EP 8: VC with “Midas Touch” Shares His Success Story
Jeff Crowe | Managing Partner of Norwest Venture Partners
Editors’ note: In this episode, the host erroneously states that Jeff Crowe is a Green D investor. Crowe is, more accurately, a Trustee of Dartmouth College.
If you’re interested in becoming a venture capitalist or seeking to raise venture funding, then this interview with Jeff Crowe, a Dartmouth grad and a world-renowned investor, should be required listening. (Listen)
Disclaimer: This is not a solicitation to sell securities, which is only done through appropriate disclosure documents and only to appropriately qualified investors.
Episode Summary: Though Jeff Crowe has achieved world-class recognition for venture investing in startup companies like Lending Club, Spotify, and Uber, he didn’t start investing in or advising companies until he had successfully launched and exited a business of his own. In this podcast, Jeff shares his journey from founder to funder. Drawing on his experiences and track record as an operator and investor, Jeff offers valuable insights into growing a business. He also explains what he looks for in potential CEOs, the types of companies he invests in, and why he believes staying connected to alumni is essential.
Introducing Jeff Crowe
Jeff Crowe focuses on early stage investments in the internet, consumer, and software arenas as a Managing Partner of Norwest Venture Partners in Palo Alto, California. In 2017, for the fourth year in a row, Jeff appeared on Forbes‘ Midas List of the top 100 venture investors in the world. He currently serves on the boards of Common, Extole, Glint, Grove Collaborative, HoneyBook, Madison Reed, Modsy, Opendoor, Owler, and Talkspace. Jeff is also responsible for Norwest’s investments in Spotify, Uber, and Minted.
As a graduate of Dartmouth College and Stanford Graduate School of Business, Jeff is active in alumni affairs at both schools. He is an advisor to the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, and he will be joining the Dartmouth Board of Trustees in 2018.
Jeff also co-founded the Dartmouth Entrepreneurs Forum, an annual event in San Francisco and Hanover that draws hundreds of Dartmouth alums from around the world.
Three Takeaways from This Podcast
Jeff Crowe started his career working in investments on the public market side of a bank. Though he often thought about pursuing venture investing as a next step, Jeff believed he needed to be an entrepreneur first. So he and a group of co-founders started an enterprise software company called Edify. Jeff and his team raised VC money for the business and eventually took the company public. After running Edify for several years, Jeff sold the company and made the move into venture investing.
In this interview, Jeff explains how he worked his way into VC and became an early investor in Lending Club, the first peer-to-peer lending marketplace on the Internet. He says that back in 2007, consumers thought the business model made sense, but financial experts thought otherwise. They believed that determining the creditworthiness of borrowers was problematic—as was convincing lenders that they would receive a return. Jeff shares why he got involved anyway and the lessons learned along the way.
From his many notable investments to the work that Jeff does now to mentor students, support entrepreneurs, and advise CEOs, Jeff shares insights that future founders and investors can benefit from. Here are just three takeaways from the interview:
1. Good venture capitalists are curious
Because venture capitalists frequently meet with new people and work with companies that create innovative, quickly evolving products and services, Jeff believes that people who are “deeply intellectually curious” will thrive in this industry. If you enjoy rapid change, strategizing, and constant learning, you might be wired for VC.
2. Getting to know the future CEO is crucial
According to Jeff, “There is a very high correlation between a company’s success and the characteristics of the CEO.” Before making an investment, his company spends a great deal of time with founders–getting to know them, learning about their background and experiences, checking references. This is especially important when it comes to the person on the founding team who is going to become the CEO.
3. Successful teams are resilient
Given the often turbulent environment at startups, Jeff looks for founders who are personally resilient and have built resiliency into their company culture. He is also looking for people who can pivot quickly in order to adjust to market conditions, product-market learning, customer acquisition strategies, and more.
Beyond his successes as an entrepreneur and VC, Jeff Crowe is a model for giving back to the schools he so proudly endorses. In addition to the contributions mentioned in his biography above, Jeff mentors individuals in a variety of less formal settings. Jeff shares with us what makes these relationships rewarding, why he believes others should be similarly involved, and what he hopes the people he has helped will do in return.
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