Ben Veghte

by & filed under Events, NVCA Blog.

A week has passed since our sold-out Leadership Gala and the glowing reviews keep rolling in. From our members and non-members, board of directors, sponsors, and the media, everyone is raving about the event and already marking their calendars for 2018.

Now in its third year, the Leadership Gala was the brainchild of former NVCA Board Chair Scott Sandell of New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Thanks to his vision, the event has quickly emerged as a must-attend event (did I mention it was SOLD OUT!?!) for the venture industry, book-ended by high-profile speakers and unparalleled networking with the venture industry’s finest.

In our first two years, we held the event at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco; however, in 2017 we decided to change things up and move the event down the peninsula into the heart of Silicon Valley. The Rosewood proved to be the perfect venue, and we were ever so thankful Mother Nature gave us a break in the rain to accommodate our gathering on the Rosewood’s Vista Lawn. Recognizing that our industry is less formal than Washington, D.C., we also did away with the tuxedos and evening dresses—to everyone’s appreciation!

The venue wasn’t the only change in 2017. We also expanded our award lineup. In addition to our legacy awards (American Spirit, Outstanding Service and Lifetime Achievement in Venture Capital), we added the Rising Star, Venture Firm of the Year and Excellence in Healthcare Innovation awards. To build a sense of excitement and anticipation, we selected three finalists for each of our new awards—with the winners kept top secret until the event. Don’t worry, NVCA President and CEO Bobby Franklin made sure there were no Oscar-like snafus with the envelopes!

The recipients and winners of the 2017 NVCA awards include:

  • Lifetime Achievement in Venture Capital – Bill Draper, General Partner at Draper Richards
  • Outstanding Service Award – Ross Jaffe, MD, Managing Director at Versant Ventures
  • American Spirit Award – Ray Leach, CEO at JumpStart Inc.
  • Rising Star Award – Kristina Shen, Vice President at Bessemer Venture Partners
  • Excellence in Healthcare Innovation – Annie Lamont, Managing Partner at Oak HC/FT
  • Venture Firm of the Year – Emergence Capital

We were so proud to honor all of our award recipients. Each winner spoke admiringly of their friends, families and colleagues for helping them reach such great heights in their careers. Not surprisingly, the highlight of the night came when we presented the Lifetime Achievement in Venture Capital Award to venture legend Bill Draper, who said: “It’s been one heck of a ride.” It certainly has been a heck of a ride for Bill, and we are still in shock that this award wasn’t already in Bill’s trophy case. Nevertheless, we are grateful for the opportunity to recognize a pioneer of our industry and we are thankful for his tremendous leadership.

As hard an act as Bill was to follow, the show had to go on and we were fortunate to have retired U.S. Navy Admiral Eric T. Olson on hand as our keynote speaker. Recently retired after almost 40 years of service to our nation, Admiral Olson touched on a range of topics during his fireside chat with NVCA Board Chair Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures.

A former Navy SEAL, Admiral Olson described in intimate detail what it was like to go through SEAL training and what separates those from success and failure. Admiral Olson started in a class of 54, but in the end, he was one of only four to make it to the end of training. What made the other fifty quit? “They quit not because they failed the training but because they removed themselves from the opportunity to succeed,” he said.

Admittedly, there are few things that compare to the rigors of SEAL training or the responsibilities that come with commanding the United States Special Operations Command, but nevertheless, Admiral Olson’s thoughts on what it takes to succeed are more than applicable to venture capital and entrepreneurship. Judging by the many nodding faces in the room, this wasn’t lost on our audience.

Admiral Olson was a fitting close to a successful NVCA Leadership Gala. We look forward to another fantastic event in 2018!