When I took the helm of NVCA in September 2013, I accepted the position not as a venture-capital expert but as someone who knew how to get things done in Washington. To get up to speed on this dynamic industry, I took to the road to meet with and learn from as many venture experts as possible.
Through my travels, I learned that the venture-capital industry is part of a complex and intertwined Web of entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, academics, researchers and many others. The inextricable components of this Web make up the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the linchpin of success for our members and for American innovation.
Realizing that the success of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem shapes and defines the success and growth of venture capital itself, I began to shape my vision for NVCA around a focus on making this broader ecosystem our core constituent. We aim to promote policy positions that benefit the ecosystem and strive to convene the entrepreneurial ecosystem to best serve our members and the venture industry.
Almost three years later, I can proudly say that NVCA has implemented this vision into all aspects of our work. From policy and advocacy to communications and marketing to events and member engagement, we are establishing the NVCA as the voice of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, so we can better serve our membership. Here are a few examples of how we have put that vision into effect.
Convening the entrepreneurial ecosystem is the central pillar of our mission. By connecting entrepreneurs, investors, service providers and other constituencies, we seek to grow the ecosystem as a means of strengthening it. Each new exchange of information and ideas among venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, incubators, service providers and others further fortifies the connective tissue of the web, creating a base for growth and expansion. These connections provide exposure to new opportunities and resources that enable each individual component to grow and develop.
NVCA has convened the ecosystem directly, through events, webinars and meetings, and indirectly, through our communications, marketing and general messaging. We have hosted several events that bring together participants in innovation from across the ecosystem. In addition, the proximity of our new offices to Capitol Hill has enabled NVCA to convene and connect our members and others with lawmakers and staff to discuss our policy priorities.
Bringing these voices together to meet with policymakers has had huge impact and serves as the best example of how we are advocating for the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem.
While unveiling my vision on these pages in the July 2014 issue of VCJ, I wrote: “When NVCA goes to Capitol Hill to speak with lawmakers and staff about important public policy issues affecting our members and their portfolio companies, I believe our message will be much more powerful if we deliver it on behalf of the entire startup ecosystem, not just the venture capital community.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in our recent work on patent reform.
Because we focused our messaging on the unintended results that patent reform would have on startups themselves, rather than the venture capital community, we were met with a much more receptive audience. As a result of this approach, we succeeded in slowing down the harmful legislation as it wound its way through Congress and are now in a position to work with lawmakers to address the so-called patent-troll problem in a way that poses less of a risk to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In addition to advocating for policies to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, NVCA is also working hard to expand it. We have launched several initiatives around diversity and inclusion to open the ecosystem to those who were previously excluded. Our Diversity Task Force has helped raise awareness about inclusion for underrepresented entrepreneurs and venture capital investors. In addition, one of our programs connects industry service partners to our members and entrepreneurs. These expansion initiatives have helped open new doors across the industry.
Reshaping NVCA’s mission to focus on the broader ecosystem has enabled us to grow our membership, engage in important policy initiatives and, most important, identify new areas for growth and expansion. By refocusing our efforts on the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we have expanded opportunities for entrepreneurs across the nation. In so doing, we have put the venture capital industry in a much stronger position for success in the future.
Bobby Franklin is president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association. Photo courtesy of the NVCA.
Photo of man holding crystal ball courtesy of ©iStock/shutter_m
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