July 18, 2024

Boston’s Route 128 was the original Sand Hill Road.
In the 1960s and ’70s, the four-lane highway cut a path around the city’s myriad universities and research centers to the suburbs, where high-tech startups rented offices in cheaper ZIP codes. Early venture-capital firms like General Catalyst and Bessemer chased founders and overnight riches there. And in the 1970s, the rapid growth of local tech giants like Digital Equipment Corporation and Raytheon cemented Boston’s status as a world technology center.
Soon enough, rival tech hubs overtook the East Coast city. Still, Boston remains a hotbed of venture investment, especially for health-tech companies. In 2021, a banner year for tech, venture capitalists nationwide plowed $34.9 billion into Boston startups, making the area the fourth-largest market by investment, after the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles, according to PitchBook data.
The Boston area claims a number of savvy, if under-the-radar, investors as residents. We asked venture capitalists from across the country about the Boston investors to know. We also referred to our past reporting on the top seed investors to find more picks.
Let us know who we missed by contacting venture-capital and startups correspondent Melia Russell at mr******@in*****.com.
Why he’s on the list: With 19 years at Bain Capital Ventures under his belt, Agarwal has spent more than a third of his life at the fund. In that time, he pioneered investing in the modern sales-and-marketing stack with early bets on Clari and Gainsight, and became one of the earliest and most active investors in logistics and supply chain, with stakes in Kiva Systems, FourKites, and Vention.
Prior to Bain, Agarwal founded his first company as a sophomore at Stanford and led product and go-to-market for Trilogy Software, one of the fastest-growing software companies of the dot-com era.
Key investments: Airbase, Clari, Gainsight, Kiva Systems, Magical, SendGrid, ShipBob
How to get his attention: “I love founders who are passionate about a domain — they eat, breathe, and live their space and have empathy and a depth of understanding of the pain points of their customers. As a former startup operator myself, having spent eight years at Trilogy Software, I know what it’s like to be in the trenches every day in the software industry, so I look for founders building a product that solves a real day-to-day problem. I also look for founders who have experienced something in their life story that motivates them. This could be a chip on their shoulder, an innate curiosity, a relentlessness or manic energy, or another character ‘flaw’ that makes them unique.”
Why he’s on the list: Agrawal’s background in computer science and business skills from Harvard make him one of the most sought-after cloud-software investors anywhere. He joined Battery Ventures in 2000, and has since become one of the tech industry’s most prominent thought leaders on scaling cloud-software companies. In 2015, he introduced the “T2D3” growth metric for methodically growing software-as-a-service enterprises.
In 2021, Agrawal was recognized on the Forbes Midas List, which ranks the world’s top venture capitalists, for the 11th straight year.
Key investments: AppDynamics, Braze, Glassdoor, Level AI, Reify Health
How to get his attention: “Truly great markets, like truly great founders, are still somewhat rare. But amazing product-market fit — successfully solving an acute need for a large group of potential buyers — is the most rare. When I see an amazing founder achieving true product-market fit in a very significant market, I know I’ve got to invest.”
Why she’s on the list: Agrawal Divakaran is a Boston native and partner at .406 Ventures, where she co-leads the digital-health-investing practice. She cut her teeth sourcing and leading deals at Spectrum Equity, a growth-equity firm in Boston, before entering Harvard Business School. While there, she worked at the online-ticketing company Eventbrite and started her own company, SpotRocket, a directory of job opportunities at promising startups.
At .406, a firm that invests in early-stage, business-focused startups, Agrawal Divakaran backs founders who are transforming healthcare technology and care delivery. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. 
Key investments: Diana Health, Equip, Heartbeat Health, Nomad Health, Redox
How to get her attention: “Changing the current healthcare reality in the US is not for the faint of heart. The founders that resonate most with me are those who have a deep and lived experience with the problem that they are trying to solve, mission centricity at the core of their company and culture, and humility. I respond even to cold emails, particularly when these elements come across!”
Why he’s on the list: Before Balter invested at True, he raised money from the firm for three separate startups he founded. The firm’s humility and “strong moral compass” led him to sign on as a partner in 2021. At True, Balter focuses on categories where he has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to succeed, including data science, software, media, marketing, and decentralized finance.
Outside of True, Balter is the chief executive of Flipside Crypto, which provides business intelligence to blockchain organizations.
