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Jon Sakoda is a Partner at NEA and is an entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. The views expressed here are not necessarily shared by NEA.

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My CTO almost died, but still checked in features on the way to the ICU…


I am frequently asked to describe the type of entrepreneurs I want to back, and read a lot about what other VCs look for in great founders.  There are many predictable answers to these questions (smart people, intellectually honest, hungry, etc) but I’ve found that words don’t really describe the intangible traits that I look for when I stare in the eyes of an entrepreneur.  What I look for only comes across through stories, and this is a story about Steve Garrity, founder and CTO of Hearsay Social. 

Steve is a work hard, play hard, entrepreneur.  He works 20 hours a day as CTO, and rides motorcycles, mountain bikes, and numerous other high speed vehicles on weekends.  He is always moving fast, and he is always working.  Several months ago, Steve was hit by a falling tree limb while riding his motorcycle.  He almost died.  Steve broke several bones and is lucky to be alive.  He was rushed to the hospital and spent 2 days in the ICU. 

Many people when faced with a life or death experience put work on pause, but not Steve.  On the way to the hospital, Steve was e-mailing his co-founder, Clara, to let her know that he’d be online after his surgery.  He worked with his engineering team and even checked in features from his bed in the ICU.  He spent several months in a sling after his operation and coded with only one hand.  He never stopped working, and never took a day off (to this day, if you meet him, you will notice that he still only has limited mobility in one arm).   Why does Steve do this?  It’s because Steve is a great leader, puts his heart and soul into Hearsay Social, and would do anything not to let his team down. 

The most important lesson I learned as an entrepreneur is that start-up software is a war.  You need great leaders and great battle plans to be successful.  But more than that, you need people that want to win, against all odds.  The start-ups that win don’t necessarily have the best products, or the best stories.  Sometimes, it’s the teams that just plain want it more.  Anyone doubt that Steve wants to win?  Anyone want to compete against this guy? 

This is Steve Garrity’s story.  He is an entrepreneur I want to back.    

  • Posted 2 years ago
  • January 30th, 2012

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