Office Hours with Anna Khan: General Partner at CRVFeatured

Hi everyone! I’m Anna Khan, General Partner at Charles River Ventures (CRV), an early stage venture capital fund. I am also the founder of Launch X Ventures - an accelerator that helps female founders learn how to raise venture capital financing. We just accepted our most recent cohort beginning in January 2021! (Learn more at and please apply for our next cohort if interested.) Prior to CRV, I was Vice President at Bessemer Venture Partners - where I invested in software for six years, chief of staff at 4INFO where I built mobile ad products, and an analyst at Morgan Stanley & Goldman Sachs - where I got my introduction to the world of equity markets and finance. Throughout my time in VC, I have invested in all sorts of software companies including Intercom, Intacct (acquired by Sage Group), NewVoiceMedia (acquired by Vonage), TSM (an eSports professional team), Zylo, and Workstream.I moved to the United States from Pakistan when I was 17 and have a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard Business School. I'm a frequent Tweeter in case you want to keep in touch! Ask me anything about investing, early stage fundraising, company building, VC careers, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @AnnaKhan!Elphas – please ask @AnnaKhan your questions before Friday, December 4th. @AnnaKhan may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Anna, I loved your 20minVC episode and am excited for this AMA. I’m a college senior who will be entering early stage venture as an analyst post grad. Given your years as an analyst at Bessemer, what would be your biggest takeaways for how to be the most effective analyst and build a career with partner track potential? Separately, how did you go about developing your sourcing strategy and investment theses? Thank you so much!
Sourcing, sourcing, sourcing! In your early years as a VC, its the only thing that matters. As far as investment theses go - that takes time as when you first enter VC you don't really know whats good vs. great. The more entrepreneurs you talk to, the better this pattern recognition will become and you will begin to gravitate towards certain investment areas naturally.
Hi Anna! Greatly appreciate you taking the time to do this! If you’re an early stage founder (pre-seed) and solo founder looking to take on an advisor, what kind of qualities or traction would they want to see before deciding to come on board (in your experience)?
Hey Anna, Very cool! I would love your thoughts on any challenges you faced in an industry that has been traditionally white male-dominated as a Pakistani female, and how you navigated those.I am also interested in how you built your founder network -- through school alumni, location-based networking, friends, etc?Congrats on Launch X -- very inspiring to see you uplifting female founders.Cheers.
Thanks! Great question. To be honest, I didn't feel very different when I was in college. Stanford was a very diverse place, so I always felt welcome. Within venture, it was definitely evident that I was one of the few females in the office as an investor but I tried to remain focused on doing my best job. One of the things that helped me in my early years was a group of like-minded women who were also associates like me. We grew up in venture together and really leaned on each other for support.
Hi @AnnaKhan, thank you so much for your time!When it comes to early-stage funding - what are the most important things you, as an investor, look for in a product and/or the team? For example: is it the caliber of the team or the traction of the prototype or something else altogether? (Or a combination of things?!)Also, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see founders hiccup on when working to raise early-stage funding? Thanks in advance for your time!
Great question! I wish it was a simple answer but its usually a combination. I care about a BIG market (i.e. in the best scenario, can this company become transformative?). I also care a lot about great founders who show grit and care about what they are building. Traction matters less at the early stage but even showing that a few customers are finding your product engaging and paying for it is a very good early sign. On mistakes - I think founders believe that they have to make millions of dollars before raising and thats just not true. Show that people are finding value in the product and showcase that to your investor.
Hi @AnnaKhan, what a great opportunity to get to learn from you. I have just finished an MVP on my app and am trying to get prepared to be able to get funders interested. What do you think are the key metrics, benchmarks that a startup should have BEFORE going in for funding?Thanks!Erika
Hey! For apps I care about the following: 1) Number of downloads and number of users - this should be increasing significantly overtime 2) Competitors - why is your app different than what is available in the market today? 3) How often do your users come back? What is the retention? 4) Average time spent in app and is that increasing?
Hi Anna, Thanks for sharing your time and expertise. I imagine you get a ton of pitch decks and emails - can you talk a little about what catches your attention or makes you spend that extra minute on a startup? On the flip side, is there anything that is an instant turnoff that companies do, either in the outreach or in the materials provided? (For example, something as simple as calling themselves the "Uber of x").Thanks!!
Hi! Great question. Big markets and early engagement catches my attention. If you can answer the "why now?" question, i.e. why is this company important today and why will people pay for the product, I will pay attention. On instant turnoffs, I dislike arrogance. It happens infrequently but if a founder is disrespectful to me or my team members, Its not someone I ever want to work with, even if their company is amazing.
@AnnaKhan Thank you so much for your response. I always wonder how much the market section is considered - of course market is important but it seems like the numbers are always somewhat perfunctory. Really appreciate the feedback.
Hi Anna,You're a powerhouse! I'd love to connect with you as I have a bit of a similar background and actually currently applying to B-school. I am staying anonymous but would you be okay if I were to reach out via DM/LinkedIn?
Hi Anna, I just DM'ed you here on Elpha and LinkedIn messaged you!I can't wait to chat more :) Thank you again for giving us some of your time and take good care!
Hi Anna! It's very lovely to meet you and thank you for sharing your experience with us (congrats on the companies you've invested in that got acquired!).I'm the founder of Connectful, a networking app for young adults that recently launched in October that is bootstrapped. However, when we find true market fit and start getting more traction, I'd love to get funded. My question is, do most VC's want to see a cofounder? What's your opinion on investing in a solo founder (with a team of 6 people for more context)? Thanks so much, Anna!
Hi! Thanks so much for your question. We've invested in many solo founders and are not dogmatic about whether you have a cofounder or not. I think its more about - do you have the relevant leadership for what you're building? For example, if its a very technical platform, it would be hard to invest behind a founding team that lacked a technical leader. If you're building a networking app, then I care about someone who has business acumen and an ability to make connections with others. What matters most is showcasing that your team has the relevant skills for what YOU are building, and that you have the leadership strength to recruit well. All that being said, I do think one of the benefits of having a cofounder is that you can rely on each other. Founding a company is a lonely job and there's a lot of ups and downs that come with it - its helpful to share those burdens and the inevitable celebrations with someone else. If you have that support elsewhere, or with a strong leadership team, then no worries at all. And most importantly - don't force yourself to get a cofounder if there isn't an obvious match.
I absolutely agree with the two points that you've made. Thank you so much for your time, Anna!
Bump! I’m working with an agency right now and have a phenomenal advisor but don’t want to rush the co-founder process. I’m outside of the tech world so it’s sometimes hard to meet eager developers who want to be a technical co-founder
Hi Anna, thank you so much for doing this! I'm interested in a career in VC. Traditionally VC has been all about connections, but it looks like there are folks like you that are trying to democratize entrance into the VC world. I am currently pursuing my MBA (part time) and trying to understand if there are courses, skills, or functions I should be focusing on in the next 6-12 months to set myself up for success in the future. Any advice or direction you can provide would be incredibly appreciated. Thank you!
Thanks for your question. There's no real "coursework" for VC. I'd say that if you want to get into the space - focus on building a brand online based on what you're interested in investing in (i.e. what do you know specifically about software, or consumer tech, that is additive to the investor or entrepreneur community?) I'd also get to know as many different startups as possible so that you can showcase your sourcing strength. Sourcing and deal judgement are really the only critical elements to a VC career.