Key investments: Astaria, Dataminr, Draft Kings, HQO, Kettle & Fire, LinkSquares, Turo
How to get his attention: “I get the most excited when a founder is so excited about their project, they become almost unrecognizable. They become a blur; all you can really see is the aura of energy surrounding them, and in the best cases, bouncing off the walls. Plus, I like a good sense of humor. It’s required in order to evolve through the entrepreneurial journey.”
Why he’s on the list: Bartlett’s claim to fame is coining the phrase “product-led growth,” which refers to companies offering a free version of their product to capture more paying customers. Buzzwords aside, Barlett has shepherded some of the fastest-growing enterprise startups, from Expensify to Calendly, as a growth-stage investor. After four years sourcing and evaluating deals at Battery Ventures, he joined OpenView as a partner in 2013.
Key investments: Calendly, Expensify, Glassdoor, Highspot, Optimizely, Wayfair
How to get his attention: “I am focused on product above all else. Product delivers customer value. Product drives your SaaS metrics. Product creates your competitive advantage. And product is your resume as a founder. What’s even better is if you’ve built a PLG product that I can try immediately with a few clicks or taps.”
Why he’s on the list: Beisel is a dot-com entrepreneur turned investor, focused on tech companies tackling multibillion-dollar opportunities. At NextView Ventures, a seed-stage firm he helped start in 2010, he leads only two or three new deals a year, ensuring he has the bandwidth to work closely with founders he’s backed.
Previously, Beisel was a vice president at Venrock, the early-stage firm founded as the venture arm of the Rockefeller family.
Key investments: Attentive, The Nudge, Parsec, TripleLift, ThredUp
How to get his attention: “I strive to work with founders who are authentic. Demonstrating that your past experience provides a unique insight as to why you’re starting the company and an unfair advantage about how you’ll succeed really resonates.”
Why he’s on the list: Bussgang knows startups from the inside. Before becoming an investor, he founded Upromise, a company that helps families save money for college. Sallie Mae bought the startup for $300 million in 2006. Since then, Bussgang has shared his earned wisdom with other entrepreneurs as a cofounder and general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, a seed-stage firm. 
Bussgang keeps busy as a senior lecturer on entrepreneurial management at his alma mater, Harvard Business School. He’s also written two books on startups and how to get funding.
Key investments: Bowery Farming, FalconX, Habi
How to get his attention: “The founders that I find most compelling have an ‘earned secret’ — a unique insight based on past work or recent research that no one else understands or appreciates. I love talking to founders who have figured out (or, at least, hypothesized that they’ve figured out) how to design compelling, valuable business models based on these earned secrets.”
Why she’s on the list: As a partner at Boldstart Ventures, Chisa backs technical founders who may have little more than an idea. She invests in developer tools and business software, drawing on her product-management background and engineering skills from Microsoft. Before Boldstart, Chisa cofounded Dark, a programming language for seamlessly deploying code into production.
Key investments: Flow Club, Liveblocks, Skydio, Snaplet, Stellate, Zuplo 
How to get her attention: “I mainly invest in developer tooling, so if you’re looking at building something that makes it easier to write software, you should definitely reach out. I particularly love when a founder can crisply share the problem they’re looking to solve, and who has that problem. I answer cold emails — even if you aren’t fundraising yet and just want someone to start to talk through the business with.”
Why she’s on the list: At 35 years old, Cho leads Underscore VC’s investing efforts across digital health, fintech, insurance tech, and enterprise software. A Harvard Business School alumna, she arrived at Underscore in 2019 from Devoted Health, a healthcare company serving the Medicare population, where she was a product leader.
Key investments: H1, Lendflow, Pagos, Tetrascience
How to get her attention: “I’m obsessed with founders who are reimagining how we deliver and pay for healthcare and clinical research, such as innovative hybrid-care models; empowering SMBs and underserved populations; and tackling some of the biggest challenges of our lifetime such as climate change. I love working with founders who also share my belief that purpose and profit are not at odds with each other, but in fact a compelling mission can be a true competitive advantage by attracting incredible talent and creating shared value.”
Why he’s on the list: Colleran’s sales prowess and social network have made him one of the most influential investors in Boston, though his companies are scattered from coast to coast. His firm, Slow Ventures, has made investments in more than 400 companies in the past 13 years. Of those, over 100 startups saw an exit through a merger or an initial public offering, according to Crunchbase.
Hired as Facebook’s first ad salesperson at age 24, Colleran’s specialty today is helping portfolio companies at the seed stage prepare to raise and close their next funding rounds.
