How Giving and Investing Collaborate

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  • June 12, 2012

A handful of NEA partners recently participated in the 2012 Venture Capital Master’s Lunch Series, an auction organized by the fundraising team Motion to Dismiss Cancer to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It’s a cause we are honored to support, and we recruited some of our founding CEOs to join the effort as well.

I know it’s one among many worthy causes embraced by our partners. And I was reminded, as I have been on many occasions, that the enthusiasm, creativity and conviction that we bring to our investments, is very much mirrored in our philanthropic endeavors.

When venture capitalists endow young entrepreneurs with capital to pursue their passions and dreams, we hope not just for their success but that they, in turn, will enable others to pursue their passions and dreams. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the good men do lives after them; the evil is interred with their bones.  Or was it the other way around? Anyway, we hope it is the former.

For investors, it can be particularly inspiring to help new enterprises flourish through philanthropic endeavors that advance or complement that mission – whether through funding research, fueling advocacy, or helping to establish a thriving community. It can mean financial support, but it can also be a commitment driven by other contributions like time, or intellectual capital.

In other words, we know that young minds want to explore many different directions that will have a positive impact on society – and pursue many different types of engagement.  We know that supporting these pursuits gives us insight and compassion that enriches our lives. Some causes we can support as a firm because they are central to our own mission; yet we also believe philanthropy is an inherently and intensely personal subject.

Venture capital has been transformed over the past 40 years from the single or small group investor organizations to national and international groups which can build and develop over decades or longer. At NEA, that evolution has been characterized by a collaborative approach to investing while retaining a high degree of individual discretion and accountability. I think this philosophy serves us well as investors, and I think it serves us well in other areas too.

I’m proud that our merit-based culture and operational strength allow us to celebrate differences rather than mandate conformity; and to support as a firm those causes that complement our collective goals, but to know that individuals will (and should) run far and wide afield of that framework, and our role is to ensure they have the moral and practical support to do so. This approach, I believe, can bring to an organization a pride of accomplishment that rises above materiality.

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