Nelson was actually born and raised here in New York City on the Upper East Side and moved out to the West Coast when he attended Stanford for his MBA. It was there that he felt the first spark of Silicon Valley inspiration, which ultimately led him to join Dropbox as an early employee.
There, Nelson led their partner network, helping mom-and-pop IT shops serving SMBs sell Dropbox products to their clients. He also worked on the revenue partnerships team, which was mostly focused on strategic business development with large flagship partners, such as Vodafone and SoftBank, in international markets.
Nelson then moved on to Social Capital, where he spent a few years investing in startups, with a portfolio that includes Slack, Clearbanc, WeeCare and FareHarbor.
After some turmoil at the firm, Social Capital founder Chamath Palihapitiya changed the structure of the firm to become more of a holding company than a traditional VC firm.
Now, Nelson has landed at FirstMark Capital.
FirstMark is one of the most vital VC firms in New York City, with a portfolio that includes Shopify, Airbnb, Discord, DraftKings, Brooklinen and Upwork. The firm has $1.6 billion under its management, and is known across the NYC ecosystem for its many events that bring startup founders and tech communities together.
The team at FirstMark includes Rick Heitzmann, Matt Turck, Amish Jani and Beth Ferreira. Nelson said that, predominantly, the team was a big part of what attracted him to FirstMark:
Their reputation speaks for itself, not only as early investors in some of the most transformational companies of the last decade and the returns that come with it, but most notably as true partners to the entrepreneurs leading those companies. That sentiment was overwhelming in my conversations across their portfolio and was also reinforced as I’ve gotten to know the team over these last few months. Ultimately, the venture business all comes down people, and the team at FirstMark is the group I want to come to work with everyday to help advance the meaningful companies of the next decade.
So what is Nelson looking for?
Coming from private equity, Nelson has a particular curiosity when it comes to the disruption of more traditional industries such as logistics, education and construction.
“I still think we’re in early innings,” said Nelson. “We’re seeing a lot of investment in finance, real estate, logistics, construction and the labor markets that support those huge multi-trillion dollar revenue markets. But we’re still in the early stages of that.”
At his core, however, Nelson is still a software investor and has experience in building out an operational playbook and a go-to-market playbook that can be applied to larger industries.