Key investments: Allbirds, Good Dog, Livongo Health, PillPack, Ro
How to get his attention: “The best way to get our attention is through a mutual introduction from somebody we consider high signal. Almost all of our investments originate from an introduction and recommendation from another founder, angel investor, and VC. Founders are typically very willing to introduce other high-quality founders to their investors as a way to help the startup ecosystem, and we always prioritize those introductions as we sort through our many inbound leads.”
Why he’s on the list: They say those who can’t do, teach. But Craven has done both. He started a company, BioVolt, focused on designing low-cost microbial fuel cells, while at MIT. In graduate school, he taught at the MIT business school and in the physics and biology departments. His background makes him an empathetic investor, highly attuned to the challenges of company building.
In 2013, Craven left Bessemer Venture Partners to join OpenView, where he invests in high-growth, data-driven software startups.
Key investments: Datadog, Jumpcloud, Twitch, UserTesting, Zapier
How to get his attention: “Building a large and enduring business from scratch is really, really hard — and so the founders that resonate with me have a clear and persuasive vision for the way in which their business will change the market, consistently persevere to achieve their objectives, and genuinely value the team they build along the way. Combining these characteristics with a product that users and customers can’t help but use more of over time will always get my attention.”
Why he’s on the list: Dukach, who fled the Soviet Union at 11 years old, became an overnight millionaire as a student at MIT when he sold a software startup he founded for $35 million in 2000. He used his new riches to make angel investments, and went on to lead TechStars Boston, the most high-profile startup accelerator in town.
In 2014, he struck out on his own to raise a venture fund with the sole purpose of backing other immigrant entrepreneurs. His firm, One Way Ventures, has $100 million in assets under management and invests in fintech, proptech, logistics, software, and deep tech.
Key investments: Brex, Chipper Cash, Nuvocargo
How to get his attention: “We look for extraordinary immigrant founders building large, disruptive businesses.”
Why he’s on the list: Fagnan has been rethinking how venture works for over 20 years. In 2004, he joined a life-sciences-investing firm, Atlas Venture, that rode the dot-com boom to numerous exits but later struggled to raise new funds in a recession. Fagnan led the effort to trim the firm’s operations from a dozen global offices to a single headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and grow its technology-investing practice. Today, the firm’s tech group, now known as Accomplice, has a portfolio of startups across consumer, crypto, and software that’s the envy of its West Coast peers.
Accomplice said it won’t raise new funds, but Fagnan isn’t putting away his checkbook. In 2018, he founded Spearhead with AngelList founder, Naval Ravikant, to give promising technical founders their own funds and mentorship to start angel investing.
Key investments: AngelList, Dapper Labs, Hopper, Patreon, PillPack, Whoop
How to get his attention: “My time is now dedicated to Spearhead and supporting the movement of founders-backing-founders. The best way to get my attention is to apply to Spearhead!”
Why he’s on the list: Finkelstein joined Spark Capital, a multistage firm founded in Boston, as a young, hungry investor in 2005. Since then, he’s climbed the ranks from principal to general partner, helping the firm nab stakes in startups like Talkspace and Wayfair.
Outside of investing, Finkelstein serves on the board of directors of the Brooke Charter Schools, a network of high-performing public charter schools in Boston. He lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Key investments: 5min Media, Flywire, Reggora, Talkspace, Wayfair
How to get his attention: “I’m looking for the product- and customer-obsessed founder who also knows how to sell.”
Why he’s on the list: After four years on Microsoft’s corporate strategy team, Fleishman left the company to join forces with two alumni who had founded a venture firm. At Tola Capital, he invests in his wheelhouse of enterprise software and blockchain tech, and gives the Seattle firm a set of eyes on Boston’s startup ecosystem.
He lives in the South End neighborhood of Boston.
Key investments: Certora, Clipchamp, Robin
How to get his attention: “I’m more focused on how to get a founder’s attention. World-class founders in great markets can always raise capital. We at Tola believe in a deep hypothesis-based approach to investing whereby we have already validated a market opportunity and a company’s potential before our first conversation with a founder. As a result, we want that first conversation to be a thoughtful, collaborative discussion instead of a pitch.”
Why he’s on the list: Before he was 27, Frankel built and sold an African internet-service provider for more than $3 billion. He used his sudden wealth to make angel investments while studying at Harvard Business School in the early 2000s. On campus, he met a classmate, Eric Paley, and the two bonded over a shared interest in venture capital. In 2009, they started Founder Collective with the goal of being the investors they wished they had as entrepreneurs.
