10 Must-Meet Technical Investors

July 8, 2021 | Building software is hard, and building a software company is even harder. These folks have seen quite a bit across their careers & can hopefully help make your lives easier.

Here at VC Guide, our mission is to serve founders and to surface incredible people doing even more incredible work. This is a resource intended to celebrate phenomenal individuals from all different backgrounds who might be strong technical value-adds for any company, whether you need help with product, managing engineering teams, or building in a specific vertical.

We asked the VC Guide Community who they thought were "must-meet" technical investors to have on a cap table, and they told us about awesome people who were:
💻 Experienced engineers, managers, or technical founders
❤️ Highly praised & repeatedly nominated by founders, operators, & investors

There were so many fantastic names that were brought up & many more that were missed but here are a few who deserve your consideration for your cap table.

Lee Edwards

Partner at Root Ventures

The quote that stands out most for us among references is "Lee is a no-brainer for technical founders." In a past life, he was a mechanical engineer at iRobot, a software engineer at Pivotal Labs, lead engineer at SideTour, engineering manager for Groupon, and then CTO for Teespring. He's currently a partner at Root Ventures, a hard tech seed fund in San Francisco composed of "engineers leading the first venture rounds for technical founders solving hard problems," which seems accurate given his experience. Lee's software thesis includes "developer tools and services, software infrastructure, tools for data scientists and engineers, and applied AI & ML." He's worth talking to if you're looking for someone with engineering management experience too.

Li Fan

CTO at Circle

There are few technical executives more sought out in tech than Li. To say that she has had an amazing career would be an understatement. Over the past few years she has built incredible engineering teams at Baidu, Google, Pinterest, Lime, and now Circle. Li comes highly recommended from founders & operators as someone who can help you as you navigate scaling your engineering organizations. Two words that best describe her: impact & scale.

Dave Fontenot & Lucy Guo

Founders at Backend Capital

Let us first preface by saying that we're not doing these two justice by bundling them together, but we can't talk about their fund, Backend Capital, without both of them. This is a powerful team that brings a lot to the table: Lucy was previously a product designer at Quora and Snapchat and a co-founder at Scale while Dave founded the largest hackathon in the world with MHacks. However, none of this highlights their true superpower as an investment team: their engineering network. No one has been recommended to us so much for their ability to help hire first engineers and to help with product launches as much as Backend Capital.

Paul Judge

Managing Partner at Panoramic Ventures

Paul is a technical entrepreneur through and through. He has a proven track record as a co-founder and CTO of three security companies that were acquired (CipherTrust, Secure Computing, Purewire). He also co-founded Pindrop Security (voice security), Luma Home (consumer WiFi) and TechSquare Labs (venture studio). He now primarily invests through his fund Panoramic Ventures, but if there is one thing that's clear, he loves building technology companies. Most people know him from his awesome impact & focus in building the tech ecosystems in the South (primarily Atlanta), but founders & operators highly recommend him due to his unique edge as a serial entrepreneur. If you're a founder who wants to learn from someone who has been down the M&A block a couple times or has built a bit of a playbook building multiple strong technical businesses, then Paul might be a great fit.

Susan Kimberlin

Investor at Good And Useful

In all honesty, it would be hard to start listing out Susan's resume because the question quickly becomes, "what hasn't she done?" She's been a product leader, a film producer, a vineyard owner, as well as an extremely active investor, LP, & advisor. Her niche that made her a top recommendation from founders, operators, and investors alike comes from her industry-level knowledge in computational linguistics & NLP. That's not something you see often, and her experience speaks for itself as she built production-level search functions at Paypal & Salesforce. She is a "must-meet" for your cap table if you're a founder dealing with search/NLP, big data, or enterprise software.

Andreas Klinger

CTO at OnDeck and Investor at Remote First Capital

Andreas's background just screams "start-ups," and it seems to be what draws founders to him most as he's been an engineering leader at Product Hunt, CoinList, AngelList, and now OnDeck. His investment thesis also makes him a unique value-add to startups: remote work. He operates a small fund called Remote First Capital that focuses on remote work tools, engineering/no-code tools, and global work as a whole, which gives him an edge in this new environment where more teams are adopting remote work more than ever. Whether you're an early-stage startup looking to build for the distributed future, or you're navigating how to build that remote culture yourself, Andreas might just be the person to talk to.

Cathy Polinsky

VP of Engineering at Shopify

"Look no further if you're a founder building in e-commerce" — that's a strong founder recommendation if we've ever heard one. The glowing review makes complete sense once you see that Cathy has spent an extensive amount of time building engineering orgs at Stitch Fix and now Shopify. However, that doesn't mean she won't be an extreme value add to your cap table if you're in other verticals given that she's also spent quite a bit of time in B2B (she previously was the SVP Eng. at Salesforce).

Shivani Sharma

Senior Engineering Manager at Slack

There are a ton of reasons why Shivani has received raving reviews from engineers & operators alike, but the biggest one by far is that she's an active mentor. Aside frombuilding out engineering teams at Slack, Shivani is involved with Plato, Code2040, Ascent, and Calibrate — all platforms through which Shivani helps others with engineering leadership and management. It's only natural that she would bring all of that to her advising & investing to help early stage founders. You might find her an irreplaceable value add if you're building a company in B2B SaaS.

Niniane Wang

Board and Technical Advisor

Niniane is a great friend to founders given her experience as the founder of Evertoon, which was acquired by Niantic where she was VP of Engineering. Before she was building out incredibly cool games like Pokemon GO and Harry Potter, she had a legendary career leading engineering teams at Minted, Google (Desktop Search, Gmail, and Google Lively) and Microsoft (Flight Simulator). While her unique edge might come in her very extensive experience with AR/VR and gaming, she came most recommended by founders due to her generosity in giving advice around building engineering teams and generally building really hard products. Have you seen her Wikipedia article? We'd trust her.

Jason Warner

Partner at Redpoint

The first referral we ever received on Jason was "he's the CTO of GitHub, what other reason would you need." In all seriousness, there are very few people who probably think more about developers and engineers than Jason, and his tenures as an engineering leader at Heroku and Ubuntu before GitHub reflect that. More than anything he's a favorite among founders, operators, and investors due to his empathy and knowledge around running incredibly efficient engineering orgs.

Ding Zhou

Head of Content Engineering at Snap

Building out social networks seems to be in Ding's DNA. His PhD dissertation was in mining social networks, and after that he went from being an early hire at Facebook to becoming one of tech's most respected engineering leaders after having spent time at Square, DoorDash, Pinterest, and now Snap. With all of that under his belt, he still figured out how to be an extremely strategic angel to founders—his most glowing reviews emphasize his extensive network, product sense, and engineering management.

We're entering a new exciting time in venture where founders are looking to fill their cap tables with increasingly more strategic individuals. Whether you want us to surface more incredible people, or there's someone specific who you'd like for us to highlight, please email us!

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