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6 Secrets of This $100 Billion Venture Capitalist’s Success

Jason Green has helped create $100 billion in value. Who is Jason Green? How did he do it? Can you benefit from how he’s created so much wealth?

Let’s start with the first question. Green is founder and General Partner of Emergence Capital. Green is an East Coaster — he graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from Harvard with Distinction plus he worked as a Kauffman Fellow with Manhattan-based Venrock — who has achieved the Silicon Valley version of the American dream.

Green enjoys a spot on FORBES’s 2017 Top 100 Venture Capitalists Midas List. Here’s why: “A string of exits propels Emergence Capital investor Jason Green onto the Midas List, capped off by ServiceMax’s acquisition by GE in November 2016 for about $1 billion. In December 2015, Salesforce acquired Steelbrick for $360 million; Green was also an investor in TouchCommerce (acquired in August 2016 for $215 million) and Yammer (acquired in July 2012 by Microsoft for $1.2 billion). An investor in Aaron Levie’s enterprise company Box before it went public, Green’s portfolio currently includes HR software company Gusto, performance management startup BetterWorks and marketing software company Groundtruth.  The founding chairman of the Kauffman Fellows Program, Green is also a twin — married to a twin.

Here are five secrets to Green’s success.

1. Go where you feel excitement

It was the excitement of the dot-com boom that drew Green to Silicon Valley. As he said in a November 9 interview, “When I was at HBS, professor Jeff Timmons urged me to apply for the Kauffman Fellows program one week before the deadline. I applied and got in and went to work for Venrock with legendary partners like Peter Crisp and Roy Rothrock. In 1997 the Internet started taking off and I went to US Venture Partners.”

2. Bet on your vision

The dotcom bust was not pleasant for Green but it contributed to his decision to start his own firm. According to Green, “In 2002/2003 I decided to bet on myself. Emergence’s vision was [about the growing opportunity in] the enterprise cloud. My cofounders shared this vision and we have now raised $1 billion in four funds. When we started Emergence, we saw that the consumer Internet — with e-commerce companies like Amazon — was creating a demand for software that would affect the quality of the way consumers would spend their day. On the East Coast, investors thought that it was enterprise customers that were at the cutting edge. But we realized that consumers would be the early adopters of the cloud — they were two to three years ahead of the enterprise.”

3. Zig when everyone else zags

An early test of this thesis was Marc Benioff’s Salesforce.com. “Salesforce was a dot com at a time when nobody was interested. But we saw it as a big space with tons of innovation. Everyone else was retrenching and we thought there was not much to lose. Salesforce was creating real value for real businesses and would deliver recurring revenue from a big market. And as a leader Marc was beyond extraordinary. We did not expect that 15 years later it would be producing $10 billion in annual revenue and a $75 billion market capitalization,” he said.

4. Repeat a winning formula

With Salesforce, Emergence discovered a formula that has worked for other investments. As Green said, “We look at the unit economics of a business — comparing the cost to acquire a customer with the customer’s lifetime value. Once you understand how that works you can achieve success over 10 to 15 years. We saw that with SuccessFactors, Box, and ServiceMax. A great team plus great opportunity plus a product that customers like can yield great value.”

Emergence prefers to work with its portfolio companies to build their value over time. As he said, “With ServiceMax, we made a Series A investment in 2008. We recruited the CEO from SuccessFactors and the VP of Sales. We invested in five rounds of financing. We helped them form partnerships with Salesforce and GE. And it was acquired by GE for $1 billion,” he said.

Another successful Emergence portfolio company is life sciences cloud service provider, Veeva which was founded in 2008. “Peter Gassner started the company and it was profitable from the beginning and never used the first $4 million we invested.  It went public in October 2013 — [making Emergence 300 times its investment, according to Bloomberg] — and now has an $8.5 billion market capitalization. We’ve made 12 investments in companies like that.”

5, Make the pie bigger, don’t fight over your piece

Green sees some important differences in culture between the East and West coast venture capital firms. “Here we focus more on the size if the pie instead of our slice. We offer more founder-friendly terms. The East Coast is more conservative. On the West Coast we think that if a founder is smart, ambitious, passionate, intense, and driven they can learn a lot. The biggest risk is losing all your investment. We lose money on 20% to 30% of our investments. But we look at what the upside is if we’re right.”

6. Move from success to significance

As Green approaches 50, he has legacy on his mind — moving from “success to significance,” he said.  “I love what I do. I love the people I work with. And I am involved with two non-profits that help entrepreneurs. Success breeds success. You don’t have to hold your cards close to your chest. Our companies have created a million jobs and I feel good about that. We have a responsibility to give back to the community. Rockefeller University is one of our investors which has 23 Nobel laureates and is working on a cure for cancer. We’ve hired young people and are passing along the wisdom, process, approach and philosophy. It is fulfilling to see people succeed.”

These six principles could help you in your career — and what will make the difference is the intensity of the passion with which you apply your talents to the opportunities you find or create.

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