There’s a new face at one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture firms.
On Wednesday, Accel announced Amy Saper was joining the team as a principal. Because of the firm’s uncommon structure, Saper may not have a partner title, but she’ll have the full check-writing ability and board responsibilities that would be reserved for partner-level investors at Accel’s competitors.
At the firm, her goal will be to find, and fund, the next generation of entrepreneur.
“I’m a first-time investor, so I like to partner with first-time founders,” Saper told Business Insider. “That way, we can help and support each other as we both take on these new roles.”
Although this is Saper’s first in-house, full-time investing role, it’s not the first time she’s worked with startups and founders. She was most recently on payment tech company Stripe’s Atlas team, which helps small businesses simplify the incorporation process. Prior to that, she was an early employee at Twitter overseeing international expansion.
Indeed, she highlights Stripe president John Collison and Stripe CEO Patrick Collison as examples of the kinds of founders she wants to fund.
“I’ve worked with incredible founders so I know first hand how grueling it can be,” Saper said. “I want to find founders with Collison-level perseverance and passion for the problem they are solving.”
While she was at Stripe, Saper said she saw an impressive talent pool that stretched across the United States and beyond, so she said she’s eager to use Accel’s influence to fund startups outside of Silicon Valley. She will be loosely focused on early-stage startups in the e-commerce, wellness, and enterprise software spaces, a product of her experience in both consumer and enterprise startups.
“I actually think one of the selling points for me about Accel is the ability to work on both [consumer and enterprise investments],” Saper told Business Insider. “There are firms with a wall between consumer and enterprise, but some of the early-stage founders I’ve advised start by targeting a consumer play and end up pivoting to enterprise.”
If that’s the case, Saper came to the right firm. One of Accel’s biggest successes in 2019 was workplace chat app Slack, which started as a mobile gaming company before ultimately going public as an enterprise productivity tool. She said that startups like Slack that rely on word-of-mouth growth among employees are particularly appealing to her background working on customer experience.
“One of the best indicators of a startup’s success is how customers find you,” Saper said. “You see it in consumer and enterprise: if you love a product you tell your friends or colleagues about it and the company sees this amazing organic growth.”
The other winning factor? Representation, Saper said. Her grandmother was a nuclear engineer and her mother was a physician, but she realizes that not all women were encouraged to participate in science and technology during their early years.
“I’m incredibly passionate about getting more women involved in all parts of tech ecosystem,” Saper said. “As a third generation woman in science and technology, I grew up in a world where that was normal.”
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