Connie Chan (陈梅陵) is one of the most successful women in venture capital. Known for her aptitude in navigating the Chinese startup scene, she’s known by many as the “China Whisperer.”
Last year, she became general partner at Andreessen Horowitz despite missing the firm’s previously steadfast pre-requisite: being a founder of a major tech company. Andreessen Horowitz also did not promote from within. However, Co-Founder Ben Horowitz knew that the firm needed to break the rules for Connie.
“When we founded the firm, we made a brand promise that if you raised money from us, we would put a Founder or CEO of a significant technology company on your board,” he wrote in a blog article simply entitled, “Connie Chan.”
“That was our General Partner requirement, because we were determined to be the best place for technical founders to learn how to be CEO […] These were great ideas, but it meant that we did not promote General Partners from within. And in my heart, I knew that one day we would have to promote Connie or miss out. The thought was making me a little insane.”
Connie joined Andreessen Horowitz in 2011 as an analyst. She led the firm’s network in Asia to connect enterprises in Silicon Valley with opportunities throughout Asia and vice versa, as many Asian companies wanted to comprehend the tech landscape in Silicon Valley.
“After looking at the broader ecosystem, she decided that we needed to understand the innovations in China much better if our companies were going to compete, so she took that on personally,” Ben wrote. “Yes, you read that right. She took on China. And, as with everything Connie did, she quickly became the best at that.”
She found numerous trends in consumer technology in both markets, leading talks such as A Whirlwind Tour Through Tech Trends in China.
“Learning from China involves rethinking our mindsets around it …. beginning with how to be open to learning from China in the first place, to preparing for future competition from there as Chinese companies aim to realize their global ambitions,” she wrote on the company’s blog.
The Stanford alumna has been ranked on the LinkedIn NextWave Top Professional 35 and Under list, Wired’s Next 20 Tech Visionary, and Fast Company’s Most Creative People 2017. She is also a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. Her articles about technological innovations in China won her a Sidney award from WeChat.
As an engineer-turned-venture capitalist, Connie is used to being the only woman in the room. However, she has noted that her female instincts have often given her a leg up in her career. She was the only woman on the Andreessen Horowitz investing team when the firm first looked at Pinterest, which has a predominantly female audience. She advocated for the startup, leading an investment fund of $27 million.
“I could see and bring a point of view that the other folks could not see,” she told CNN.
Her talent, intelligence, and ambition were undeniable, leading the firm to promote her to general partner—something it had never done before.
“I had seen something in Connie that in the course of my career, I had almost never seen,” Ben explained in his blog post. “From the way she answered every question to the way she had analyzed the firm to the poise she exhibited in the very way she sat in the chair, Connie was determined to be the best at everything she did. There was no question in my mind that she was destined for greatness.”