Today, the firm has $285 million in assets under management, and has amassed a portfolio of nearly a dozen unicorn startups.
Key investments: Coupang, Olo, PillPack, SeatGeek, Shield AI, Sift, Stack Overflow
How to get his attention: “I’ve been fortunate to lead a successful startup, invest in hundreds of entrepreneurs as an investor, and sit on the board of a public, multi-billion dollar tech company. I’ve learned I derive immense satisfaction working with founders, whether building software for event-driven calls or reinventing cat food, crafting SaaS tools for the flooring industry, or fast food point-of-sale systems. I invite founders with the passion required to win a market, no matter how weird and wonderful, to reach out via introduction, email, or Twitter (@dafrankel).”
Why he’s on the list: A former entrepreneur, Goldstein knows that scaling a startup takes a village. That’s why his firm, Pillar VC, has assembled an all-star team of local founders and chief executives to provide coaching and connections to the founders it’s backed. 
During his career, Goldstein has backed dozens of Boston startups, including many spun out from his alma maters, MIT and Harvard. 
Key investments: Algorand, Asimov, Circle, Desktop Metal, Jellyfish, PathAI, PillPack
How to get his attention: “The best way to connect is by reaching out through one of our portfolio companies. We have great respect for their judgment. Connect through a founder, leader, advisor, or co-investor. I also really enjoy working with scientific founders. Forward me a paper you’ve published based on an amazing new discovery or insight. You can also try cold emailing me with a provocative subject line.”
Why she’s on the list: Gordon is a partner at Hyperplane Venture Capital, where she invests in her wheelhouse of enterprise software and deep tech. During college, she started a predictive-analytics company, which gave her a ticket to a fintech startup in Boston after graduation. She joined as Finomial’s first product manager.
After a consulting stint in New York, Gordon returned to Boston to try her hand at startup investing. At Hyperplane, she puts her knowledge and checkbook to work for underrepresented founders. Half of the startups in her portfolio, including angel investments, are female-founded.
Key investments: Analytical Flavor Systems, Biota, Kinly, The Heritage Club, Mudstack
How to get her attention: “Because early stage investing is a long-term game, for me, it is first and foremost about entrepreneurs with whom I will want to work closely with for a long time, from first company to unforeseen ventures in the future. I value high integrity, curiosity, hustle, and strong character. If the people and company culture is there, success follows. People first. The rest are details. On a more tactical front, I love referrals from founders and LPs and my Twitter DMs are open.”
Why she’s on the list: At 30 years old, Guerra is a rising star in Boston’s venture industry. She began her career as a consultant at Bain & Company, where she researched markets and potential investments in the healthcare and tech sectors, and dove deeper into her focus area at David Tisch’s venture firm BoxGroup. In 2021, she joined Bessemer Venture Partners in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Born and raised in Guatemala, Guerra went to boarding school in Singapore, studied chemistry, and earned her master’s degree from Harvard Business School. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Key investments: House Rx, Oshi Health, Rupa Health, Turquoise Health
How to get her attention: “I’m focused on healthcare and biotech early- and growth-stage investments and look for three key things in founders. First, authentic founder-market fit with a passion for what they’re building and the impact they plan to create. Second, strong articulation of the ‘why now’ for the adoption of their technology or tech-enabled service. And finally, an understanding of the nuances in a path to scalability for their business model. I’m always open to cold outreach, and accessible through Twitter and LinkedIn DMs.”
Why he’s on the list: Hazard’s Boston roots run deep. He joined Greylock Partners, one of the oldest and most respected firms founded in the Boston area, in 1994, and built a track record of landing high-potential investments in enterprise software. Eight years later, that reputation gave him the leverage to raise his own fund at Flybridge Capital Partners, a seed-stage venture firm.
He also cuts checks out of XFactor Ventures, a Flybridge fund focused on investing in female founders and mixed-gender teams that are taking on billion-dollar market opportunities.
Key investments: Firebase, Metaplane, MongoDB, Nasuni, Scitara 
How to get his attention: “Having been part of the start-up journey from pre-revenue to over $1 billion in revenue, passionate and ambitious founders who paint a picture of how their unique insights will transform markets and lead to significant scale always stand out.  Underneath the pursuit of massive market opportunities, I particularly look for community-driven companies that leverage highly engaged, connected, and passionate ecosystems to drive growth and success.”
