For the third year in a row, Venture Capital Journal presents our list of 40 Rising Stars under the age of 40.
Many of our Rising Stars over the past three years have been up-and-comers and many are under-the-radar types. But one thing is certain: they are skilled professionals to get to know and network with if you can.
We’ve tracked the previous Rising Stars and how they change jobs, launch new ventures, get promoted and continue to inspire those around them while leading their peers and learning the business.
How to nominate someone for Rising Stars
It was a challenging task to produce just 40 professionals, culled from a list of more than 170. But we hope you not only peruse the list and read about their journeys, but reach out to them on LinkedIn. This matrix of 40 Rising Stars contains someone you should tap into and get to know; chances are, they’ll be around for years to come.
And we are certain they will shape the venture community as the next generation of rising stars.
In October, we asked readers of Venture Capital Journal to send us their nominations for our third annual Rising Stars list, which recognizes up-and-coming professionals in the venture community. You overwhelmed us with more than 170 candidates, 13 percent more than last year. In determinging our list, we looked whether candidates accomplished something notable over the last year.
Our Rising Stars’ average age was 33.4, with the youngest 24 and the oldest 39, with 24 females and 16 males. The list includes up-and-comers, who we call ‘Next generation VC.’ Other categories are ‘Founder VC,’ ‘LP,’ ‘Attorney’ and ‘Platform/Talent star’ to recognize those who focus more on talent acquisition or other value-add services. By geography, 32 are from the US, with 15 of them calling San Francisco home. But they also come from New York, Washington DC, Miami, Cincinnati, Boston, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Seattle. A total of eight are from outside the US, including Budapest, Helsinki, London, Montreal, Toronto, Paris and Vancouver.
Jonathan Andersin | 37
Andersin advised on his first VC transaction in 2014 and has been active in the field ever since, having worked on some of the top Finnish deals. In 2021, he published a well-received Finnish handbook on VC investments, the first ever in Finland. As part of his involvement with the start-up and VC communities, he has spoken at various training events organized by local business and venture associations, as well as at events such as Slush, an annual start-up and tech event.
Elina Berrebi | 34
Berrebi in 2021 helped close her first fund, at €250 million, for Revaia. The firm, which launched as Gaia Capital Partners when it was founded in 2018 by Alice Albizzati and Berrebi, also rebranded in the last year. It is considered Europe’s largest female-founded VC fund, the firm claims. In 2021, Berrebi contributed to the investment of 12 companies via the firm, including Gohenry and Frontify. She also oversaw its international expansion with the opening of a Berlin office in early 2021 to cover the DACH and Nordics markets, and she spearheads the firm’s sustainability strategy. Revaia is working on a second fund and is planning to expand its European investment and operational teams.
Ebony Brown | 33
Brown joined Rethink Education in 2019 as a principal and was promoted in the fall of 2021 to partner, where she has joined the investment committee to help shape future firm strategy. Since joining the firm, she helped to pioneer Rethink Equity, a $5 million carveout to invest in underrepresented people of color. During the pandemic, she has helped to connect portfolio CEOs to customers at scale. Prior to joining Rethink Education, she was the director of US Ventures at Village Capital, advising entrepreneurs, leading sourcing and diligence, and providing training and support for the firm’s portfolio. She also serves on the boards of Rethink portfolio companies AllHere and Anthill AI.
Anup Chamrajnagar | 24
Chamrajnagar serves as a key member of the Point72 Ventures investment team, helping to lead the development of new fintech-focused investment themes. These include such areas as the independent contractor and creator economy, crypto institutional technology and commercial banking infrastructure. The firm says that with his help, Point72 has deployed $150 million into 21 new investments, 15 of which he has taken a leading role for conducting due diligence. He joined the boards of four companies he led investments in last year and serves as an observer for an additional 12 portfolio companies. Some of his most notable investments include Ontop, Zero Hash, Lockstep, Finlync, Abound and Productfy.
