01 Sep 2018
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In My Humble Opinion: In the Deal

Accelerating change in venture capital
by Julia Hanna

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Photo by Eric Millette

Listening to entrepreneur pitches is one of the best parts of working in venture capital, says Anna Khan (MBA 2016), a vice president in the San Francisco office of Bessemer Venture Partners. “It’s a sacred kind of meeting because they’re sharing their dream with you. Those 45 to 60 minutes are precious,” says Khan, who focuses primarily on software. “It’s been an incredible segment to invest in over the last few years—cloud software in particular, because these are high-gross margin businesses with low costs and long, recurring contracts.”

A World Economic Forum Global Shaper, Khan has a long-standing commitment to diversity and access in her immediate industry and in the workplace more broadly. Encouraged by a growing awareness of what women bring to the table and efforts to enhance workplace cultures, Khan knows there is still room for improvement across the board: “We need diversity of all sorts—black, Latino, Muslim,” she says. “We won’t make the returns we want unless our firms and our portfolio companies’ makeup are in line with the world’s makeup.”

Good deal: Zylo, an Indianapolis-based company that helps businesses track and optimize spending on cloud software. “We like to invest outside the core market, because there is less noise, great founders are sometimes overlooked when not in the Valley, and they often solve problems more applicable to a broader population base.”

Also: Denver-based Guild Education, a platform that gives frontline workers at companies like Chipotle, Lyft, Walmart, and other large-scale enterprises access to a personalized, low-cost education.

Home sweet home: “In Pakistan, I grew up in a house with 20 extended family members. I miss hearing five or six voices in a room at any given time—it taught me how to learn from multiple people and diverse personalities.”

Travel trio: Exercise right off the plane. Find really great coffee in a new café. Bring lavender oil: “If I put some on my pillow, I have a sense of being at home.”

Game changer: Launch X, an accelerator program Khan founded in 2015 with support from the Rock Summer Fellows program that helps female CEOs learn how to raise venture capital financing.

Guilty pleasure: Grey’s Anatomy. “Shonda Rhimes introduced two black characters in that show who became foundational to the storyline; I’ve learned TV is one of the best ways to begin to dispel bias and racism.”

We like to invest outside the core market, because there is less noise, great founders are sometimes overlooked when not in the Valley, and they often solve problems more applicable to a broader population base.

We like to invest outside the core market, because there is less noise, great founders are sometimes overlooked when not in the Valley, and they often solve problems more applicable to a broader population base.

King [LeBron] James: “I don’t think we’ve seen a basketball player of his size and agility. He’s getting up there, but age has helped him become a true team leader. I think he has a few more championship rings in him.”

Next passport stamp: Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom known for its Gross National Happiness index.

Recommended reading: Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur. “She’s a young Sikh woman who grew up in Canada and started publishing her poetry and artwork on Instagram.”

HBS oasis: Aldrich alcove tables, at sunrise or sunset. “The windows let in so much light—it was the best place on campus to catch your breath and think.”

Find HBS alumni at Bessemer Venture Partners

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2016, Section F
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