The Summer of Venture Capital Promotions Isn’t Over Yet

September 13, 2018, 1:01 PM UTC
Courtesy of Canaan Partners

Venture capital firms have had a busy year.

In January, BoxGroup promoted Nimi Katragadda to partner. In May, Bain Capital hired Sarah Smith as a general partner. This summer, Andreessen Horowitz appointed three new general partners — Katie Haun, Connie Chan, and Angela Strange — in a matter of three months.

Now, early-stage venture firm Canaan Partners is continuing the trend. Canaan has added two principals — Laura Chau and Byron Ling — to its consumer tech team. Chau was promoted internally, while Ling joins the firm after three years as an investor at Primary Venture Partners. Canaan also recently promoted Rayfe Gaspar-Asaoka to principal with a focus on deep tech.

Unlike most venture firms, Canaan’s principals lead deals, write checks, and sit on boards.

Maha Ibrahim, a general partner who joined Canaan as a principal in 2000, told Fortune that the firm is devoted to ensuring a smooth generational transition. She says that every GP at Canaan — with the exception of one — was promoted from within.

“It’s about constant improvement,” Ibrahim said. “We want to hire people who are much smarter than us.”

Chau just completed her MBA from Stanford and has worked at Canaan since 2014 when she first joined as an analyst. In March, she published a post titled “What’s Rarer than a Unicorn in Silicon Valley? A Female VC,” in which she explains that the path to general partner as a woman in venture isn’t always the most direct.

“As I’ve embarked on my own journey to become a GP, I’ve experienced moments where I’ve lacked clarity as to how to move forward along the path,” she writes. “Because there are few examples of women venture capitalists who have come before me, the steps to take aren’t always obvious.”

Ling was an early employee at online shopping company Gilt Groupe in 2010, received his MBA from Wharton, and joined as an investor at Primary Venture Partners. At Primary, he invested in companies including CoEdition, Mirror, and Noken.

Chau and Ling will both be investing in consumer technology startups. Chau said she’s particularly interested in themes around new modes or platforms for commerce. “Shopping and commerce have become so event, experience and engagement-driven,” she said, giving examples of companies like Packagd and ShopShops.

Canaan has a mentorship system where general partners are assigned to junior investment professionals within the firm. Together, they undergo regular performance reviews and have discussions throughout the year, but Canaan general partner Dan Ciporin insists that principals remain independent check-writers.

“Venture capital is an apprenticeship business, and it’s awfully hard to have an apprenticeship unless people are actually doing deals, taking board seats, and interacting with companies,” he told Fortune.

Ling added that mentorship can help inform decision-making, but his independence as a dealmaker is what he values most. “If you’re not empowered to take risks and be accountable, I think there’s a limit on what the mentorship piece can do,” he said.

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