Why she’s on the list: Hodges, a partner at Pillar VC, is one of her firm’s superpowers. She runs the platform that offers portfolio companies services from executive search to customer acquisition to leadership development, in addition to spearheading investments. Her focus is on enterprise and consumer companies.
Prior to Pillar, Hodges served as the head of people at Pluralsight, a company that offers online classes for learning tech skills.
Key investments: Allma, Hometap, JobGet, Meru, OnDeck
How to get her attention: “Seed-stage investing is all about people. The companies we invest in often change dramatically — but their founders remain the same. Lead with your story. We invest in people who have demonstrated blow-through-walls resilience in their lives, who are lifelong learners, and who are compelling mission-driven leaders.”
Why he’s on the list: Hower is one of the most well-connected investors in Boston’s startup hub. He got hired straight out of Wharton as an early employee at PayPal, and led product and business development through the company’s public offering and sale to eBay. In 2002, he joined a group of PayPal alumni to build the world’s most powerful professional social network, LinkedIn.
Hower’s entrepreneurial streak continued when he cofounded NextView Ventures, a firm helping seed-stage businesses sprout.
Key investments: GrabCAD, Grove Collaborative, Hologram, Skillz, Whoop
How to get his attention: “By having a great answer to ‘Why did you start this company?’ as opposed to starting or joining some other type of business.”
Why he’s on the list: With a background in journalism and political science, Kraus had no business backing healthcare startups when he took his first investing job at Ironwood Equity Fund. But he took Harvard extension classes, and soon enough, made a name for himself in healthcare investing. In 2004, he joined Bessemer Venture Partners in the Cambridge, Massachusetts office, where he writes for the firm’s blog and hosts a podcast on top of investing.
Kraus has a pair of degrees from Yale and Harvard Business School, where he serves as an advisor.
Key investments: Bright Health, Headspace Health, Hinge Health, House Rx, Groups Recover Together
How to get his attention: “Innovating in healthcare is both really hard and really rewarding. I look for founders who have both a clear passion for as well as demonstrated expertise in the industry. I believe the best financial returns in healthcare come from the companies that also truly move the needle in terms of the cost and quality of care, so I focus a lot of the founder’s vision in these areas.”
Why he’s on the list: Leungli likes to back underdogs like himself. A first-generation immigrant and son of farmhands-turned-restauranteurs, he started a live-music company while attending Harvard Business School. After graduation, he leapt into venture at Primary Venture Partners and General Catalyst. In 2017, Leungli helped start Tectonic Ventures, a boutique firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to fund the next generation of bold founders.
Key investments: 55ip, Butlr, Catalant, Merama, Perch
How to get his attention: “Entrepreneurs catch my attention through their mission orientation towards solving an important problem, clarity of ambition (i.e., they have a big goal and a conceivable plan towards achieving it), and humility. This last one is subtly important. While the best entrepreneurs have high conviction, they also have the humility to ask questions, have a high learning modality, and can dynamically adjust course as conditions change.”
Why she’s on the list: Liu caught the entrepreneurial bug at MIT, where she founded a machine-learning startup while earning her master’s degree in finance. In 2014, she passed off the reins of her company, Infervision, and began startup investing at her own firm, First Star Ventures. She’s keen on backing technical founders solving real-world problems with data, algorithms, and computing.
Key investments: Jellyfish, Plus One Robotics, Salient Predictions
How to get her attention: “We invest with conviction in visionary, technical founders inventing a better future with hard data and computing technology. With our pre-seed and seed stage early focus, if a founder is working on something within our thesis that’s cutting edge that the rest of the world doesn’t quite understand, even if there’s no prototype to demo or revenue made yet, we are happy to read the papers or codes. The more an entrepreneur can demonstrate deep insights, thoughtfulness, and fast learning capability, the more likely we will get excited about the team on top of the technology itself.”
Why she’s on the list: When we asked investors to tell us who are the Boston VCs to know, Lyman’s name came up five times, more than any other investor on this list. She came to Underscore from Meta, where she served as a growth leader, driving product decisions that added more than 100 million users in four years.
As a general partner at Underscore, Lyman writes checks for seed-stage startups in the areas of future-of-work, insurance tech, digital health, machine learning, and commerce.
