Greg Papadopoulos, PhD

Venture Partner

Greg joined NEA as Venture Partner in 2010 after more than 20 years in technology and academia. He focuses on early-stage systems, software, and deep/hard-tech companies. Prior to NEA, Greg was EVP and CTO of Sun Microsystems. Before Sun, Greg was an Associate Professor of EECS at MIT. Early in his career, he was an engineer at both HP and Honeywell. He co-founded companies in video conferencing, AI accelerators, portable PCs, and CFD. Greg earned a BA from UC San Diego and an SM and PhD from MIT.

What excites you most about your work?

My wife says I skip into work—and Zoom meetings. I love startups, especially at the early stages when the teams are a wonderful mash-up of raw intellect and enormous drive. There's total focus on the market and customers, without any legacy pulling you backwards.

How do you think about your role as an investor?

Investors are given incredible opportunity coupled with deep responsibility. Every day, I get to hear dreams of the smartest, most driven, and passionate creators on the planet. As investors, our time and capital are amplifiers that can actualize those dreams into transformative businesses. While it’s incredibly rewarding to have that sort of influence, it also comes with a profound sense of responsibility to our founders, LPs, and partners.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Never separate authority from responsibility. If you exercise authority and instruct someone to take an action, then you have to take responsibility for the outcome. Similarly, if you give someone responsibility and tell them to produce a result, then you have to give them the authority and resources to be successful. Especially as a board member, you can’t micromanage.

What’s your view on helping companies through a challenge?

Crisis reveals character. Almost every company experiences something—whether it’s self-inflicted, competitive, or macro—that can cast serious doubts about the future. But the reality is that all startup journeys are nonlinear. And it’s our job as investors to help navigate the storm while maximizing long-term value. I’ve seen many times where NEA has guided other investors around the table back to the long view.

What are you most curious about?

My biggest curiosity has been consistent since childhood: space. I had backyard telescopes and lots of model rockets as a kid. Early in my career, as an engineer at Honeywell, I worked on the Space Shuttle reentry flight control system. I got involved with the SETI Institute in the 1990s, eventually becoming Chairman as we built the Allen Telescope Array. I love thinking about life and its origins: Are we alone?

R&D budget for Sun Microsystems overseen while CTO
Startup founder
Lost golf balls