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A Video Conversation with Ashton Newhall, Managing Partner of Greenspring Associates on Lessons Learned- Part 5

Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 Building a billion-dollar investment firm by putting trust and relationships first ashton-newhallAshton Newhall is the co-founder and co-managing partner of Greenspring Associates. Founded in 2000, Greenspring is a leading global investment firm that today manages over $3.5 billion in capital commitments worldwide. Greenspring acts primarily as a fund of funds, backing a host of dynamic venture capital firms, including Greycroft Partners, Revolution, and Volition Capital. Additionally, Greenspring has been involved with private companies such as GrubHub, FanDuel, and Alibaba Group. Before starting Greenspring, Ashton Newhall was an associate at T. Rowe Price, where he held the distinction of being one of youngest marketers of the firm’s investment management services. You mentioned that your family has been in the venture business for three generations. What lessons have you learned from the older generations? ASHTON NEWHALL: From my grandfather, I can remember a conversation we had around the dinner table when I was quite young that went something to the effect of “Can you time the asset class, and is it one in which you can really tell—either through capital flows or through a variety of reasons—that now is the perfect time to invest in venture, now is the perfect time to abandon investing in this segment of the market?” And I guess the conclusion I’ve come to through the years is the answer to that is “no,” that there are so many factors that equate to good or bad periods of time to invest in this asset class. My grandfather, having been involved since the 1950s—my father having been involved since the late 60s—they all might have thought at various points in time that there were better or worse times and I think, at the end of the day, it really comes down to asset selection and the companies that you partner with or the managers who in turn invest in the companies that you partner with. There have been incredibly valuable companies created in good and bad times. And, at the end of the day, you’re either going to be a participant in those outliers or you’re not. So, you need to find entrepreneurs, or you need to find management teams that are backing entrepreneurs that are skilled at finding those outliers in good, bad, and even indifferent times. The question is “was I groomed to be a venture capitalist or was it serendipity?” I suppose on many levels I never thought I’d be doing this business. If you would ask my father, if he was sitting here—or even my grandfather—I think they would say when I was, I don’t know, 8, 9 or 10, there’s no chance he’s going to be in this business. But it’s a calling of sorts, and I found myself sitting across the street, ironically being more and more involved in things venture even though, when I went to go join T. Rowe Price, I actually thought I was getting into an entirely different field: it was finance but not designed to explicitly not be within venture. But, as luck would have it, as we explored things like putting together the fund to funds that I described, I ended up getting more and more involved in this asset class. Over time, I came to learn that it was a passion of mine, despite actually my explicit goal to go pursue something different than what the family business was; not necessarily in that my father worked for my grandfather—they were very distinct organizations but—the role that they played within the industry was quite similar. I’d say that there’s a significant distinction, though, between what they did and what I do as a provider of capital to funds and coming in at a later stage, I often say that in terms of what they do, I have great admiration for this notion of being able to see around the corner, identify paradigm shifts before they occur, and financing them at a seed stage; that’s a very different business than to the one that I’m in and I have a lot of respect for what they’ve been able to accomplish in their careers.

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