Friday Letter: What it takes to be a Rising Star

The second annual Rising Stars was unveiled this week, and here's how to get into next year's.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the new year. It’s been a difficult week for us all, I know, with the ongoing pandemic and the violence that erupted in Washington, DC.

If I can provide a bright note of a diversion, we unveiled this week our second annual 40 Rising Stars in the venture community. This was our most popular feature online last year, and I expect the 2021 edition will similarly rank as a fan favorite.

Prior to publication, as we pored over some 150 nominations of various GPs, LPs and venture-focused attorneys, I was struck by their list of achievements. It reminded me of when we began mulling over the value of such a list, which is based on peer recommendations and vetted by us.

It was late summer 2019, and I had gone to an after-hours venture firm event in San Francisco, the pre-pandemic kind where everyone gathered around in close proximity and had drinks and snacks.

I chatted with the host of the event – I won’t name him, but he’s a GP of a billion-dollar fund – and we talked about finding talent. I told him about our plan to curate a list of up-and-comers in the industry, and I asked him what he thought the attributes of a Rising Star should be.

He replied that we should include more than just professional achievements, although that matters considerably. He said we should take into account how people contribute to the community, give back to others and help those around them.

I believe I can point to that with this year’s list of Rising Stars. You’ll notice in the profiles that many have given back to the community. A few of them are associated with BLCK VC, a nonprofit devoted to boosting Black investor representation, or they are proponents of women in VC or of local tech organizations. And some are also mentors to younger professionals or their peers.

I think often about what that sage VC said to me, and I believe we came up with a roster of 40 Rising Stars who are not just achieving professional success, but are decent people too. I was encouraged that we had a lot of great candidates to choose from.

Let us know what you think. And if you or your nominee didn’t make the cut, come back to us later in October to nominate your favorite for the 2022 edition. I look forward to seeing the next round of nominees.

Also, let me know what you want to see more of in the new year. Drop me a line at and tell me whatever is on your mind. I’d also be happy to set up a call on Zoom or on the phone in the new year if you’d prefer.

I look forward to hearing from you all in 2021.