When ZenFund CEO Anna Fang was new to venture investing, her mentor told her that the right entrepreneurs were the ones who made her realize the world could be different as she saw it. He took this advice to heart. Eleven years later, she rose to the top of the first Midas Seed list as the most successful seed investor in the world.
Venture capital was never the plan for Fang, who began his career as an investment banker at JPMorgan in 2010 after earning his MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. She later moved into business development at General Electric, but was soon approached by the former Stanford. classmate, Dan Hu, about a different occasion.
Hu, who is now the founder and CEO of Shanghai mobile credit startup Omni Prime, was asked to help out Chinese angel investor Xiaoping (Bob) Xu – who goes on to back companies such as online cosmetic company Jumei and edtech17zuoye Goes – launch a new fund. Hu had just started out as a vice president at global venture capital firm Sequoia, and he thought Fang would be a good fit for the role.
“I consider myself extremely lucky that someone thought of me helping Bob, to help GenFund,” Fang tells WebMD. Forbes, “I was 29 at the time. I’m so lucky that this job, which I landed, turned out to be something I really love and plan on doing forever. I realized in a minute That this is something I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do.”
Xu was originally looking for Fang to take on an operational role, but he also insisted on being part of the investment side. It paid off. Xu, a member of the last five-time Midas List, shows Fang the ropes through each of his investments, the philosophy behind them, and the lessons learned. It got stuck. Eleven years later, Fang has supported over 30 seed-stage startups that have become unicorns, and over 90 startups that reached a successful exit. That track record has earned her a spot on the Midas list for four consecutive years, which also includes this year’s highest-ranked female investor.
One of Fang’s most notable bets was the social media platform Xiaohongshu (RED). She backed the company in the 2013 seed round after recognizing one of the cofounders, Charlwyn Mao Wenchao, who always raised her hand and asked questions when she was visiting Stanford’s campus. The company is now valued at $20 billion. Another strong investment was smart mobility company Horizon Robotics. Fang led the 2016 Angel Round of Startups; Now it is worth 4 billion dollars.
“I feel young all the time. I can go from one deal in robotics, to the next as a brand new one, to something in the metaverse,” she says. “You can switch between different things. I’m like a generalist. I get to know about all these new things in a world where you’re always the first person you know about.”
Topping the Midas seed list is a major achievement for Fang, but it also represents a refreshing change of pace. While only 14% of venture capitalists are women, according to industry organization All Rise, Fang’s success shows that a woman can still claim the title of best seed investor in the world.
All Rise CEO Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon told Forbes While she’s not surprised that a woman has taken that position, such recognition can be transformative for young women in the industry and those who are considering venture capital as a career path. “It’s actually such a powerful signal to doubling down on the fact that power is being transferred,” says Dixon. “It is becoming more accessible to historically marginalized groups. I think we’re going to see more of it.”
Dixon says that Fang’s top spot on the seed list sends a stronger message than his place on the major Midas list. “When I think of seed, I think of check-in first,” she says. “I think of a first believer who is courageous enough to dream with these founders who see a world that does not yet exist. Representing a woman as an early believer, someone courageous The person, too big.”
Fang isn’t the only woman on the first Midas seed list. Kirsten Green, founder and managing partner of Forerunner Ventures, and Ann Miura-Ko, cofounding partner of Floodgate, both earned positions on the list in addition to the flagship Midas list. The seed list also includes Jenny Lefcourt of Freestyle Capital, who was not previously on the Midas list, but has an impressive seed portfolio that includes BetterUp, Embark and Airtable.
Despite her track record, Fang herself was surprised to learn that she had earned the distinction—thinking, she says, that the Midas team might have missed a more significant seed investor, perhaps an early supporter at Uber or ByteDance. She was also surprised because she considers herself still in the early stages of her career. She’s made a lot of successful investments, but she’s still looking to run her own home, she says.
“I’m still looking for my ByteDance,” Fang says, referring to the $140 billion private company behind TikTok. “I have some great investments, but we’re still missing out on our ByteDance. That’s what keeps me hungry.”