Elad Gil is running around the Color Genomics office when I come to meet him for a little sit-down. The place is full for a Friday afternoon. There’s a worker taking calls on the couch in the front and plenty of others pacing about in the background.

The office is tucked away in an unassuming industrial area of Burlingame, California, in a building that reminds me of some 60’s-style government structure. Color is easy to spot. First suite on the first floor and the only one with, well, bright color.

Gil offers me a water and we sit down in a little conference room. Jokingly, he says maybe he can do something funny for the featured image for my article like pretend to hold up the color wheel logo. “Katie would never let me do that,” he says, referring to his chief marketing officer and ex-Twitter employee Katie Jacobs Stanton. He’s nerdy funny. I like that.

Gil came to Silicon Valley with impressive academic credentials, including a degree in mathematics, another in molecular biology and a PhD in biology from MIT. It was 2001, and he had hoped to make a dent in the universe. But the timing was off. The country was already headed toward an economic downturn, then 9-11 happened.

He was at a telecom company that quickly grew to 150 people and shortly after shrank to a tenth of the size in five rounds of layoffs. Gil was cut in the third round.

That was a turning point for him.

“All these people helped,” he said. “Like big brand-name VC’s were referring me to companies just to help. They were like, ‘Everything’s collapsing. You’re some random person who showed up with a PhD in biology. You have no job prospects’.”

He went on to hold prominent positions at Google and Twitter and now as a co-founder in Color Genomics. He’s also an investor in several well-known startups including Airbnb, Square, Stripe and Pinterest and is in a position, which he’s known to readily use, to give back to Silicon Valley in much the same way.