How A College Ski Club Transformed Intuit Cofounder Scott Cook From Would-Be Economist To Billionaire


Scott Cook is chairman of the executive committee and cofounder of Intuit, a company that helps millions of people and small businesses manage their finances with products like QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint. Cook was harnessing the power of software to make a common task simpler in 1983, when Google’s cofounders were still in grade school, most of the PayPal mafia was learning basic arithmetic and Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t even born. Today, the publicly traded behemoth boasts sales of over $6 billion and a market cap of $68 billion.

This wasn’t the future Cook imagined for himself as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, with his eyes set more on the ivory tower than silicon valley. After he and a pal won a federal research grant to study the economics of air pollution, Cook thought he might pursue a Ph.D. in the field. A fateful day at the ski club’s general interest meeting would change all that, when a university official discovered the club had no leader and asked who wanted to be president.

“Couple of guys pointed to me and said, ‘Him!’ No one else was stupid enough to run. So I inherited what was essentially a dead ski club,” Cook said. 

Cook rose to the challenge and transformed the nearly defunct ski club to the largest in the state. Cook says managing the club felt like running a business: The extracurricular was financially independent from the university and ran on student dues. The student group got discounts from ski resorts by signing up in bulk, reducing the cost for any individual to cruise the slopes.

“There were a whole bunch of people who wanted to ski but didn’t have the money and didn’t have parents with a ski house,” Cook said. “I certainly didn’t.”

Cook also found there was power in pooling people resources, as well as financial ones. “USC was a large commuter school at the time. It was hard for people to break in. There weren’t natural dorms or fraternities,” Cook said. “The ski club was a way for people to find their social milieu.”

Ultimately, Cook decided to go to Harvard Business School, deciding he could do more good running a company than drawing supply and demand curves. 

“I came to conclude you could do more to improve people’s lives running large organizations and in business,” Cook said.

For the full story of Cook’s transformative early professional experience, watch the video above.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect Scott Cook's correct title; he is chairman of the executive committee of Intuit, not chairman of the board of Intuit.

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Scott Cook is chairman of the executive committee and cofounder of Intuit, a company that helps millions of people and small businesses manage their finances with products like QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint. Cook was harnessing the power of software to make a common task simpler in 1983, when Google’s cofounders were still in grade school, most of the PayPal mafia was learning basic arithmetic and Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t even born. Today, the publicly traded behemoth boasts sales of over $6 billion and a market cap of $68 billion.

This wasn’t the future Cook imagined for himself as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, with his eyes set more on the ivory tower than silicon valley. After he and a pal won a federal research grant to study the economics of air pollution, Cook thought he might pursue a Ph.D. in the field. A fateful day at the ski club’s general interest meeting would change all that, when a university official discovered the club had no leader and asked who wanted to be president.

“Couple of guys pointed to me and said, ‘Him!’ No one else was stupid enough to run. So I inherited what was essentially a dead ski club,” Cook said. 

Cook rose to the challenge and transformed the nearly defunct ski club to the largest in the state. Cook says managing the club felt like running a business: The extracurricular was financially independent from the university and ran on student dues. The student group got discounts from ski resorts by signing up in bulk, reducing the cost for any individual to cruise the slopes.

“There were a whole bunch of people who wanted to ski but didn’t have the money and didn’t have parents with a ski house,” Cook said. “I certainly didn’t.”

Cook also found there was power in pooling people resources, as well as financial ones. “USC was a large commuter school at the time. It was hard for people to break in. There weren’t natural dorms or fraternities,” Cook said. “The ski club was a way for people to find their social milieu.”

Ultimately, Cook decided to go to Harvard Business School, deciding he could do more good running a company than drawing supply and demand curves. 

“I came to conclude you could do more to improve people’s lives running large organizations and in business,” Cook said.

For the full story of Cook’s transformative early professional experience, watch the video above.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect Scott Cook's correct title; he is chairman of the executive committee of Intuit, not chairman of the board of Intuit.

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