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Posts Tagged ‘NEA

LearnUp: Using Technology to Solve the Skills Gap

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This post was originally published on NEA’s website:

Marley Barazon was 16 when she immigrated to the United States from the Philippines.  For months, while handling the rigor of senior year of high school, she looked for a job to support her family as they attempted to make it in a new country.  Application after application, she kept receiving rejections.  After three months, Marley finally came across a Craigslist posting for a position at Old Navy, and the link redirected her to LearnUp.  After completing the scenario-based LearnUp training, she applied for the job, and received her first interview in America.  Then, the good news came—Old Navy wanted to hire her, as a “Sellebrity”, or retail salesperson, at a nearby branch.

It is an economic irony that in every country around the world, there are thousands of unfilled jobs and yet simultaneously a high unemployment rate.  In America, we have a ~5% official unemployment rate, but in certain cities that rate is three to four times as high—and is even higher amongst minorities, youth, and low income folks.  If you add those who are underemployed, the number is even higher.  LearnUp is trying to solve this “skills gap”, starting with entry-level jobs, by working directly with employers to put online the necessary content an applicant needs to know to be a successful employee.  Applicants then complete targeted training at zero cost to them before applying for the corresponding job, which increases their chances of getting hired by 300%.  We believe this could not only help the people desperately in need of work to get jobs, but could also revolutionize vocational education over time.

Whether you are a young immigrant looking for your first job, a veteran who fought on the battlefield in Afghanistan who now wants to succeed in civilian society, or a single mother trying to find her next gig, LearnUp is your platform.  But at the end of the day, LearnUp isn’t just a job-training platform.  It is a platform for hope.

At NEA, we are excited to announce our co-lead Series A  investment with our friends at Shasta Ventures to support Alexis, Kenny, and the rest of the LearnUp team on their quest to retrain America.

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Written by sheeltyle

September 16, 2015 at 10:44 am

NEA India CEO Summit – Lessons from the Founder of Naukri

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Last week, I traveled to Mumbai for NEA’s India CEO summit.  We brought together a number of our CEOs who are either based in India or are directly playing in the Indian market.  We also had two speakers: the former Chairman of SEBI (India’s version of the SEC) and Sanjeev Bikhchandani, the founder/Vice Chairman of Naukri, India’s first public internet company.

Naukri, an Indian job listing site, has a remarkable story.  Unlike many companies in the west, Sanjeev wasn’t used to the notion of spending for growth and taking a short term loss to set the company up to make a long term, larger profit.  Eventually, he was convinced that in his situation, because he hadn’t yet turned on any marketing channels, there was a reasonable line of sight to spend short term dollars for long term gains.  The company raised $2 million from ICICI Ventures and the timing was perfect: a few weeks later, the dot com bubble crashed and the venture markets dried up.  Naukri then had a loss for two years before getting back into the black, after which it effectively doubled profit year over year.  Today, it is a public company (under the holding company InfoEdge) and is on a run rate of 120 crores in profit this year, or $24 million.

He gave an inspiring talk with unique pointers to our team of CEOs.  I took some notes and wanted to post them here:

  • Every once in a while, a business or sector will have tailwinds.  Recognize them, use them, and exploit them.
  • The best businesses are built on deep customer insight.
  • The question that you must ask yourself is: are you solving an unsolved problem?
  • The best CEOs are those who are able to build trust across the table.  That could be to customers, to partners, to investors, or employees.  It doesn’t matter.
  • Share recognition, power, and wealth with your best employees.  Sometimes, you may have to dig into your own ESOP pool to make that happen.  Your employees are not working for the company, they are working for you.
  • Create convergence of interest, not conflict of interest.
  • Often superior corporate governance gets a 25-28% premium.  That means transparency, disclosure of full financial statements (not required in India), and can even mean a non-executive chairman.
  • People get hooked to freedom more than to compensation.
  • Once again, give massive, massive ESOPs to the right people.
  • It’s always a collective decision when things go bad.  Rally the troops together and don’t put the blame on someone.
  • Hire for commitment, character, and competence.
  • The way to beat western companies is to be more customer driven than competitor focused.  Plus, US companies are often scared of headcount.  If you have better customer insight and an army of people, you’re tough to beat.

In the middle of his talk, Sanjeev told a story that brings together a lot of his advice on recognition, aligning incentives, and creating a convergence of interest.  During his tenure, he wanted to increase the salaries of his best people during a rough patch for the company.  He went to Bala Deshpande, now an NEA Partner but at the time at ICICI Ventures, who initially disagreed with his proposal, until he offered to cut his own pay.  She then agreed, but also gave him a separate incentive: if sales were above a certain number, he would receive a bonus equivalent to a percentage of the sales.  He told the rest of the team about this plan, who then volunteered to cut their salaries by 30% (instead of having them raised!) and also participate in the variable sales incentive plan.  Suddenly, everyone was aligned to drive the company forward and a year later, the team crushed their goals and everyone made significantly more money than they could have under their original plan.

These aren’t principles that will work only in India, or in Asia, or in emerging markets.  Rather, they feel like universal principles and universal values that can apply to any time of business anywhere.

Written by sheeltyle

November 7, 2012 at 7:17 pm

My Next Move

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A lot has changed over the past month.  I bought a gym membership in New York, then had to cancel it.  I made some really great friends in the city, then had to have quick good bye dinners over the span of a week.

I have decided to join New Enterprise Associates, or NEA, in Menlo Park.  It all happened really fast; in fact, it happened over the course of essentially 72 hours and most of it in New York, over Skype, and phone calls. And I’m really excited.

The past two years that I’ve been a part of the Bessemer family have been an absolute blessing and privilege for me.  I started in Summer of 2010 as a Summer Analyst in New York and never really left.  I stayed involved during the 2010-2011 school year while working for BVP’s portfolio company, Skybox, and coming into the BVP Menlo Park office multiple times per week.  I was running around the bay area and on my phone all the time speaking with companies, and the day after my graduation from Stanford, we issued an investment recommendation for Snapdeal.  I spent just as much time outside the country (mainly Asia) as in the USA while at BVP, and ended up being actively involved on a number of deals that went through (Matrimony.com, Skybox, and Black Swan Solar) and even more that didn’t.

The more time I spent at Bessemer, the more in awe I became of the people and the firm’s history.  A hundred years is a LOT of time in the venture business, an industry known for its risky investments and high turnover & churn.  And it has everything to do with the type of people that Bessemer hires.  They are some of the most genuine, down-to-earth, caring people in the industry.  They also happen to be really, really good investors.  I wish I could tell you some of their numbers, but all you need to do is look at some of the acquisitions, IPOs, or massive financings from the last year to get a taste: Yelp (IPO), Pinterest (Series A), Millennial Media (Seeded & Series A before IPO),  LinkedIn (IPO), Traffix (acq. F5 Systems), Vertica (acq. HP), OMGPOP (acq. Zynga), Verastem (IPO), and the list goes on!

Leaving wasn’t easy.  I know everyone at the firm, and I have a close personal relationship with a majority of the investment professionals.  It’s never easy to leave a place you love.

Still, every once in an a while, an opportunity comes along that you feel like you have to take.  Something in your gut tells you that the people are something special.  That was the case with NEA.  I’ll be a part of the US tech team (specifically the consumer team, led by Scott Sandell and Tony Florence) and the India team, while continuing to look at other emerging markets.  NEA is an investor in Groupon, Bloom Energy, Workday, and many others.  And they are a really great, welcoming bunch of people.  I could go on about the NEA people and their investments, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

I’m excited for a wild ride ahead.

Written by sheeltyle

May 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm