New NEVCA director Jody Rose has seen the ups and downs of startup life

Jody A. Rose, the new executive director of the New England Venture Capital Association, pictured in the offices of Highland Capital Partners in Cambridge.
Jody A. Rose, the new executive director of the New England Venture Capital Association, pictured in the offices of Highland Capital Partners in Cambridge.

From the outside, technology startups can seem like a glamorous life filled with stock options and cushy office perks.

Jody A. Rose has seen the hard-working reality, from scrambling to launch a new product to getting laid off when a company changes course.

“It’s kind of the blessing, but the curse, of the startup world,” Rose said. “What makes it so dynamic is that they’re always thinking and changing and growing.”

These are lessons Rose brings to her new job leading the New England Venture Capital Association.

Rose, 39, started this week as the trade group’s new executive director. She succeeds C.A. Webb, who led the group for about three years before leaving this summer to form her own venture investment firm.

The group has become more prominent in past few years, with membership growing by a third and its annual budget increasing from $160,000 to about $1 million under Webb’s leadership.

NEVCA has a strong hand in promoting the region’s technology and life sciences sectors, with events like annual NEVY awards and programs like Tech Generation, which matches Boston-area college students with internships at local startups.

But the NEVCA also takes on serious public policy initiatives, including the push to relax state laws about noncompetition agreements that can limit what workers do after they leave their current employer.

The association has emerged as a primary voice for the innovation sector’s lobbying on the issue, which has at times placed venture capitalists at odds with established tech companies like EMC Corp.

“I view it as a nonprofit organization with the mission of building the best possible tech ecosystem here in Boston,” said Founder Collective managing director Eric Paley, an NEVCA board member. “We have a lot of great assets, but there is a lot of opportunity to make those assets work together.”

Rose, a native New Yorker, is a first-generation American. Her parents are both from Jamaica and came to the states as young people looking for new opportunities.

Her father, who had a passion for hunting and fishing, opened a gun store that primarily sold firearms to the police department. Her mother started as a secretary in the banking industry, eventually working her way into private banking. When a group of co-workers at HSBC USA Inc. left to found their own private bank, Rose’s mother went along with them, jumping into a startup in her 60s.

“When I look at my parents, they’re very entrepreneurial — both scrappy and sophisticated at the same time,” Rose said. “And I think it’s done really good job of planting the seed in me.”

Rose stands out in the mostly white and male world of venture investing. She noted that about a quarter of the NEVCA’s board seats are held by women, and said helping to bolster diversity in the startup world is a key mission being embraced by the broader venture capital sector.

“I think it is my responsibility to step boldly into this role. And I think it’s also my responsibility to really help provide other people who look like me the opportunity to step boldly,” she said.

Rose began her career with marketing and sales jobs in the television industry, eventually helping Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. grow new cable channels like HGTV and Food Network.

A family move brought her to Boston in 2007, and she landed a job at Eons Inc., a social media startup headed by Monster Worldwide Inc. founder Jeff Taylor.

Rose was put in charge of quickly building the company’s digital ad network, but was laid off when Eons shifted from offering a social network for baby boomers to working on a dating service, she said.

That led her to online retail startup Rue La La, which was focused on limited-time “flash sales” of high-end fashion. Rose helped the startup launch a new business, offering deals on restaurants, spas, and other local businesses to its customer base.

That experiment foundered, part of a boom-and-bust cycle for e-commerce companies around that time, and Rose was once again looking for work. “Because I was so close to the business and saw what was happening on a day-to-day basis, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going to come next,” she said.

She found her next job at Swirl Networks Inc., a Boston-based company that sells software to connect merchants to shoppers’ mobile devices by using location-sensing Bluetooth beacons.

Rose was on the Swirl team before it launched its product, and worked on the company’s partnerships with brands before it moved away from a consumer-facing app and decided to focus on selling technology to other businesses, she said.

Rose took some time off after having her second child. She later worked for a New York-based company that produces events for the pharmaceutical industry, but wanted to work with startups in the Boston area again.

“I love being in Boston. I love living here, I love the access that I’ve had to the startup community, to be a part of these businesses that were completely disruptive,” she said. “I was missing that. So this was an opportunity for me to come back home.”

Paley said Rose’s experience with the ups and downs of startups made her stand out from other candidates who had similar passion for the local tech sector.

“We wanted someone who understands the plight of the entrepreneur, the process of building a startup company, someone who had been through the hard stuff and some of the great stuff,” he said. “There were a lot of really great candidates, but not necessarily someone who brought all of those things together in the way Jody did.”