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Brother Ball Proves Sometimes a Risk is Worth the RewardSome would say it is serendipity. Others say it is connections. And others would say it is the right education. Whatever it is, Brother Robert Ball ’80 clearly was in the right place at the right time in 1998 when he became part of businesses on the brink of internet and cloud computing success. It was a good time to become an internet lawyer and a good time to take the risk. Click below to read more about Brother Ball.

Brother Ball Proves Sometimes a Risk is Worth the RewardSome would say it is serendipity. Others say it is connections. And others would say it is the right education. Whatever it is, Brother Robert Ball ’80 clearly was in the right place at the right time in 1998 when he became part of businesses on the brink of internet and cloud computing success. It was a good time to become an internet lawyer and a good time to take the risk.

Tell us about your professional journey from graduation to your current position.
My journey since graduation has taken many roads: I started as a CPA at Price Waterhouse and then shifted course to become a lawyer. I graduated from The University of Georgia School of Law in 1986 and practiced law in Atlanta until 1998. In 1998, I was a partner at Alston & Bird and had the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C., to head up the firm’s fast-growing internet and eCommerce practice (a somewhat new idea at the time).

After a year and a half in D.C., I was recruited to become general counsel of a startup in Cambridge, Mass. – Akamai Technologies. That startup quickly became a public company that is now a $2 billion company that delivers close to 20% of the traffic on the internet. At Akamai, I stepped out of the legal profession and ran the company’s business and corporate development team, which oversaw corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions and international expansion. A few years later, I took over all of Akamai’s international operations, which had me running operations across Europe and Asia. After leaving Akamai, I did early stage venture investing and ended up running one of the investments, a company in Silicon Valley called Reach Analytics. I recently stepped out of the day-to-day operations at Reach and decided to return to the practice of law. I am currently a partner in the private capital and technology transaction practice at Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta. It has truly been a journey.

What are you fondest memories of being a brother of Psi Chapter?
Being part of the ΣN band that won the Tri-Delt talent show two years in a row; Symbol 8 on the front porch with Graves Clayton singing and most of big fraternity court packed; late night runs to Time Out; Harold Latta convincing Lawrence Taylor to return the keg; watching basketball games on TV in a packed living room; and endless basketball games on the court behind the party house.

What would you say are your life’s biggest successes?
Getting my wife English to put up with me for almost 33 years and having three wonderful children, two of whom graduated from The University of Georgia and the third set to graduate from Vanderbilt in May. Professionally, the six years at Akamai were quite a thrill ride, and I have been fortunate as an attorney to be on the cutting edge of some very interesting developments, most notably my decision to become an “internet lawyer” in 1994 when I saw something big coming but wasn’t quite sure how it was going to play out.

On the contrary, what would you say are your biggest learnings?
I have tried some ventures that did not pan out the way I anticipated, and the biggest “cost” is the time lost that could have been spent more productively. I learned that you have to focus 24/7 and have a sense of urgency about everything you undertake. And if you see it not working out the way you planned, do something about it; change course and don’t think you can change the nature of the people involved. Personally, with my children in their 20s, I wish I had appreciated how special the times were when they were younger (and taken more videos!).

What about your membership in Psi Chapter makes you the most proud?
Every time I return to Chapel Hill and drive past 109 Fraternity Court, I look over and see the house sitting prominently at the head of it and think, "I was a part of that. I lived there."

Tell us a little bit about your family and interests.
My wife of almost 33 years, English, was a Tri-Delt and also an ’80 grad. We have a son, Robert, who is 27 and lives in Atlanta and is in the property/casualty insurance business. Our son, Taylor, is 25 and lives in San Francisco; he works for a referral marketing software company. Our daughter Caroline is 22 and a senior at Vanderbilt; she will graduate in May and then move to New York to work as a technology consultant with KPMG.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Value and cherish all of the relationships you have with family, friends, colleagues and others.

What do you want people to remember about you 50 years from now?
That I was a good father (and hopefully grandfather, but not anytime soon) and friend who cared.