Jeff joined NEA in 2018 as a Venture Partner working with innovative growth companies in healthcare, industrial automation, clean tech, and IoT. Prior to NEA, Jeff served for 16 years as Chairman and CEO of GE, where he revamped the company’s strategy, global footprint, workforce, and culture. He has received numerous awards for business leadership and chaired the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness under the Obama administration. Jeff earned a BA in applied mathematics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard University.
What do you look for when considering a potential investment?
I’ve always believed that the most successful companies are built on a well-formed idea, so that’s what I look for when I’m considering an investment. Big ideas make big companies. Over the course of my career I’ve become quite good at assessing the quality of ideas and calibrating the size of their potential.
You served as the CEO of GE for 16 years. How does that experience inform your approach to company-building?
My tenure at GE earned me a versatile knowledge base, so I’m able to support our founders and CEOs in a variety of different ways. But for me, the most important part about providing support is providing the right type of support. When I step in to assist, I want to make sure I’m filling in real gaps rather than filling a role that others are entirely capable of. I always start by trying to figure out what the company needs, and then identifying where or how I can uniquely add value.
What advice would you give a founder as they begin their entrepreneurial journey?
When you’re hiring people or selecting board members, picture them on the worst day. It’s easy to evaluate how someone might behave when things are going smoothly, but much harder—and more important—to understand how they might behave when times are tough.
What makes for a strong team?
First, founders have to be strong recruiters. It’s just part of the job. You can’t do anything great without having great people. Second, diversity. You don’t want to hire a bunch of people with the same backgrounds or skill sets. I’ve always believed there are three types of people; builders, operators, and integrators. As a leader, you have to be good at plugging people into the roles they’re good at in order to make the team hum. It takes some orchestration to build a powerful team.
I’m sure you had a lot of opportunities after your time at GE. What brought you to NEA?
I was compelled by the staying power of NEA. There’s something special about a firm that’s several generations old and still continues to make progress—it’s a testament to the culture and leadership. I also felt deeply aligned with their founder-first philosophy. At this stage in my career I really want to be a helper. I’m not in it for recognition or money. I really just want to use my experience to help other founders and CEOs successfully navigate their own company-building journeys.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
I think I'm a perfect mashup of math nerd and football player. Those two aspects have been present in me since I was a teenager. I say math nerd because I like figuring things out, solving problems, mapping it out on a whiteboard. And the football player side of me loves being on a team and knows not to expect every single play to work—that’s just the nature of the game.
What does life look like outside of work?
I read, play golf, and I just became a grandfather—which is my number one hobby at the moment!
“There’s something special about a firm that’s several generations old and still continues to make progress—it’s a testament to the culture and leadership.”