Why Ex-Entrepreneurs Make the Best Venture Capitalists

WSJ AcceleratorsAre ex-entrepreneurs best equipped to succeed as venture capitalists? That’s the topic of the week over at the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Accelerators’ blog, and I weigh in: When Investing in CEOs, It Takes One to Know One. Successful VCs come in all shades but, in my mind, those who have started their own companies have a little something extra in empathy and experience that others can’t match.

It’s not unlike sports, where some of the most successful coaches were, at one time, successful players. The San Francisco 49ers, led by Jim Harbaugh, are playing for the Super Bowl. Before reviving the franchise two years ago, Harbaugh had a successful career as a NFL quarterback. In sports as in venture capitalism, some of the most successful coaches and VCs are those who have been on the other side of the sideline or the check.

As CEO of Okta, I’ve certainly benefitted from the guidance of successful CEOs-turned-VCs. Ben Horowitz (general partner at Andreessen Horowitz) and Aneel Bhusri (partner at Greylock Partners) are on Okta’s Board of Directors. They are also successful entrepreneurs. Ben co-founded Loudcloud with Marc Andreessen, and Aneel Bhusri is co-founder and co-CEO of Workday.

To read my take on the CEO-turned-VC debate, please head over to The Accelerators.