Harry Weller of New Enterprise Associates (NEA) was the featured speaker ATDC’s Lunch and Learn this week. Harry just double downed by leading a $50 million investment in Georgia Tech VentureLab spinout
and ATDC member company Suniva. Beyond Suniva, Harry was very upbeat about the prospects for Atlanta tech companies.
For those that are not aware NEA is one of the oldest and most successful venture captial firms in the world with $8.5 billion under management. NEA has always been a bi-coastal investor and has a strong east coast commitment. Successful well-known investments by the firm include salesforce.com, WebEx and SUGAR CRM. One of Harry’s well-known investments was in Vonage where he bet big. NEA companies have had 164 IPOs – not shabby. And NEA stuck with biotech/healthcare during the dot-com boom when many of the tier 1 firms abandoned, saving their 1999/2000 vintage year fund.
Insightful tidbits that Harry shared the ATDC audience included:
- Georgia Tech is leading the way in doing university spin-outs the right way, and in his mind had leap frogged ahead of MIT where he has direct experience;
- Proprietary technology is no longer the primary driver of innovation in software, it is business models and distribution;
- Open source and traditional software models are in the process of merging;
- NEA only invests in opportunities that have the opportunity for a $1 billion exit.
Harry also expressed his vested interest in wanting to see his Atlanta hometown succeed for tech companies and investors. Harry comes to Atlanta regularly and is actively on the look-out for the next big opportunity here. He was a bit late on his term-sheet to JBoss who sold to Red Hat before he could invest. Like Harry, ATDC is always on the look out for entrepreneurs that we can help create a big win.
So who do you think will build the next billion dollar success story for
Georgia? Will Suniva hit this mark? What other companies? Will the
company have its heritage in MSA, Scientific Atlanta/Cisco, ISS, Jboss
or be on the biotech side?
It is very likely that a big-hitting and big pocketed investor like Harry will be involved!