Return to search

My vision to take NVCA to the next level

By Bobby Franklin, NVCA

When I accepted the offer last summer to join NVCA as its next president and CEO, my first reaction was sheer joy. It was quickly dashed by a sense of  panic when I realized I needed to get up to speed on an entirely new industry—and fast.

Sure, I know Washington, D.C., and what it takes for a successful trade association to be an effective advocate on behalf of its membership, but beyond what I learned through the executive search process, I knew next to nothing about venture.

Realizing I had to get up to speed quickly on this incredible industry, one of the first things I did when I started was to spend several months traveling across the country on a nationwide “listen and learn” tour to meet with as many people in the venture community as possible.

It was during this process that I not only got to immerse myself in the industry and hear about all the great things venture does to support the startup ecosystem and strengthen the U.S. economy, but also to understand what NVCA can do to help tell the venture story in Washington, and across the country.

After lots of cross-country flights, more hotel rooms than I care to remember and far too many fast food meals eaten in a rental car on the side of a road, I’m here to report that even though I will always be learning on the job, the listen-and-learn portion of my on-ramping to president and CEO is effectively over—now the real fun begins.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to be educated by some of the industry’s best and brightest, it’s time for me to take the next step in the process—which is to outline my vision for NVCA and where I believe we need to go from here to be the best advocate we can be on behalf of the venture industry.

In order for us to do that—for us take NVCA to the next level—it has become clear that we need to work on behalf of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. We need to promote policy positions that benefit the ecosystem, and we need to help convene participants in the ecosystem that either want to be better connected or those that need to be better connected.

Our job should be about the continued health and vitality of all the participants. Put another way, I believe we need to make the startup ecosystem our constituency.

That’s not to say the NVCA has any intention of moving away from or losing focus on our core membership, and we have no plans to expand the membership base beyond the venture capital community. In fact, my sole motivation to establish NVCA as the voice of the broader startup ecosystem is so that we can be better positioned to serve our core membership.

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.  In other words, our message will be better received if it is clear we aren’t there to talk about the ways a policy issue will impact venture capitalists alone, but how that policy issue will impact the broader startup ecosystem and, by extension, the U.S. economy.

If we can explain to lawmakers and staff how their policies are impacting the broader startup ecosystem, I believe we will be much more successful in shaping policy in ways that help the ecosystem, and as a result, venture capital. After all, what’s good for the startup ecosystem is good for members of the NVCA.

Bobby Franklin is president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). He can be reached at bfranklin@nvca.org. This column was published originally at affiliate magazine VCJ.