

There are a few other startup notches in his belt as well. Rob says he will continue to counsel and help young companies for a long time to come and may eventually join the faculty of a university entrepreneurship degree program to further mentor young entrepreneurs. He is married to SCU School of Education and Counseling Psychology alumni Marian Otondo and their 3 children all attended Jesuit universities.



Written by Rob Dunaway

Edited by Arlene Bhagat
~ CIE Marketing, Communications & Logistics Assistant

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