The Top 10: #5 Elana Lian, investment director, Intel Capital

Elana Lian invests in domains including internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, to transform industries such as retail, industrial automation, supply chain and logistics on behalf of Intel Capital, the US-listed chipmaker’s corporate venture capital (CVC) arm.

Wendell Brooks, senior vice-president of Intel and president of Intel Capital, said: “Elana distinguishes herself with her extensive domain knowledge. Over the past several years, Elana has developed several investment theses for AI-enabled, full-stack enterprise solutions.”

Lian has invested $50m in eight companies resulting in one exit and multiple follow-up rounds, having led five of these deals and built a portfolio including computer vision and AI-driven robotics startup Bossa Nova, virtual manufacturing platform Fictiv, edge computing technology developer Pixeom, retail analytics software developer Rubikloud and IoT cybersecurity software provider Venafi.

Lian is on the boards of five companies where she serves as an adviser. She led the pre-A round for Pixeom, whose chief executive Sam Nagar said: “Elana joined us when our revenue was roughly $1.5m. Her direct contributions help grow our annual revenue grow to $10m and then to $20m. She earned her spot as my most trusted adviser. She was helping us navigate new territory.

“She prioritised and made customer introductions to generate revenue, investor introductions, and she even found a potential acquirer who started their M&A diligence and became the catalyst for the acquisition.” Industrial product and appliance manufacturer Siemens acquired Pixeom in November 2019.

Brooks added: “Elana has invested in her development, obtaining multiple degrees and building breadth and depth of operational, technical and financial experience. She has extended a strong network and enhanced her learning with the Kauffman fellowship and by rolling up her sleeves and digging deep into potential investment areas. She is guided by passion and persistence to learn, to improve, to select the best companies and to work with founders to accelerate their progress.”

Lian has a bachelor of engineering science in electrical engineering from University of Toronto, a master of electrical engineering from Tufts and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Lian joined Intel in 2010 as an associate, working first in equity investing then in M&A. She supported equity investments including cloud-storage firm Tier3 and robot maker Aldebaran, which were acquired respectively by telecommunications firm CenturyLink’s Savvis subsidiary and by internet conglomerate SoftBank. She also worked on Intel’s acquisition of computer vision technology provider Itseez.

Before Intel, Lian had over a decade of experience in the US and China in cross-functional operational roles including engineering, product and business development, having also founded two startups – an e-commerce platform and a factory automation software provider.

Being a strong advocator of diversity and inclusion, Lian said: “I am thrilled to be working in corporate venturing. Yet, when I look around, I see very few people in our industry that look like me. As CVCs, we take pride in delivering so many great things. How can we possibly feel that 16% female representation is anywhere near acceptable?

“We will all benefit from a more diverse and inclusive VC and startup community, where people of different backgrounds should have the opportunity to participate, shape and thrive in the investing, and building of technology-driven companies.”

Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.