Outside of dealmaking, she spends time building community in the venture industry as a leader of All Raise’s Boston chapter and a board director of the New England Venture Capital Association.
Key investments: Coda, Goldcast, Herald, Hi Marley, Macro, Project44, Wonderment
How to get her attention: “Like most seed-stage investors, I place emphasis on uniquely qualified teams, markets with massive potential, and products solving painful problems. To narrow the scope, I’m particularly interested in founders that are innovating in laggard industries (like insurance and healthcare), and have a clear ‘why now.’ I am drawn to founders who are rapid learners, can attract strong talent, and have demonstrated a ‘heat-seeking’ ability to figure things out.”
Why he’s on the list: Mahony spun up his own venture firm, Vinyl, after more than six years at another Boston firm, Accomplice, in 2021. Its investment focus: the future of “how people buy stuff.” Mahony tapped dozens of entrepreneurs from local tech giants like Wayfair, DraftKings, and Drift as the fund’s limited partners.
Before Accomplice, Mahony was the founder and chief executive of FlipKey, a startup building a vacation-rental marketplace. He sold the business to TripAdvisor for a reported $100 million in 2012.
Key investments: Drizly, Klaviyo, Postscript
How to get his attention: “Prove you can exceed expectations without capital and I’ll fantasize what you could do with it.”
Why she’s on the list: Only 30 years old, Martiro is an up-and-comer in Boston’s venture industry. She left an opportunity as the head of data science at SocialFlow, which makes software that helps publishers squeeze more revenue from social media, to join Glasswing Ventures as a principal. At the early-stage firm, Martiro focuses on enterprise software enabled by artificial intelligence.
Key investments: Allure Security, Armored Things, Black Kite, ChaosSearch, Retrocausal
How to get her attention: “I focus on AI enterprise software and investing at the seed and pre-seed stages. Founders who get my attention embody grit and determination in the problem they’re pursuing, especially if they have first-hand experience. In addition, I look for founders who leverage their toolkit of strong technical skills coupled with business acumen to build products and teams. I’m happy to meet with founders who reflect these qualities, even before they’re looking to raise VC capital. The more communication and validation there is along the way, the stronger the relationship can become.”
Why he’s on the list: Moore cut his teeth in investing as an associate at SoftBank in the dot-com era, and has been one of Boston’s top early-stage-startup backers ever since. He joined Accomplice in 2011, when it was still a technology-investing group inside Atlas Ventures. In one decade, he helped build the firm into a venture heavyweight on the East Coast, making daring investments in highly regulated industries such as sports-betting and fintech.
Moore’s superpower is fundraising. According to Accomplice, he’s led or structured rounds in his portfolio totaling over $3 billion.
Key investments: Caribou, DraftKings, Drizly, HqO, Skillz
How to get his attention: “Go after an industry you have no business trying to break into, or find me through another founder I’ve backed!”
Why she’s on the list: The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Murphy’s grit makes her a patient and determined investor. She’s been backing tech companies for over a decade at venture firms such as OpenView and Indicator Ventures, a seed and pre-seed firm based in Boston. Her speciality is helping enterprise startups build the teams and processes they need to reach product-market fit.
Murphy also serves as a co-chair of the New England Venture Network, an organization of more than 600 venture capitalists in Greater Boston designed to foster community in the area.
Key investments: Cylance, Lessonly, Makini, PolymerHQ
How to get her attention: “Convince me of the: Why You, Why Now? At the seed stage, I’m primarily investing in extraordinary founders going after a market that they are uniquely positioned to disrupt. Founders who can effectively show me why they are the person to innovate (whether it’s a skill, experience, superpower, insight) and why this is the time to do it (due to a technology, market condition, level of customer pain) will instantly grab my attention. Then the fun begins!”
Why she’s on the list: Neundorfer has devoted her career to rewriting the rules of venture capital. In 2018, she cofounded January Ventures to help spread dollars and opportunity to female founders, along with her former Stanford Graduate School of Business classmate Maren Bannon. Of the 50 startups backed by the firm, 90% have a female founder and about a third have a Black or Latino founder.
Before January, Neundorfer started an early-stage accelerator and micro fund focused on software startups in the Midwest.
Key investments: Darby, Ethena, Kinside, Oula, Pano, Sonantic
How to get her attention: “To get my attention, founders don’t need a warm intro or specific pedigree. Instead, what really stands out is a founder who combines deep market expertise and conviction around what they are building, with the peripheral vision to figure out where the largest opportunity lies. When I hear an early-stage pitch, the one thing I know for sure is that, in success, the idea will evolve. I get excited when I meet founders who have the commitment and skillset to figure out that evolution.”