Shuo Chen | 29
Having started her own fund – Innovation Overflow VC in 2016 and which is now going on Fund III – Chen is seeing her portfolio companies getting acquired by Goldman Sachs, Ford, Caterpillar and such unicorns as Boom Supersonic, Checkr, GrubMarket and Instacart. As part of her work on the Global Committee of 100 Women in Finance, an industry association for women in finance, she mentors students and young professionals. Chen is one of the youngest faculty members at UC Berkeley, where she has been a lecturer since 2010. In 2021, she was appointed to California’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, which advises the governor on mental health policy, particularly on supporting minority communities.
Soraya Darabi | 38
Co-founder and GP
Trail Mix Ventures
At the early-stage firm Trail Mix Ventures, Darabi looks for interesting and impactful technologies. Her résumé includes such notable investments as Figs (NYSE: FIGS), Casper (NYSE: CSPR), Lightwell (acquired by Twitter), Cityblock Health, Parsley Health and Gimlet (acquired by Spotify), among others. She previously co-founded Foodspotting, one of the first geo-location apps. At TMV, she and her co-founder, Marina Hadjipateras, have been working to close Fund II as their team has aided in the raise of $400 million in follow-on capital for Fund I portfolio companies.
Katelyn Donnelly | 35
“Prescient” is the first word one of the LPs of Avalanche VC calls Donnelly, a solo GP. The LP adds that she is a remarkable investor, operator and future-thinker and points to her newsletters that describe avalanches coming in the future. In 2021, she launched her fund and has cultivated a strong LP following by offering co-investments into vetted deals. Donnelly’s portfolio includes PrismsVR.com, which provides a math curriculum that uses virtual reality, and Upstock.io, which helps companies motivate workers by unlocking equity rewards. They are among two dozen of her deals, establishing herself as an active pre-seed investor around web3, crypto and the ownership economy.
Elizabeth Edwards | 39
Founder and managing partner
H Venture Partners
In the past year, Edwards has led H Venture Partners to bring together more than 75 consumer and retail industry experts to invest in its first fund and raise $10 million aimed at consumer start-ups. With the fund, announced in July, she is now investing in purpose-driven, science-based consumer brands led by experienced and diverse teams, including the wellness brand called Prima, which raised $9.2 million in seed funding. She also backed actress Cameron Diaz’s organic, transparent wine brand Avaline, in a $9.5 million Series A. In addition, she is an advocate for early literacy, working with literacy programs Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library.
Chrissy Farr | 33
The former journalist-turned-VC has had a busy year. She dove headfirst into her thematic investment area of behavioral health, leading her first deal (undisclosed) while nearing the completion of a second investment. As part of her effort to raise her and the firm’s brand’s profile in a crowded and noisy VC market, she launched a healthtech focused newsletter, called OV Second Opinion, which gets an average of 35,000 reads for each new story. The firm says these articles have led to more than 100 inbound leads from founders and fellow investors.
Justin Fishner-Wolfson | 39
More than a decade ago, Fishner-Wolfson left Founders Fund to co-found 137 Ventures. It was a bold move to launch a firm with a twist of providing liquidity to start-up founders as a way to gain shares of highly sought-after companies. It hadn’t been done at scale before. Since then, the firm has invested in more than 75 companies, of which 13 have gone public, including seven in the last year-plus. In 2021, the firm raised $350 million for its fifth and largest fund in its history, while also nearly doubling the team in the last three years, proving that the firm’s thesis
has paid off.
Cathy Gao | 33
Sapphire tells us that Gao, who joined in 2019, has had the fastest promotion track to partner in the firm’s history. And she is the youngest and first female partner of Sapphire Ventures. Gao leverages her experiences as a woman and a first-generation immigrant to connect and support entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. She’s an active All Raise partner and recently spoke at the Women’s Venture Summit to help champion female voices. In April 2021, she oversaw a $91 million Series C for women-led Medable and now advises as a board observer.
