Investor Connie Chan has made such an impact on her colleagues at Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) since joining the firm in 2011 that today, they’re announcing Chan’s appointment to general partner.
It’s a big deal for the Sand Hill Road venture firm for numerous reasons. First, Chan becomes just the second woman in the firm’s nine-year history to be appointed to the role of general partner. As readers may recall, a16z announced the first female general partner in its history late last month, bringing aboard former federal prosecutor Katie Haun to help lead its new cryptocurrency fund.
According to Jeff Jordan — himself an a16z general partner and the former CEO of OpenTable — the nine-year-old firm has also never before promoted someone from within to the post of general partner, instead pulling in people like Jordan himself with senior operating experience. (Jordan also distantly held posts as the president of PayPal, the CFO of Hollywood Entertainment, and the CEO of Reel.com.)
The “policy was not to promote internally,” says Jordan. Yet such thinking has changed recently as a16z has grown and the operating functions that it uses to support its portfolio companies have matured. Indeed, when it came to Chan, a Stanford alum who logged four years with the private equity firm Elevation Partners and another two years in product management roles at HP and Palm, a lack of direct experience in scaling a business was eventually outweighed by her ability to identify and support talented founders, Jordan says.
He credits Chan, for example, with the firm’s initial investment in the digital scrapbook site Pinterest. “It wasn’t a contentious discussion, but Connie really pounding the table is what led to our investment in the company,” he says.
Chan also brings to the table two other things desperately needed at Andreessen Horowitz and ever other U.S. venture firm: an understanding of China’s market and key contacts there. From her earliest days with the firm, Chan has spearheaded its Asia network, helping the firm’s portfolio companies navigate regional opportunities through quarterly visits to the country, as well as gaining a “one- to four-year advantage in [understanding] consumer mobile” trends in the U.S., which often start first in China, she notes.
Consider that Chan pushed a16z to invest in the electric bike and scooter company Lime last year after studying the unit economics of Lime’s China-based predecessors Ofo and Mobike. (She calls Lime’s very recent funding, which was led by Uber and GV and will see Lime more closely integrated with Uber, a “big, big positive.”)
Chan, who’d worked for HP in Beijing, also introduced the a16z portfolio company, Lyft, to the China-based ride-hailing giant Didi back in 2015. Didi wound up investing $100 million investment in Lyft as a result and announcing a ride-sharing, cross-country collaboration as part of the tie-up.
If you’re wondering if Chan’s new role suggests in any way that Andreessen Horowitz might begin making direct investments in China, she says it will not, that the “focus will still be on the U.S., with most of our deals in Silicon Valley.”
We separately ask if the firm might be gearing up to announce a new fund, given the recent appointments of both Chan and Haun — who bring the number of general partners at a16z to 12. Another clue that its newest vehicle might not too far off is the fact the firm announced its most recent, flagship fund a little more than two years ago. The answer we are given: “There’s nothing to announce at this time.”