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The Forgotten Neighbor

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It is perhaps the greatest honor of my professional career to be embarking on my current trip. Less than 2 weeks ago, I was invited by the White House to attend a series of events in Cuba.  It is the first trip by a sitting US President since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

I will be leading a roundtable Monday with Cuban entrepreneurs, all of whom are hungry to access investments from a country that has blocked them off since the embargo signed by JFK.  They have asked me to speak on accessing capital and the importance of entrepreneurship for Cuba, but I’m pretty sure they already know that the companies they create will have an impact not just on the future of their families, but on the future of their country.

With every passing day as a venture capitalist, my awe, respect, and appreciation for entrepreneurs grows.  Often everything is against them: incumbents, families, capital, employees and, in some cases, governments.  In fact, Snapdeal, the first investment of my VC career, was founded by entrepreneurs who wanted to stay in America but we denied them a visa.  Those who proceed, perspire, and ultimately prevail should be celebrated.  What they create can, in some cases, touch more lives than any government.

Thanks to my partners at New Enterprise Associates who come to work every day trying to fight the status quo to make the world just a little bit better.  And most importantly, thanks to all the entrepreneurs I get the privilege of working with for teaching me far more about failure, courage, and tenacity than they will ever know.

I’ll try and impart some of their collective teachings in Havana, but what will likely happen is what always happens: I will learn far more from the Cubans than they will from me.

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Written by sheeltyle

March 19, 2016 at 11:44 am

Fiscalnote & Government Transparency

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At NEA, I work actively with around 10 of our portfolio companies and passively with a few others.  In every one of those cases, I’m the youngest guy in the room.  Except in the case of Fiscalnote, where I very well may be the oldest.

When I first met founder Tim Hwang, I felt like I was looking in a mirror.  He reminded me of an East Asian version of myself.  He had the same tendencies and quirks I do: habit of trying to fit 2 minutes worth of information into 1 minute, avoiding the question of age until asked point blank, the occasional forgetfulness of when we had met certain people (in his case, he guaranteed he had met me at least 2 times before but I am willing to bet $ that we had never met), even the same thick glasses that signify way too much time in front of screens…

But that’s where the similarities end.  For example:

  • Tim, now 21 but then a teenager, was the youngest elected school board member for the largest school district in Maryland receiving 70,000 votes through via a voter targeting strategy he learned while working for the Obama Campaign.
  • Tim founded the National Youth Association which represents 750,000 youth in the US and played a large role in helping those under the age of 26 stay on their parent’s health insurance plan in Obamacare.

Somehow, Tim also is the CEO of Fiscalnote, a real time government analysis platform.  Fiscalnote aggregates and analyzes speeches, court cases, and existing government legislation at all levels: local, state, and federal.  The talented, but young, team has built a number of algorithms to predict whether new legislation will pass and have back-tested it to over a 99% accuracy rate.  Fortune 1000 companies all the way down to restaurant owners now have an easy way to figure out what legislation does or may affect their business.  Effectively, they are trying to make a very important part of government transparent.  We recently closed a round with Mark Cuban and a few others.   Fiscalnote also happens to be the first startup I’ve heard of that is moving out of Silicon Valley and to DC!

I’m thrilled to be an investor and can’t wait to watch this unfold.

Written by sheeltyle

September 30, 2013 at 11:29 am