Aike ‘Tiffany’ Ho | 31
At ACME, where she focuses on digital health, fintech and consumer investments, Ho’s path to healthcare investing was shaped in part by her experience of receiving a cancer diagnosis in her mid-20s. From navigating the US healthcare system as a patient, she has now invested in innovative healthcare tech, such as The Pill Club, with a $41.9 million Series B led by ACME. A member of the LGBTQ and tech communities, she volunteered to lead a data engineering team at the onset of the pandemic to support states and cities, including Pennsylvania and New York City, in their covid-19 response.
Philine Huizing | 29
Since joining the firm in 2016, Huizing has developed her understanding of the infrastructure software and cybersecurity tech sectors. She has helped lead numerous deals, including the $5 billion acquisition of Veeam and investments in Esper, Lansweeper and Octopus Deploy, among others. She currently sits on the boards of eight companies. In 2021, Huizing co-led the working team for Insight’s Vision Capital fund to invest in diverse-led, early-stage vehicles, resulting in commitments to 12 funds. She will continue to lead this work as Insight expands the Vision Capital LP Strategy.
Nnamdi Iregbulem | 30
Lightspeed Venture Partners
A self-taught programmer turned VC, Iregbulem joined Lightspeed in 2020 with the mission to support entrepreneurs in building next-generation, productivity-enhancing software for developers and other technical knowledge workers.
Since joining the firm, he has invested or supported such portfolio companies as Vectorized, Materialize, Snorkel AI, Matillion and Polar Signals. One of his previous investments, GitLab, recently went public, and two of his current portfolio companies, Snorkel AI and Matillion, reached unicorn status in 2021. Iregbulem speaks routinely at conferences, discussing the state of software development by Black people, among various other topics.
Christopher Johnson | 38
During the last year, Johnson helped the firm raise over $600 million for its 10th venture fund of funds and launch its first secondaries-focused vehicle. He also has made a significant impact on investing and fundraising, most recently in overcoming the early pandemic-related market uncertainty. Knightsbridge Advisers says Johnson has a sense of the firm and its place in the venture ecosystem.
“His focus on operational excellence across the investment team stands out and has been crucial to the firm’s success in this remote environment,” says managing principal George Arnold.
Julie Kainz | 31
Kainz, an investor in data, infrastructure and automation, is a native German and focuses on investments in the DACH region, as well as Israel. She’s involved with firm portfolio companies Firebolt, Swimm and Vulcan. Before joining Dawn in 2020, she was an investor at Salesforce Ventures, where she fell in love with B2B software investing. At Salesforce, she participated in deals from Series A to pre-lPO, including Algolia, Appsflyer, Contentful or Gong, and developed a thorough understanding of the enterprise software space, building on her experience as one of the first members of the investment team at Founders Factory.
Gosia Karas | 32
SoftBank Group International
In early 2021, Karas launched and led SoftBank’s Miami Initiative, a $100 million commitment to invest in companies based in and relocating to Miami as the city accelerates its growth as a tech hub. The initiative exceeded its commitment by 2.5x, investing over $250 million in Miami’s tech companies as of October 2021.
Gosia also leads the SoftBank SB Opportunity Fund’s growth-stage practice and invested in eight technology companies led by Black and Latinx founders during the past year. She hired two diverse associates for the fund. Notable successes in 2021 include Drift, acquired by Vista Equity Partners, at a billion-dollar valuation, and EightSleep, which raised another round of capital at an increased valuation less than six months after the first round.
Alexandre ‘Alex’ Lazarow | 37
Lazarow leads North American investments with a focus on banking tech for good, financial services and healthcare. At Cathay, he’s invested in four unicorns Facily, FinAccel, Sidecar Health and ZenBusiness. Prior to joining Cathay, he was a principal at Omidyar Network, where he invested in such global fintech companies as Neon and two unicorns, Kin and Chime, of which Cathay Innovation is also an investor. A frequent conference speaker, Lazarow is also an author and his book, Out-Innovate, was named the number-one new release in VC on Amazon.
