At Venture Alpha West, both suits and shorts are welcome

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about old and new venture firms and how they compare.

Some stalwarts, like New Enterprise Associates and Norwest Venture Partners, among others, have done great staying current, as they continue to back early-stage startups while also having a long history and billion-dollar funds at their disposal.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing many emerging funds, most of which are focused on seed deals, raise their first or second funds.

The difference can be summed up by a recent visit I had with a seed-stage firm that just closed its second fund. I was in Palo Alto, California, so I messaged the firm to say I was in the neighborhood and I asked if I could pop in for a visit. One of the founders was not in, but he lives nearby. He gladly trekked over and we chatted briefly. Since he was working at home, he was in shorts.

I can’t imagine any VC on Sand Hill Road meeting me in shorts.

“That VC in shorts is an operator VC,” a VC friend of mine told me this week. He’s an operator VC himself, and he’s seeing their numbers rise in the business, whether they’re coming up at established firms or they’re raising new funds themselves. Operator VCs, as opposed to financiers, have experience at tech companies, maybe as founders, and they like to work closely with the startups.

“The old-guard VC would not hesitate replacing a CEO, but the new operator VCs don’t work that way with startups today,” this other VC told me.

Investor Semil Shah nailed this when he tweeted last month:

Whether there is truly a changing of the guard, from financier to operator, or traditional VC to upstart backer, it’s a fascinating topic that I hope to cover more.

I bring this up because we love writing about all kinds of firms in the venture community. And we love bringing them together for our conferences.

Three weeks from today, we’re gathering hundreds of LPs and GPs for our annual PartnerConnect West conference in San Francisco, which will include VCJ‘s annual Venture Alpha West, Sept. 27-28 at the Hotel Nikko.

Many operator VCs and established investors will be there.

Among the speakers are Promod Haque, senior managing partner at Norwest, who is receiving our lifetime-achievement award. Others scheduled to speak are David Chao from DCM Ventures, which has made the transition to a new GP roster in recent years, as well as Venky Ganesan from Menlo Ventures, Eric Liaw from IVP and Ashu Garg from Foundation Capital.

Shah will be there, as will a host of other early-stage investors, including Sheel Mohnot from 500 Startups, Chris Farmer from SignalFire, Aileen Lee from Cowboy Ventures, Cindy Padnos of Illuminate Ventures, Dan Rosen of Commerce Ventures, Devon McDonald at OpenView and Sumeet Jain at Luma Capital Partners.

So many others to mention, including LPs. You can check out the agenda and roster of speakers at the Venture Alpha West website.

As you can imagine, the emerging-manager trend is a hot topic. We have lots of compelling panels, as we talk about fundraising and the whole gamut of investing, from seed to late stage, and I’m looking forward to the discussions and hearing the opinions from LPs and GPs about trends in the industry and what they think of operator VCs.

If you’re an LP or GP, we look forward to seeing you later this month at our conference. Suits and shorts are both welcome!

Photo courtesy ©iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund