Photo: Robyn Twomey
By JP Mangalindan
July 25, 2013

Jeff Jordan has his hands full. He’s balancing an empty serving platter in one hand and an oven tray with salmon — adapted from a Chez Panisse recipe — in the other as he makes dinner in the expansive kitchen of his Portola Valley, Calif., home. Cooking comes easily to the 54-year-old Jordan. As a teen, he became a brunch chef in his native Philadelphia, serving up eggs Benedict and steamed monkfish. (“I was hiring and firing at 17 — a good skill to learn early on,” he jokes.) He even thought about culinary school before going for his MBA at Stanford instead.

Many in Silicon Valley are glad he did. Jordan was an eBay executive and the CEO of the online-reservations-focused OpenTable before becoming a partner at venture capitalists Andreessen Horowitz two years ago. “Really good operators don’t necessarily make good VCs, but he does,” explains eBay CEO John Donahoe of his technical, data-loving ex-colleague. Marc Andreessen puts it more simply: “He’s working out extremely well.” Many of the firm’s consumer-startup deals flow through Jordan, and his investment portfolio already includes hot properties Airbnb, Fab, Lookout, and Pinterest.

Jordan’s experience in Silicon Valley makes him unique among venture capitalists. He managed eBay’s website during the early 2000s and championed the unlikely purchase of PayPal in 2002. By then, eBay auctioneers were already using the online-payments business for one in four successful bids. But PayPal clashed with Billpoint, a payment provider eBay had previously acquired. “Jeff argued successfully that we shouldn’t be betting against our users,” recalls former eBay executive Michael Dearing. “We should be embracing PayPal, not fighting it.” (The bet paid off: PayPal accounted for 40% of eBay’s overall revenues last year.) Jordan also spearheaded eBay Stores, on which merchants could list all their wares in one place. The feature added some $100 million to the company’s bottom line within a year of its launch.

Now Jordan’s business is distilling that kind of experience into advice. When an Airbnb guest defaced a San Francisco home in 2011, the company struggled with how to handle the debacle. Jordan advised CEO Brian Chesky to establish a $50,000 property-protection plan and even gave it a name: the Airbnb Guarantee. “For all we knew, we would get $50 million in claims,” recalls Chesky. (They didn’t.) In the long run, the policy helped restore owners’ good faith in the service, keeping Airbnb on the fast track, rather than flaming out.

Jordan has been approached with executive positions at Facebook and other companies, preferring his current behind-the-scenes role. “I’m the anti-networker,” claims Jordan over a simple dessert of sliced fruit. He says he mostly abstains from the tech social scene. “It’s a karma thing: If you’re helpful, respectful, and do good work, you kind of accidentally build a network.” Despite his low-key attitude, it’s clear the Valley is interested in what Jordan’s cooking.

This story is from the August 12, 2013 issue of Fortune.


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