Addie Lerner | 32
In the past year, Lerner has launched a $72 million Series A and B fund, added 12 investments to its portfolio across the US, Europe, Israel and Mexico, organized two SPVs, and hired her first two teammates. Avid is one of the largest first-time funds ever raised by a female solo GP, and Addie completed fundraising in 10 months during a pandemic. Already, she has seen meaningful mark-ups, including Alloy’s Series C at a $1.35 billion valuation, 5.9x the valuation of the Series B, where Avid initially invested more than a year ago.
Nate Leung | 36
Leung has helped diligence and invest in about $300 million in fund commitments and co-investments over his six years as an LP. He has also taken a lead role in the firm’s effort to demystify the LP perspective on the broader venture ecosystem by posting under the #OpenLP brand, including on Twitter and via a podcast. He also pioneered Sapphire’s push towards transparency by publishing actionable performance benchmarking analysis based on the firm’s portfolio of funds and companies. The firm says his years as an operator at such companies as Rent the Runway, NuOrder and Optimizely, provide Leung with company-building insight that supports his co-investing work at the LP firm.
Charmel Maynard | 36
University of Miami
Over the past year, Maynard has delivered the highest return in the University of Miami’s recorded history. The university’s Growth Pool ended the fiscal year with a market value of $1.42 billion, an increase of $355 million or 33.6 percent over prior year, according to the endowment. In the past five years since Maynard took the reins, the Growth Pool has grown by $565 million, or 69.6 percent. During the same period, Maynard and the team have deployed more than $70 million to the venture asset class. Additionally, Charmel led efforts to establish DE&I policies with existing investment managers and engage more prospective minority investment managers.
Laurie Menoud | 34
At One Ventures
Over the last 12 months, Menoud co-founded the deep tech venture firm At One Ventures, where she backs early-stage companies that focus on planet-positive industries. She has led a dozen investments as a partner and currently holds board and observer positions in four portfolio companies, including Avalo, Battery Resourcers, Noon Energy and Precision Al. In terms of DE&I, she advocates for investing with empathy for founders, the planet, co-investors and board members. She also is an advocate for bioethics and biodiversity.
Sarah Morgenstern | 38
In February 2021, Morgenstern was promoted to venture partner for what the firm says was continuing to “lead by building out the portfolio, refining our investment themes and influencing company culture.” A Kauffman Fellow, she has been heralded for being a team player and an established thought leader. Her 2021 highlights include helping underwrite investments in five of Flourish’s companies, including Jetty and its $23 million round. She also blogs and speaks at conferences, and to generate awareness on how covid-19 has impacted US gig workers, she worked with Theo Lau and Bradley Leimer for their book Beyond Good.
Mia Morisset | 30
VP – investment
Morisset joined Inovia Capital’s Montreal office in September 2018, with a mandate to build up the Inovia practice in Quebec and Canada, and identify late-stage investment opportunities. Since then, she has invested in enterprise software (AlayaCare, AppDirect, Rewind and Workjam) and hospitality tech (Hopper, Snapcommerce, Sender, Life House), while also helping with firm fundraising (Inovia Growth Fund II, and lnovia Continuity Fund I) as well as team recruiting efforts. She was promoted in 2020.
Scott Moss | 31
In October 2021, Moss beat out 835 other applicants for a principal position at Initialized Capital through the firm’s open search process, which aims to make hiring more transparent and seek out previously overlooked candidates. The firm says they were drawn to him for his desire to demystify venture capital for underrepresented founders. Since starting, he’s focused on mentoring and advising underrepresented Y Combinator start-up founders on how to get and negotiate funding. In April 2021, prior to joining Initialized, he started a YouTube channel to share his unconventional path to tech and help more people “make it” through inspirational content.
