Over the past ten years there has been a debate about whether venture is an asset class or a cottage industry. My decision to join NEA started with a core belief that it’s both. I personally love venture capital investing because there is no other industry where working on a grassroots level by supporting 1-2 great people at the start can have macro effects on both the asset class and the overall economy. NEA has a unique strategy that is not only focused on Silicon Valley, the hub of entrepreneurship by many measures, but also on the broader entrepreneurial communities in Asia, in unsuspecting places such as Chicago or DC, as well as, in New York and Boston. I’ve spent several years circling Boston and traveling the well-worn path from Boston to NYC and Boston to the West Coast. I’m excited to expand that route to meet new entrepreneurs.
As I meet with great founders in various geographies, I’m struck by how unique yet similar their approaches are. Some say East Coast entrepreneurs are more focused on revenue or the Midwesterners are more likely to want to bootstrap, but the remarkable ones are all undaunted by physical boundaries, competition or technological limitations. Their drive is immediately evident and inspirational. They are patient yet tireless, creative yet grounded. The ones who I am drawn to in the consumer space are also eternally focused on detail, user experience and customers. And, of course, they have to be seeking a venture investor who appreciates the same things as they do. This is why venture capital is also a cottage industry. Compatibility drives investments first and foremost. An investment may start with a serendipitous meeting. A relationship develops over a period of time (sometimes years), and ultimately (maybe less than 1 out of 10 times), a macro event emerges.
NEA has had several of these macro events over the past couple of years. As I’ve been planning my move (physically to the DC area) and my next few trips (which will continue to involve frequent trips to NYC and Boston as well as many new places), I’ve been reevaluating and appreciating entrepreneurship and venture investing from a new perspective: great ideas are born from great innovators and great innovators are born anywhere. I hope to contribute to the type of success at NEA that affects the asset class, using the only approach that I believe works: building individual relationships with great entrepreneurs wherever they may be found.