Taking the Leap
 
 

Taking the Leap

 
 
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To my partners, friends, & entrepreneurs...

I have an exciting but bittersweet announcement to make and wanted to do so in a special way.  After nearly 12 incredible years at NEA, I will be leaving the firm to start the next chapter of my career.  I remember first walking into NEA as a young entrepreneur in awe of its size, scale, and depth of experience.  Over those 12 years I have had the privilege to work with nearly 150 partners and operations staff, and it is difficult to articulate the respect and gratitude I have for the team I have been a part of for most of my professional career.  My colleagues at NEA are family, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of this firm during such a transformational time in the venture capital industry. 

When I joined NEA in 2006, I was a young entrepreneur who had just left Symantec, the company that had acquired my venture-backed start-up, IMlogic.  I felt I’d had a front row seat watching experienced VCs in action, and thought I understood how to do the job when I walked into my first partner meeting.  Not surprisingly, I was wrong – dead wrong.  This profession requires constant learning and years of great mentorship to achieve top performance, and at NEA there is a history of recruiting and training the very best in the business.  My first few years I got to sit right next to Peter Barris, NEA’s managing general partner, who had mentored some of the most prominent GPs in our firm.  Peter took two companies public that year, which is more IPOs than many VCs have in an entire career.  Equally as fortuitous, I got a call from Scott Sandell a few months later who asked me to support him on a few boards.  That was quite a time to see him in action – one of his companies was acquired for $3.2 billion in March of that year, and a few months later he took two companies public ON THE SAME DAY, including one in China.  After a very short time I realized that this team wasn’t just good – it was amazing.  I believe that the longevity of any organization is correlated with its ability to recruit and train great talent, and I am confident that there is no better system for developing people in the VC industry than ours.

NEA has always been known for its size and scale, breadth and diversity.  But in my opinion, it is not what we do as a firm but HOW we do it that has always stood out in the industry.  Our longstanding reputation for being loyal, trustworthy, and unwavering in our commitments is second to none.  And our internal culture, centered around trust and teamwork, reinforces a set of values that always puts our portfolio companies first.  In 2008, I shared a long flight with Scott and he gave me a piece of advice that I think captures the essence of being an NEA partner:  “Do the right thing, always, even if it’s a challenging short-term decision.  NEA takes a long-term view on everything, and that is our unfair advantage.”  Since our founding we have stood behind our companies through good times and bad, and in the end there is no greater service we can provide to our entrepreneurs and limited partners.   

 
 
  A walk down the path of a start-up -- thrilling and terrifying, but with an unbelievable view!  (Crawler's Ledge, Napali Coast, Kauai, 2017)

A walk down the path of a start-up -- thrilling and terrifying, but with an unbelievable view!  (Crawler's Ledge, Napali Coast, Kauai, 2017)

 
 

I have an overwhelming number of people to thank now, and not enough space to do so.  Try to forgive that I’ve made this too long to read, and yet too short to show gratitude to all who deserve it.  There is no quick way to do this, and I only get to do it once, so here goes: 

First, thank you to all of my entrepreneurs and CEOs.  I know that each of you had a choice between the best VCs in the industry when you chose to work with NEA, and it has been my privilege to partner with you.  Don’t worry, that doesn’t stop now!  You know my passion and commitment to you and your teams will never change.  Some of our journeys have been short, some have been long, but they have all been personally fulfilling and we’ve had an incredible impact in our world together.  You know we will never give up and I’ll be there with you on the road ahead. 

 
 

Thank you to everyone at NEA and in particular my friend Ravi Viswanathan: the person responsible for bringing me to NEA in 2006.  I met Ravi in 2000 – he invested in my company while at Goldman Sachs, sat on my board for several years, and then recruited me to join the firm.  He and I built our associate program, served on numerous boards together, and have been partners for many growth initiatives for the firm through the years.  Most importantly, Ravi made NEA a fun place to work and was a steward of our culture.  Ravi, thank you for believing in me when I was a starving entrepreneur in 2001.  You were unwavering in your support, and I’ll never forget that.   

  Learning the thrill of the ride and other lessons for entrepreneurship, 2018

Learning the thrill of the ride and other lessons for entrepreneurship, 2018

 
 

Finally, I have to thank one of my most impactful mentors, Harry Weller, who passed away unexpectedly in 2016.  Harry was a passionate investor who was full of energy and was also known for blurting out whatever he was thinking in a lovingly casual and cavalier way.  I can replay my very first day at NEA when Harry walked into my office and said “I’m psyched to work with you.  You’re going to be great at this job.  BTW, you are TOTALLY an entrepreneur, and you are TOTALLY going to leave NEA.”  Harry could see the best in everyone, even before they could see it for themselves – and he understood my creative DNA.  He was a great friend to many at the firm, and he is still missed by us all. 

 
 
  Harry Weller channeling his entrepreneurial spirit, SXSW, 2011

Harry Weller channeling his entrepreneurial spirit, SXSW, 2011

Harry had a habit of dreaming about the future, and he would humorously ask every year when I was going to leave.  He also always made me promise that he would be the first to know the news if that day ever came.  For years my creative spirit was more than fulfilled at NEA, but flash forward to now –Harry, I’m sorry, you weren’t quite the first to hear the news, but if you are reading this now, I want you to know that you were (finally) right.  As you predicted, I am going to follow my passion and start a new chapter.  Great VCs like you are highly accurate in your predictions, but even the best forecasters in our business can be 12 years off.

 
 

So, what’s next?  After I transition out of NEA, I am going to take a sabbatical and spend time with my family and friends (and probably see a few parts of the world that are not often seen).  Upon my return, I’ll be working on something new.  What exactly will it be?  You’ll have to stay tuned for now, but I am passionate about the idea and I’ll be collaborating closely with an incredible partner.  We hope to build an entrepreneurial investing platform that is differentiated from what exists today, and most importantly we’re certain to remain very close friends to my extended NEA family.    

THANK YOU to all who have made this chapter one of the most fulfilling in my life.  I am excited to share the next one with you. 

With gratitude,

 
 
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The NEA Family, singing Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer", 2016.  Video footage available upon request!  

 
 
 
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