Alex Nwaka | 35
Nwaka was Touchdown’s first full-time hire and has helped launch multiple corporate VC funds. He currently leads the firm’s enterprise software practice with a fund focused on the future of the knowledge worker. Over the past year, he has led investments in four new portfolio companies and two follow-ons. One of his earlier investments, TextIQ, was acquired by Relativity in 2021. He serves as a board observer for six portfolio companies and support’s the firm’s development in recruiting and training, leading its VC relationship program which has been the source of about 75 percent of all Touchdown investments over the past year. He also co-leads the firm’s DE&I goals and strategy.
Dami Osunsanya | 33
Head of value creation
SB Opportunity Fund
In 2021, Osunsanya grew and led the value creation team for SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund, a $100 million fund for Black, Latinx and Native American founders. For the fund, she has helped fuel the growth of about 60 portfolio companies by facilitating over 200 connections for such companies as Praxis Labs, Mayvenn, Lendtable and Capway. The firm says this has contributed to new fundraises, partnerships, product launches and geographic expansions for the portfolio. She also created and launched multiple bespoke solutions to help underrepresented founders grow, including meetings and roundtables to learn from SoftBank executives and other leaders, a hiring platform to help founders find talent, and provide hands-on support with pitches.
Galina Ozgur | 38
Vice-president of platform
Ozgur joined H/L Ventures in September 2020 as its first vice-president of platform after previously advising The World Bank, Aera VC and 500 Startups. She has also sourced companies, with ventures ranging from foodtech to proptech. Notably, she sourced a Series A deal for the firm’s growth fund, CityRock Ventures. In spring 2021, she piloted an executive search function for H/L’s portfolio companies, landing top sales and product hires in the first months of the program, paving the way for H/L’s Managed Services practice.
Cathryn Paine | 39
Paine was one of the firm’s earliest hires, as the multi-stage investor knew from its nascent days that a strong people leader would attract founders and build better performing companies. She now leads Talent and People Operations for Anzu, running these functions for the firm and its portfolio companies and has helped the firm’s investments hire more than 40 employees. Prior to the pandemic, she spearheaded an initiative at the firm to roll out Spring Health, a value-add platform providing mental healthcare services. In 2021, she rolled out similar programs for DE&I, employee engagement and anti-harassment.
Nasir Qadree | 37
Zeal Capital Partners
Qadree closed one of the largest debut funds for a solo VC at $62 million in July of 2021. He has also trademarked the term ‘Inclusive Investing’ to describe a market-backed discipline that “allows us to cast a targeted, yet wide net when sourcing companies, while keeping outsized returns and impact front and center in our investment decisions.” Nasir has done all this in the past year and serves as a role model for aspiring Black investors, according to one Black asset manager.
Kamil Saeid | 30
Investment partner and creation lead
Saeid joined Defy last year as a partner on the investing team after previously leading investments as a principal at Ridge Ventures and Aspect Ventures. He has since worked on six deals, two of which he’s led: Bazaar, and a yet to be announced company in the future-of-work sector.
In the case of Bazaar, he put together a syndicate that resulted in the largest Series A in Pakistan’s history, totaling $30 million. At Defy, Saeid has pushed investing efforts in frontier markets and B2B marketplaces at the firm. Over the past year, companies he previously sourced or invested in have raised significant follow-on financings, such as Chime, The Mom Project and Nala.
Adriana Saman | 28
Clocktower Technology Ventures
Promoted to principal in 2021, Saman was instrumental in the launch of the firm’s first Latin American fintech-focused fund in March. It has made 15 investments since launch, as Saman spearheads Clocktower’s efforts with investors and fintech founders throughout Latin America.
She co-founded the Los Angeles chapter of Synergist, a national network that looks to connect women in the first decade of their investing careers and provides them with networking skills and business acumen. She served as president of the group for the first two years.
