Canaan Partners gives $20 million to its two youngest employees to invest in consumer startups

Canaan Partners, the venture capital firm that has backed companies like Skybox Imaging, and Lending Club, has a new investment strategy. Called Canaan Beta, it entails setting aside $20 million of its $800 million fund to its two youngest employees, and then empowering them to make their own investment decisions as a duo. The bet is that, just how Jeremy Liew found out about Snapchat from his colleague’s teenage daughter, Canaan’s youngest staffers will find other potentially lucrative opportunities.

As the speed of technological innovation continues to increase, the barriers to starting a tech company decline and the demographics in the U.S. go in the direction of non-white, Canaan envisions its Beta program being potentially game-changing for the firm. Since January, Hootan Rashidifard (28 years old) and Adina Tecklu (27 years old) have invested in five seed stage startups, with checks ranging in size from $250,000 – $500,000 each. Before Canaan Beta kicked off, Rashidifard and Tecklu worked as analysts at Canaan, where they have supported partners and founders but have not been autonomous check writers. By empowering its two youngest employees with decision-making power, Canaan hopes to better tap into the non-white, younger consumer market.

Rashidifard and Tecklu, both people of color, have joined an industry where 73 percent of investment professionals are white, according to a report from the Kapor Center for Social Impact. Meanwhile, just 12 percent of all investment professionals are women.

“We can use our backgrounds and our perspectives to see opportunities that others might overlook, which is really awesome,” Rashidifard told TechCrunch. “We might be seeing something that other people aren’t.”

More specifically, Rashidifard and Tecklu are looking at companies in blockchain, gaming, digital media, social and digital health.

“We’re not looking for incremental improvements to products or services,” Tecklu told TechCrunch. “We’re looking at category defining and category creating companies here. So the scope feels quite large but what they all have in common is that we’re really backing tenacious founders with audacious visions for what the future looks like and they’re building towards that.”

To hear more about Tecklu’s new role, and her take on all-things technology and culture, check out the latest episode of CTRL+T.