Why he’s on the list: Paley is one of the most well-respected venture capitalists in Boston, thanks to a savvy bet on a little-known startup called UberCab in 2010. But his winning streak began long before the ride-hailing giant, when he built and sold two startups during his tenure as an entrepreneur in the early 2000s. Since then, he’s used his business chops to invest in other entrepreneurs at his firm, Founder Collective, which invests across sectors.
Paley’s pursuit of the “weird and wonderful” has led him to nab stakes in nearly a dozen tech companies valued at over $1 billion.
Key investments: Airtable, Cruise, Embark, The Trade Desk, ThredUp, Uber, Whoop
How to get his attention: “Founder Collective is a stage-focused, sector-agnostic firm that invests exclusively in seed rounds with the mission to be the most aligned fund for founders at the seed stage. We’ve backed everything from automated aquaculture to zoological DNA tests. We’re excited to meet founders using software to disrupt almost any industry, no matter how weird and wonderful. If that describes you, please reach out via introduction, email, or even Twitter — I’m @epaley.”
Why he’s on the list: The only trained psychiatrist on staff, Robbins uses his background to make investments at the intersection of mental health and technology. He joined the firm in 2014 after earning his medical degree and business degree from Harvard and completing his psychiatric training at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital. Robbins, who recently moved up to general partner, has focused his efforts on startups upgrading healthcare for more people than the current systems can support.
Key investments: Aspire, CareBridge, Cerevance, Headway, Rodin, Waltz Health
How to get his attention: “I gravitate towards investments across healthcare delivery and neuropsychiatric therapeutics. As a psychiatrist, I’m particularly interested in companies building systems that could treat a larger number of people at a consistently higher quality and greater scale than possible in the current system. In addition, some gaps persist in mental health, particularly geriatrics, and I’d like to help close those gaps through focused investments.”
Why he’s on the list: Schenkein has spent three decades trying to improve the lives of healthcare patients and their families — as a physician, an entrepreneur, and an investor in the next generation of health startups. In 2019, he joined Alphabet’s venture arm, GV, where he oversees the life-sciences-investment team. He leads many of the firm’s investments in therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, novel-care-delivery systems, and payer innovation.
Before GV, Schenkein spent ten years as chief executive of Agios Pharmaceuticals, a drug-development company focused on anti-cancer therapeutics. He remains the chairman of the board.
Key investments: Leyden Labs, Prime Medicine, Treeline Biosciences
How to get his attention: “When I transitioned from being a hematologist and medical oncologist into developing new medicines as the former CEO of Agios, I saw the effects of helping tens of thousands of patients around the globe. So today, I look to work with transformative life sciences companies that maximize impact across all aspects of healthcare. For me, there is nothing more exciting than investing in therapeutics that positively impact patient outcomes.”
Why she’s on the list: Before Seseri invested in startups, she bought them on Microsoft’s dime. She worked as a senior manager in corporate development at the technology giant, where she closed a number of acquisitions in under two years. In 2007, she left Microsoft to take a full-time role in venture, joining a boutique firm called Fairhaven Capital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
After a decade with the firm, Seseri struck out on her own in 2016. She started Glasswing Ventures along with Rick Grinnell and Sarah Fay to invest in software startups enabled by artificial intelligence.
Key investments: ChaosSearch, Celtra, CloudTruth, CrowdTwist, SocialFlow, Zylotech
How to get her attention: “I am most frequently the first institutional investor in a company, so it is important that I take a holistic view of both the market opportunity and founder characteristics. I look for individuals in a founding team who meet or exceed expectations within the first and second meetings. Those who hustle, think outside the box, and demonstrate a high level of preparedness for each conversation will grab the attention of investors. Additionally, my team and I conduct a deep analysis to determine if a startup brings together the rare combination of differentiated, defensible, and business-valuable technology. Founders who can communicate domain expertise in a market and unique insight on an opportunity will consistently excite investors.”
Why she’s on the list: Singh is a triple threat: She’s an entrepreneur, a blogger, and an investor in the next generation of software startups. She grew up in the Boston area and cut her teeth in venture as an associate at Founder Collective while earning her business degree at MIT. She joined the firm after graduation and over four years, evaluated thousands of startups and led investments in Embark Veterinary, Broadlume, and Flume Health, among others.
