Joined CMEA: 2001
Years Experience Building Companies: 33
Education: BS, United States Naval Academy
Board Seats: Apriso Corporation, Blekko, Inc., Hasso Plattner Ventures, Jobvite, Inc., LiveOps, Inc. (Observer), Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corporation, Luminate, Schooner Information Technology, Inc., Streamlite, Inc., Triporati (Observer), WorkingPoint
Deal Starters: The ability to attract the best people into doing the impossible
Non-starters: Big ego needs
Outside Activities: Growing olives and making music
When young entrepreneurs ask Jim about what it takes to build good companies, he points to his experience as a Navy pilot, which placed a premium on “leadership, decision making and a whole bunch of common sense.”
Jim is common sense personified. Like nearly all CMEA executives, Jim was a founder and entrepreneur prior to joining the firm. He founded Skyway Systems, a high technology services company that appeared twice on Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing U.S. companies. Inc. also named Jim as one of the Entrepreneurs of the Year.
As CMEA’s Managing General Partner and a member of the InformationTechnology team, Jim meets with hundreds of entrepreneurs every year. He’s formed some well-grounded ideas about what he’s looking for in people with whom he’s going to entrust an investor’s money.
“First of all are they passionate enough to drop everything and focus on nothing else but starting this company?” Jim asked. “Next, are they a good listener, open to all viewpoints, and finally do they have the ability to attract the best people into doing the impossible.”
Jim spends an equal amount of time meeting with potential investors, where “trust and transparency” are in high-demand these days. “Fundamentally, our investors are looking for the clearest, lowest-risk path to the highest return we can find,” Jim said. “That has as much to do with the team that’s doing it as the science behind the team.”
“Being a great investor takes years of hard work and a dose of failures mixed in with success,” Jim believes. “Building a network is the strongest advantage in this business and it never stops. Keep your life balanced so you can last 20 years and by then you might just have figured it out.”