Sea anemones are seemingly primitive animals that, along with corals, jellyfish, and hydras, constitute the oldest eumetazoan phylum, the Cnidaria. Here, we report a comparative analysis of the draft genome of an emerging cnidarian model, the starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. The sea anemone genome is complex, with a gene repertoire, exon-intron structure, and large-scale gene linkage more similar to vertebrates than to flies or nematodes, implying that the genome of the eumetazoan ancestor was similarly complex. Nearly one-fifth of the inferred genes of the ancestor are eumetazoan novelties, which are enriched for animal functions like cell signaling, adhesion, and synaptic transmission. Analysis of diverse pathways suggests that these gene “inventions” along the lineage leading to animals were likely already well integrated with preexisting eukaryotic genes in the eumetazoan progenitor.