When we first invested in Match.com in 1995, the idea that people would find love online was laughable. In 2006 when we incubated what eventually became Kabam, Facebook’s nascent developer platform was unproven. The following year, when Lending Club inspired us with an audacious vision of disrupting lending, the big banks still seemed unstoppable. And when we backed Instacart in 2012, the idea that people would order groceries online at scale and across the country was . . . controversial. These were seemingly crazy ideas – the best consumer companies always are when they start.
Yet, while the platform shift to mobile has transformed consumer tech over the past 10 years, 85% of commerce still happens offline. Younger generations make buying decisions completely differently than older consumers – brand and loyalty are paramount, traditional ownership less so. And they’re looking for experiences that draw them in and connect them with one another.
At the same time, baby boomers are living longer, staying in their homes longer, and are healthier than ever. What products and services exist today for that generation? Few – but with their mobile-fluency becoming ubiquitous, that’s about to change.
A new generation of entrepreneur is building consumer products and services that will surprise and delight people across the age and demographic spectrum – ideas that seem crazy today, and will feel intuitive in a few years. So, we’re building out a new generation of investors at Canaan to attack these opportunities before they become household names, and deepen our consumer practice.
We’re thrilled to welcome Byron Ling to Canaan as a Principal based in NYC. Byron joins us from Primary Venture Partners where he led investments in Mirror, CoEdition and K Health. He was also closely involved with Ollie, where we first worked together. We’re also proud to announce that Laura Chau has been promoted to Principal and has relocated to our NYC office to lead consumer investments, building on her work with companies like Cuyana, Kabam and Marie Kondo. These changes build on top of Canaan Beta – our consumer seed program – that launched earlier this year.
For us these team changes are exciting not only because we’re still bullish on the next phase of consumer tech, but because it fits within a core tenet of our team and culture: empowerment. For decades, Canaan’s Principals have been independent deal-doers, taking board seats and partnering closely with founders. That is a rare model in our industry, and one we view as a great source of strength and scale. Our bench of investors is empowered to bring a strong POV, take risk and own responsibility for that risk. This model makes us all better.
In addition to hiring Byron and promoting Laura within our consumer practice, we’re excited to announce that we have also promoted Rayfe Gaspar-Asaoka to Principal. Rayfe has been with Canaan since 2015, sourcing investments in aerospace, autonomous vehicles and working closely with all of our frontier tech companies. Going forward, he will be leading investments in robotics, A/V technology, AI/ML and enterprise.
Our people are our secret sauce. Over our 30+ year history, we’ve seen the power of different perspectives. Today we are 40% women, 47% first generation or immigrant, a mix of career VCs, former CEOs, technologists and physicians. And a bench of empowered investors who see and do things differently. In the same way we ask our companies to innovate and disrupt, we practice what we preach. We’re excited to see the vision that these new Principals bring to our industry and to the next generation of companies in the Canaan portfolio.