Every famous Silicon Valley venture capital firm is driven by a partner with a reputation of working relentlessly and tirelessly to win deals. At Kleiner Perkins, it is John Doerr. At Sequoia, it is Doug Leone. At New Enterprise Associates, it is Dick Kramlich.
Already having made serious money since launching NEA 29 years ago, Dick Kramlich, 72, is still moving at the rapid pace he always has. Now, Kramlich is moving to Shanghai for a year, to boost his firm’s profile there. The WSJ’s Rebecca Buckman writes about the move.
Kramlich is known for his big appetite for risk (see our coverage of some of the firm’s more gutsy bets, and how they’ve paid off). He first began investing in China in 2000, back when most Silicon Valley firms hadn’t really started to take China seriously. He was decisive in his firm’s decision to invest $300 million in Chinese companies, beginning with chip maker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp.
Kramlich told me a couple of years ago that NEA made money off of that investment, but SMIC which went public with great success, has since had a rocky ride, and is trading at $5 now, down from $17.50 when its shares first were offered (see our coverage of Kramlich’s investment in SMIC here). It’s not clear whether the firm has made money on SMIC, or on its other Chinese investments, a question not asked in the WSJ article. (We’ve asked too).
NEA has followed a more “opportunistic” strategy than its peers. It moved more rapidly to invest in later stage companies, when it became more lucrative to do so. That has created some confusion for entrepreneurs, because it creates the appearance it is no longer focused on rolling up its sleeves and helping entrepreneurs in their earliest stages — the classic role associated with Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Not long ago we wrote a piece about NEA had apparently abandoned early stage investing. NEA partner Kittu Kolluri responded to that piece, saying we’d misunderstood, and provided stats showing the firm is still investing in lots of early companies, even at the $1 million or less level.
Early on his career, Kramlich was the first person to have invested in Ethernet technology with Bob Metcalfe. Before joining NEA, Kramlich was one of the first venture capitalists in the valley, working with Arthur Rock at the firm Arthur Rock & Associates. Rock invested in Intel and Apple.
Kramlich said he considering raising an investment fund denominated in Chinese yuan to more easily take companies companies public on Chinese stock exchanges.