I was fortunate enough to be profiled recently as an up and coming “VC Tech Turk” here in the Boston area. The other three guys (Kevin Bitterman – Polaris, John Karlan – Flybridge, David Danielson – General Catalyst) are all exceptional folks, some of whom I’ve had the occasion to meet and so I feel priveleged to be considered with such company.
These profiles as well as an interchange between Michael Moritz of Sequoia and John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins got me to thinking about the scope and time horizon of careers in venture capital. These two have of course reached an elite status in the VC business, both as accomplished investors as well as the current driving force behind two of the most successful and more innovative partnerships in the industry.
But what struck me in thinking about young turks in VC and the “titans” like Doerr and Mortiz was that reaching such heights for them has required efforts that have truly spanned lifelong careers. Both Doerr and Moritz are in their mid-50s today. Both have spent their entire VC careers with a single partnership. Both have been VCs for a long time, Moritz for over two decades (joined Sequoia ’86) and Doerr nearly three (joined KP ’80). That means that some of the entrepreneurs they back today have been alive for fewer years than they’ve been VCs.
Contrasting careers in VC with those as an entrepreneur is always a challenge… it’s undoubtedly an apples to oranges sort of comparison. There are of course people who have remained with their original venture since inception, but many of the most celebrated entrepreneurs are of the serial variety and many reach prominence at a young age and a relatively early point in their careers. Having spent the first part of my professional life as an entrepreneur and then having embarked three years ago on what I hope to be a successful career as a VC, it’s just been interesting to reflect on the timescales of these two very distinct yet interdependent paths.
Mike Moritz also had a great comment about VCs and a focus on listening. “There’s a lot of hot air in the business that we’d all be better without…a lot of useless pontificating in front of entrepreneurs who are devoting their lives and are working a lot harder than we are on their enterprises.” Moritz served on our board at PayPal and I had the pleasure of interacting with him a fair bit during our Series A raise at Linkedin (he visited our office for in-depth diligence sessions in addition to the full partnership pitch), he is indeed one of the best VCs that I’ve met at truly engaged listening. May we all in the VC biz aspire to follow Mike’s lead in this sense.