Lotti Siniscalco | 34
The Italian-born Siniscalco joined the firm in 2018 and was named principal in 2020 and then named partner late last year. She serves on the boards of High Alpha and Whistic and was instrumental in closing Talent Hack as her first deal as a partner. Emergence led the company’s $17 million Series A. The firm says that Siniscalco has made it her mission to help founders from all backgrounds, particularly from underrepresented groups. She spends time mentoring and building a supportive community for female founders, including organizing small networking events, virtually, for early-stage founders once a quarter called Female Founder Roundtables. She is currently completing the Kauffman Fellows Program.
Julia Sohajda | 29
Vespucci Partners Capital
Sohajda has made several investments in deep-tech startups, including climate tech company Poliloop, which focuses on reducing the impact of plastic, and climate tech engineering automation company Transcend. Most recently, she helped portfolio company Transcend to raise $10 million.
Her colleagues say that for the online book distributing company Booktopia, Sohajda helped make a private equity deal for a group of investors at a value of $3 million. In under two years, she made the investors $14 million when they exited in August 2021.
Gustavo Souza | 29
Before raising his first early-stage fund, which he began in 2019, Souza was an accomplished tech operator that made his career building and managing sales teams for SaaS companies. For his first VC fund at SaaSholic, his performance is reportedly a 51 percent gross IRR. He says the secret sauce for these results comes from being in the right place at the right time and relying on his network and many folks from the entrepreneur community in Latin America. Some deals SaaSholic and he were able to help grow include ContaSimples, Atlas Governance and MicroAcquire. SaaSholic is now raising its second fund of $15 million.
Nick Stocks | 35
White Star Capital
Prior to White Star Capital, Stocks was at Global Founders Capital, where he led and participated in over 30 investments across four continents. He now co-leads White Star’s European operations from London, with a focus on e-commerce, marketplaces and fintech. He spearheaded the firm’s investment focus in Poland and the CEE, leading three investments in the region and adding the Polish government as an LP. He is also involved in White Star’s expansion into Southeast Asia, where he has led an investment in the e-commerce space.
Alex Tong | 34
Tong joined the firm, founded in 2014, as its first investment team hire in 2016 and helped established its investment process, co-leading its financial software focus area, leading to investments in Jirav and Procurify. He was promoted to principal in early 2019, and in the last 12 months, he joined the board of LendingFront and helped the firm raise $101 million for its most recent and largest fund to date. As an alumnus of Hootsuite in Vancouver and a proponent of future leaders in Canadian tech, he mentors, advises and invests in number of start-ups from this network, including Commit, which has since raised $6 million in seed.
Nima Wedlake | 33
Wedlake leads the firm’s investments across the fintech and proptech verticals. Over the past year, he has spearheaded the firm’s investments in Ribbon, Tala, Obie, Mynd, Wholesail and LoanSnap, among others. He also helped lead the firm’s investment in Blend, which had its IPO in July 2021, and Glide, which was acquired by Compass in April 2021. He provides research and commentary on industry trends and regularly publishes on the Thomvest Ventures blog. The topics there range from access to financial products to a report on the impact of covid-19 on the US housing market.
Cack Wilhelm | 37
In the last year, Wilhelm has led such investments for the firm in Cribl’s $200 million Series C, where she sits on the board, and the firm’s follow-on investments in CircleCI, a $100 million Series F that valued the company at $1.7 billion. She previously served in an operator role and gained VC experience at Scale Venture Partners, where she worked on CircleCI’s Series B. Her female investor voice in the DevOps tech space has led her to be a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington’s THRIVE series.
Jessica Yi | 27
Norwest Venture Partners
Yi, last promoted in 2020, focuses on enterprise venture investments at the multi-stage firm and has established herself as a thought leader and expert in applied AI/ML, dev tools and productivity platforms. Notable deals include Celona, Replicant and Uplevel. In the past year, she has worked due diligence on several enterprise deals and recently sourced an investment in Anomalo. She currently helps lead Norwest’s efforts to increase capital invested in founders of diverse backgrounds, including making investments as an LP in diverse fund managers. She is also a mentor in Venture Forward’s VC University, launched by NVCA to create a more inclusive and diverse VC community.