Why New Enterprise Associates said it left Baltimore

Former NEA HQ on St. Paul St.

Tom Paine

New Enterprise Associates (commonly referred to as NEA) was once the largest venture capital firm in the world, and is still right near the top with $20 billion in assets under management. NEA launched its newest (and eventually largest) fund this spring, with a target of $3.6 billion. Curalate is a Philly company in its portfolio; larger examples are Uber, and Workday. NEA is equally as powerful on the life sciences side.

NEA profiles today as a large Silicon Valley VC with a strong east coast presence. But if you haven’t been around for awhile, you may not realize it was Baltimore born & bred, a product of an innovative investment management ecosystem including T Rowe Price and Alex Brown.

But in early June 2009, Louis Citron, the gen­eral coun­sel of New En­ter­prise As­so­ci­ates on St. Paul Street, sent an email to Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon announcing NEA was leaving Baltimore. This was not like the Irsays leaving town in the middle of the night for a new stadium in Indy.

In the email,  Citron told the mayor the firm is mov­ing to the sub­urbs be­cause their em­ploy­ees no longer feel safe in the city. “We had peo­ple held up at gun­point,” Citron said. “A num­ber of us have had our cars bro­ken into, and it’s very ex­pen­sive to get them re­paired.” In the e-mail, he noted the “re­cent lo­cal beat­ings by rov­ing teenagers dur­ing the day in this neigh­bor­hood, the rau­cous club in the base­ment of the Belvedere and other gang vi­o­lence through­out the city.” NEA worried about the safety of clients visiting the office.

NEA might have eventually left anyway, though its east coast headquarters is now in DC. But its hard to lose economic gems like that and remain viable as a business center.