The Shana Fisher Competitive Advantage

It ain’t what you know, it’s what you feel
Don’t worry about being right, just be for real
—Parliament, “Ride On”

Parliament - Ride On | Listen for free at bop.fm

Today we are announcing Shana Fisher as a new board partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Although she keeps a low profile, people in high tech investing know all about Shana. They know about her because she is so good at what she does. As an early stage investor, she has invested in a broad set of outstanding companies including MakerBot, Pinterest, Vine, FiftyThree, Refinery29 and Stripe.

Shana_Fisher_web.jpgIn addition, she is our kind of investor—one who combines the street smarts of how to build companies with the book smarts of how to invest in them. She first became involved in the Internet when she downloaded Mosaic. At a16z, we also have a high affinity for Mosaic and its bald headed co-inventor. After understanding the Internet, she became program manager at Microsoft. Later she went on to become a Vice President of Technology and Media M&A at Allen & Company, and then she led strategic planning and mergers and acquisitions at IAC before starting High Line Venture Partners, her own early stage investing business.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to do in high-tech venture investing is to identify winning consumer products before they have traction, yet Shana has done this as consistently as anyone over the past 3 years. Even more amazingly, she’s done it across a broad variety of categories from 3D printing to payments.

When I asked Shana how she figured out which consumer companies would succeed so early in their lifecycle, her answer surprised me. She said, “I understand the markets and products and technology from my background, but I don’t think that I evaluate them better than others. That’s not my competitive differentiation.” She explained: “When entrepreneurs come to me, they come with an idea and a product. No team, no traction. So, I evaluate the entrepreneur and the product. I’d like to think that I have a strong grasp of human psychology. I really try to understand what great entrepreneurs have in them, and I look for the ones who have it, and then I do what I can to help them realize their greatness.”

In talking to the many entrepreneurs that we have in common, Shana definitely helps them become great. So much so that she is their first request as a new board member, which makes this partnership a natural.

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