Prior to being in venture capital, I was a software designer and developer. I studied Systems Engineering in college and helped a professor with a company he started. While at HBS, I heard many venture capitalists speak about how it was important as a VC to have been at a successful tech company and to have had entrepreneurial experience, as well. Engineering vs finance backgrounds were supposedly very helpful too. There is no pattern amongst successful venture capitalists’ backgrounds, but this advice in business school made me curious about the field and led me to a job in venture capital.
What’s a day in your life as a VC like?
I spend about 40% of my time with my portfolio company CEOs and management teams. I have board meetings at these companies every 6-8 weeks. I spend 40% of my time looking at new potential investments, and the remainder of my time networking or at speaking events.
How many companies have you invested in and what is your overall investment?
I am on the board of 8 companies and invested dollars range from $3-25M. I occasionally invest $500k in seed capital for entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
What stage do you focus on and how much capital do you look to deploy for each portfolio addition?
I primarily invest in the early stages of a company—series A or series B. However, I have the flexibility at NEA to invest at any stage. I have several seed investments (in the range of $500k), or could invest $10s of millions in a later stage company. At NEA, the size of our fund allows us to support companies as they grow, at every round of funding.
What matters to you most when evaluating a company as a potential fit for your firm and how does that relate to the ambitious companies that you have worked with in the past?
I drive my investments off of the strength of the management team/founder/CEO and secondarily the uniqueness and scope of the idea. These founders must have leadership and ambitions that will attract others to work or invest in them over time. They must also be grounded in their ambitions and create plans that are credible and exciting on the growth trajectory.
What advice do you offer to a first time founder?
Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea before you think it’s ready. Collect lots of advice, but be careful in figuring out what advice to take and what to leave behind. Consider who is giving you advice and whether or not they have experience that makes their opinion valuable. It’s your job as an entrepreneur to weigh feedback accordingly and to make decisions effectively.
What is the one common denominator that stands out to you across all great investments your firm has made during its history?
Rarely do successful companies that last as a standalone public company have any similar competition. This is a little known fact but I believe it’s true of most sustainable public companies that grow from a startup to a mid cap public company. They may have competitors along the way, but they beat them out based on differentiation of their product or strategy. If they make it to be a large cap company, they will most likely consolidate other companies and gain competitors. However, to really outperform and make it to the public markets, I believe you must stand alone among competition.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.