Tragic begging and triumphant benevolence. Paper gains and palpable losses. Newfound empathy and noticeable disdain.
I’ll never forget seeing thousands of Syrian refugees – mothers who fled the Assad regime clutching toddlers – on the streets of Istanbul. They had a small cup or piece of cloth in front of them, asking pedestrians for spare change in Arabic – a language Turks don’t speak.
I’ll never forget the smile on the faces of the BCNA loan officers who had given small business loans to immigrants in all of NYC’s boroughs. These loans allowed these immigrants to realize their American dream through their corner stores, their laundromats, their beauty salons, and their restaurants.
I’ll never forget the phone call from a fellow investor that my first venture capital deal, Snapdeal.com, was about to announce an investment from Softbank at a $2 billion valuation. Or, the text message about Hired.com, a deal that I had seeded at NEA, had closed a round at a $200 million valuation.
I’ll never forget the phone call from a portfolio company CEO that he had run out of money. He was going to have to shut down his business and, in the process, I would lose all my invested capital. He was in tears. He had given it his all, sacrificing everything for his business. He hadn’t even paid himself in the last few months to keep the company afloat – and he was broke. I was, in the next 5 minutes, defeated and encouraging, confused and consoling.
I’ll never forget meeting General David Petraeus 1:1 in his office, and the many emails, discussions, and meals that continue to follow. He’s a man who led our armed forces in Afghanistan and also was the Head of the CIA. He was—and still is—the quintessential American hero: a gentleman, a class act, and a selfless leader. But one mistake caused him to give up his career in government. I think the world of him—and if he can make a mistake like the one he did, then I’m pretty sure anyone can. We’re all just human.
I’ll never forget meeting Lance Armstrong in New York as part of a group dinner. Because the event was off the record, I am not at liberty to share quotes. However, I could tell Lance was noticeably frustrated at the doping scandal; not necessarily because he was upset at the backlash and the titles that were vacated, but because he still feels like he was wronged. He had brought a knife to a gun fight. And if everyone was doing it, then why was he the villain?
What a year 2014 was. 2015, you’re on the clock.