NVCA 2020 Outstanding Service Award: Terry McGuire

NVCA interviewed Terry McGuire of Polaris Partners, winner of the 2020 VC “Outstanding Service Award.”

Why it matters: Our award recipients’ work and achievements are making great strides for American jobs, policy, and innovation.

Due to COVID-19, NVCA was disappointed that we were not be able to celebrate in-person and recognize our VC Award winners at the 2020 Leadership Gala in San Francisco on March 12. In lieu of speeches, we are sharing the incredible achievements of our winners through a blog series highlighting the award recipients’ work and how they are making great strides for American jobs, policy, and innovation.

Read below to find our interview with Terry McGuire of Polaris Partners, winner of the “Outstanding Service Award”:

What does receiving this award mean to you?

I am honored that the NVCA would recognize my work as benefitting the association and the venture industry at large. It is validation of my deeply held beliefs that venture capital is not an individual sport, but one that thrives on teamwork and collaboration, both within an individual firm and between firms. This is a value we have instilled and practiced at Polaris through our consistent approach in syndication, as we believe that the diversity of thought, perspectives, and experiences that comes from a collective of voices ultimately leads to better outcomes. This belief in the strength of community across the industry was foundational to my conceiving and founding of the Global Venture Capital Congress in 2010, when I was chairman of the NVCA and traveling around the world meeting other associations.  I realized then that the associations don’t interact with each other, and recognizing the importance of a globalized outlook in the venture capital industry, I gathered associations from other countries to form this organization, which has since met annually around the world (but for this year, due to COVID-19). This global collaboration is critical in solving the world’s problems, as the challenges and opportunities in front of us are not purely American.

I am immensely proud to be seen as helping the industry, through the receipt of this award.

Do you have a message you’d like to give to others in the industry?

Our industry is in such a unique position to bring good into the world, and I hope that my colleagues in the industry always keep this motivation front of mind. Our industry is one of many sources of capital, but it is unique in its ability to have longer time horizons and bet on people and products that others might not be in a position to. I believe that relationships and treating entrepreneurs as true partners should be at the center of everything we do.

I also believe we should use our unique positions of influence to help enact change for some of our most pressing social and societal issues. The recent events surrounding the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd have brought the tragic racial disparities in our country into a new light. Venture capitalists are not exempt from working to fix this, as this is not simply an issue of politics—economics and opportunity have a huge part to play in changing the experience of Black Americans. This is an issue I have been committed to for years now, through Polaris’ and other firm’s work with the NVCA’s Diversity Task Force and our 2015 pledge to foster diversity and inclusion in the industry, which was recognized by President Barack Obama. We have worked consistently to broaden the number of portfolio leaders who are women and people of color, but we have much work to do, as an industry at large. This problem won’t be fixed overnight, but that does not let any of us off the hook. We as an industry have always run toward the thorniest problems and the issue of racial justice in our country should be no exception.

What does it mean to you to be a leader in the venture community?

I am humbled and thankful to be recognized for my contributions and experience in this industry. I am grateful that in my years in this industry I have seen both the good and the bad. The recession and market chaos set off by this current pandemic can be terrifying for those who have not seen similar downturns before. While the challenges presented by COVID-19 are some of the deepest our society has seen in a long time, I am hopeful that this time will breed important and needed innovation. As a healthcare investor, the companies we back will play a unique role in steering our world out of this crisis and have already begun to do so, and I am honored to be a partner in that.

How do you think others can give back to the venture industry?

We should all be aware of the role and influence we have in advancing innovation that might not otherwise see the light of day. As I said, we are in a unique position to bring products to market that change our world and steer us out of grave challenges such as the current pandemic, not just through healthcare, but through products that touch on the workplace, collaboration, communication, and other paradigms of care. We are also in a unique position of influence in how we choose to back and believe in entrepreneurs. Recent news events have shown that opportunity is not evenly distributed across this country, and venture has an important role to play in elevating entrepreneurs who have not gotten proper recognition for their important talents and contributions.

Why is the work of NVCA so important to the venture industry?

Venture is a unique and sometimes misunderstood source of capital, but one that, as I’ve said above, has a critical role to play in fostering innovation and the betterment of our world. Having a group that is completely dedicated to advocating for our industry amid often complex regulation is essential to enabling us to do our best work. We are all better off for the NVCA’s work.

To learn more about Terry McGuire and Polaris Partners, please visit their website here.

View the full NVCA press release on the announcement here.

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