In 2021, Singh joined Initialized Capital’s stacked team of operators and spearheads investments in software, healthtech, and analytics.
Key investments: Mable Health, Radial Analytics, Vibe Bio
How to get her attention: “At the early stage we put a lot of faith in founders. They have to be passionate and clear about their mission, but also extremely thoughtful and detail oriented about their execution. That gives me confidence in the team and their ability to succeed. They should have eyes wide open about the obstacles they will face and show us they are the team to get through them.”
Why he’s on the list: Valkin is a managing director at General Catalyst, where he focuses on consumer-internet and software startups. He joined the firm from Accel in 2013, making the leap from Accel’s London office to Cambridge, Massachusetts. At General Catalyst, Valkin seeks out founders who want to “fundamentally upgrade the consumer experience” in large markets such as food, automotive, healthcare, banking, education, and fitness.
Born and raised in South Africa, Valkin has a degree in economics from Harvard University, where he played varsity tennis.
Key investments: Classpass, Deliveroo, Rapyd, Ro Health
How to get his attention: “Founders get my attention if they demonstrate passion, resilience, thoughtfulness, and a genuine desire to have an impact on the world.”
Why she’s on the list: Vorlicek is a vice president at Sageview Capital, a growth-equity firm where the employees are collectively the firm’s largest investor. She leads investments across supply chain, e-commerce, education, and life sciences. And while she evaluates over a hundred companies each year, she writes at most one or two checks, part of the firm’s commitment to its founders.
Vorlicek began her career in investment banking at Harris Williams before transitioning to startup investing at Summit Partners.
Key investments: A Cloud Guru, Carewell, Klaviyo, Sifted, Specright
How to get her attention: “I invest in growth-stage technology businesses that are addressing powerful upgrade cycles in big markets. As both investors and entrepreneurs, the one thing we don’t control is the market, so I always ask: What market tailwinds does your business address and why will customers opt for change management over status quo? From there, it’s all about innovation, execution, and customer obsession, and those are the things I look for in category-leading businesses and teams.”
Why he’s on the list: Before he backed startups, Wilcox played a pivotal role in the story of e-readers. His startup, E Ink, manufactured the digital-ink technology that readers like Amazon’s Kindle use. In 2009, the Harvard Business School graduate sold his startup to a company in Taiwan that makes the Kindle displays for about $500 million.
Since then, Wilcox has enjoyed a successful second act as a general partner at Pillar VC, where he invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups. Many of his investments are early-stage university spinouts.
Key investments: Higharc, Kula Bio, Quadratic, Verve, Zapata
How to get his attention: “My main interest is helping people commercialize breakthroughs. Often that leads me to technical founders who want a collaborative-style investor with business and operating experience who can join the board at inception.”
Why she’s on the list: Before she was 28, Winton-Jones scored a hypercompetitive investment in Calendly, a calendar startup, and earned a board seat at Daybase, a company that operates flexible coworking spaces. She’s now a principal at True Ventures, a Silicon Valley firm, where she goes to bat for bold founders with big ideas.
Prior to True, Winton-Jones invested in software companies at OpenView.
Key investments: Calendly, Daybase, Loopio, Zipwhip
How to get her attention: “At True, we love to back founders who have deep knowledge of a problem space, many times having wrestled with it in their past work or personal lives. I’m most excited by folks who are thoughtful, both optimistic and realistic, magnetic, and energized about the change they’re working to make. It’s a privilege to support their big dreams of solving the world’s problems in novel ways.”
Why he’s on the list: Yeshwant was on the fast-track to becoming a prominent tech entrepreneur after he sold two startups he founded to HP and Symantec. But after his father became ill and needed a cardiac bypass, Yeshwant decided to go to medical school to see if he could fix parts of healthcare he thought were broken. Through his graduate work at a diagnostics company, he got connected with the investment team at Google. In 2008, he joined the company to help spin up its debut venture fund and never left.
Key investments: Flatiron Health, One Medical, Verve Therapeutics 
How to get his attention: “I believe there is so much we can accomplish if we bring the technology and medical world together, and I’m always looking for investments that can transform the healthcare space — from care delivery, health IT, devices, diagnostics, and payor/provider to therapeutics. As a physician, empathy is a key quality I look for in healthcare technologists and founders. It’s critical to understanding the complexities of the healthcare world.”
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