Accel, the VC firm that has been involved in some of the biggest deals in the most recent tech boom — startups backed include Facebook, Supercell, Dropbox, Deliveroo, Slack and Atlassian, Spotify, Flipkart and many more — has appointed a new partner, Luciana Lixandru.
Her rise at Accel — she was previously a principal investor — speaks to the evolution of the 30 year-old firm. Originally from Romania, and now based out of London, Lixandru is only the third female partner at Accel. (One other, Sonali De Rycker, also happens to be based out of London; and the other is Tracy Sedlock, the COO out of Palo Alto; another female partner, Theresia Gouw, left in 2014 to found Aspect Ventures.) She also, at 32, ties with one other partner, Nir Blumberger, as the youngest.
Lixandru focuses on consumer internet, marketplace and software companies, and she is very much on the hunt for new deals (no Brexit impact here, she told us in an interview).
She has been at the center of some of Accel’s more interesting investments out of London in her last five years with the firm.
They include Deliveroo, the food-delivery business that focuses on a smaller group of hip eateries and competes (fiercely) with the likes of Uber Eats and Amazon Restaurants among the newer guard of delivery startups, but also Just-Eat and others that have been around for years. Deliveroo’s last round of $275 million in August 2016 valued the company at around $1 billion.
She is also an investor (and a board observer) in Wallapop, the used-goods marketplace that last year merged with LetGo to take on eBay and Craigslist (it, too, recently raised a ton of money). Other portfolio companies she’s been involved with include investments in Europe’s Catawiki, the online auction house; and Selency, a used furniture and home decoration site. She also worked with search startup Algolia and others.
Unlike some investors, Lixandru doesn’t come to the VC world having been involved in a startup, unless you count Lixandru herself. Born in a small town in Romania to parents who trained as engineers and seem to have only lately emerged as entrepreneurs themselves (mother is a textile engineer, father “built bridges” but now owns a small bakery), Lixandru surprised her decidedly “not international” family when she told them she wanted to go to university in the U.S.
“At 16, I had this idea that I had to study in the U.S.,” she said. “It was a crazy idea at the time, deciding to do that in 2001. Romania had not been out of communism for that long.”
She applied for a few colleges and got a scholarship to go to Georgetown, where she majored in math and economics, with the intention of eventually becoming a math teacher. After that she went to Morgan Stanley, thinking it would be a couple of years off before graduate school, “but I never went back.”
From there, already in London, she moved to investment firm Summit Partners and became interested in early stage investing. Eventually Accel approached her.
As a female, and a younger one at that, Lixandru is, without doing much more than simply being there, already pushing boundaries in the VC world, but Lixandru sees herself as part of an existing trend at the firm (if not the wider VC world at large).
“What I really like about Accel is that the team is already diverse,” she said. “If you look at our team members in London, we cover 10 countries, and 40 percent of the investment team are women. I think we’re already a very diverse bunch. Accel is one of these places where you are appreciated regardless of your background or gender.”