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VC household: Madison McIlwain follows her father’s footsteps, and carves out her personal tech pursuits

Matt McIlwain and Madison McIlwain. (Photograph courtesy of Madison McIlwain)

An elevator pitch, fast espresso, lunch or Zoom chat could be how some traders get a really feel for a specific firm or founder. Madison McIlwain picked up what to search for, and the ins and outs of enterprise capital, seated on the household dinner desk as a child.

McIlwain is the daughter of Matt McIlwain, a managing director at Seattle’s Madrona Enterprise Group. Rising up in Seattle, she considers herself lucky to have discovered from the longtime tech investor — and he or she valued sufficient of what her dad stated that she adopted him into the sector.

McIlwain is now an affiliate at San Francisco-based Defy, an early stage VC based 5 years in the past. The agency has a number of investments in Seattle and is a co-investor with Madrona on two firms — Nautilus Biotechnology and WhyLabs. Previous to Defy, McIlwain frolicked at Hole Inc. as a product supervisor and he or she has a robust curiosity in vogue, e-commerce and the buyer provide chain.

We caught up with Madison (and Matt, too) for a twist on this week’s Geek of the Week to speak about VC, household, SF vs SEA, girls in tech and extra. Hold studying for the dialog, edited for size and readability.

GeekWire: Inform us a bit bit about rising up, studying what your dad did for a residing and studying the way it all labored. Did it curiosity you as a child?

Madison McIlwain: Each child sort of is aware of what their dad does. For my household, I used to be actually lucky that although my dad all the time labored actually onerous, we actually prioritized household dinners. In these conversations, questions and curiosity have been all the time inspired and naturally all of us would discuss our days. After which my dad was like, ‘Oh, nicely, we noticed this firm,’ and he would sort of give us the 2-minute pitch and he would ask, ‘What do you consider this concept?’ That sort of question-and-answer expertise from a younger age was simply ingrained in us, to be curious. And I beloved that it was all the time this avenue for studying.

He used to co-teach a course on the UW on entrepreneurship, and there was all the time a pitch competitors on the finish, and we might get to go alongside and watch the pitches. I keep in mind popping out of these and [wondering], ‘Wait, what’s healthcare within the cloud? What is that this factor? How is that this gonna work?’ This was 2007, so attending to be on the entrance strains, watching my dad learn the way mainly the web — and what I contemplate my on a regular basis life right now — acquired created, all the time acquired me enthusiastic about know-how. It opened the door to what was occurring on the forefront of innovation, particularly being within the Seattle ecosystem the place there was a lot superb and funky issues happening within the mid 2000s.

GeekWire: What’s that relationship like now that you’re in the identical subject?

Madison McIlwain: I feel what I discovered most from my dad is the facility of investing in folks and placing that on the core of the way you construct nice firms. We’re 32 years aside, so there’s naturally a bit little bit of a generational factor there. Fortuitously for me he’s fairly hip on all issues, particularly deep tech. He wears his Allbirds and he needed to inform me what GPT-Three was. I feel I’ve him beat on shopper frontline/social and what’s occurring in that world. I don’t assume he’s on Clubhouse but, so I may need to throw him one in all my invitations on that one.

GeekWire: How does your data of VC and rising up in Seattle translate to residing in San Francisco and doing that job?

Madison McIlwain: Properly, I really like Seattle. It’s the place I grew up. It looks like my house away from house. It’s the cloud of capital of the world, proper? Microsoft and Amazon are there and it’s this hub of innovation. And that may be a quote from my dad — he calls it the cloud capital. That’s his favourite factor to say. I feel for me rising up, Seattle was so essential.

The ecosystem that I’ve right here is de facto highly effective and thrilling. However as I look to my buddies again in Seattle, a whole lot of my highschool buddies moved again house and are working in huge tech and so they’re additionally getting began on their journeys of constructing their very own issues or leaving to affix startups. I’m a believer that the rising tide lifts all boats, as tech continues to develop Seattle and SF will. And I’m hopeful that there’ll be extra alternatives to speculate throughout borders, so to talk.

GeekWire: In serving to firms get funding, do you hunt down feminine founders, do you may have a specific viewpoint on what may change round serving to extra girls get the required backing in tech?

Madison McIlwain: I ought to begin off by saying I’m fortunate that I’ve an unimaginable group with Defy who’ve all the time valued my strengths as a younger lady and seen that as an asset. I’ve all the time felt empowered to have the ability to have a look at nice firms, regardless of who the founders are. [My parents] all the time handled me the very same as my brothers, and I felt empowered to exit and resolve the world’s issues simply as I noticed match. And so I feel that that gender mentality will not be one which’s ever actually come into the forefront of how I strategy fixing issues and investing. Nevertheless, I’d be remiss to not be aware the place there are alternatives for development and the place the numbers fairly frankly may be miserable at occasions.

I feel what it comes right down to is, how do you get to know these entrepreneurs? How do you connect with them? Finally we’re promoting to them on why we’re going to assist them construct the following huge enterprise. If I’m being trustworthy, it’s simpler for me to attach with younger girls. I imply, that’s who I’m, proper? And so these contact factors breed community results that permit for these real conversations and people real connections that I’m hopeful over time will create a flywheel of extra girls investing and extra girls in entrepreneurship.

GeekWire: Together with your retail/tech background, what’s your tackle brick-and-mortar retail in 2021 and competing towards all issues Amazon?

Madison McIlwain: I’ve all the time beloved retail know-how and I feel I actually grew up in a extremely attention-grabbing time the place e-commerce was simply coming on-line. I grew into what’s now e-commerce and the facility that that holds for shoppers and entry to something. Once I had the chance to do product administration out of faculty at Hole Inc, on the scale of their billion-dollar market cap provide chain, it was a suggestion I couldn’t cross up as a result of it felt like the appropriate factor to do to study on the legacy earlier than saying, ‘All of it must be redone and ripped out and modernized.’ What can I study from these giants who’ve been round 50 years when Shopify manufacturers die daily? Getting that 1,000-foot view was extremely useful to tell the place I feel there’s going to proceed to be alternatives for disruption. And I wouldn’t depend the outdated gamers out.

Amazon is superb at offering nice shopper experiences and I imagine superior shopper experiences win in the long run. They win for comfort for me. And that’s nice. However after I take into consideration what differentiates a retailer and what differentiates a model, and the way shoppers care right now about what their manufacturers stand for, they look after the values and so they usually now prefer to put their {dollars} behind the place these values are going. Amazon doesn’t try this as a lot. That’s probably not why you go to them. And I feel that’s actually a crucial inflection level. So procuring by your values and by your model goes to proceed to be a means that I feel different forms of retailers are going to win, or no less than create a extremely good carve-out for themselves out there.

And listed below are Matt McIlwain’s solutions to our questions:

(Photograph courtesy of Madison McIlwain)

GeekWire: What does it imply to you that Madison has adopted your line of labor?

Matt McIlwain: Madison combines a pure curiosity for the way issues work with nice consideration to element and persistence. She additionally loves design considering and particularly how that applies to all the shopper provide chain. We have now all the time loved speaking about innovation and entrepreneurship, and I used to be pleasantly shocked when she determined to develop into a enterprise capitalist. I may need guessed that she would begin her personal firm sooner or later!

GeekWire: How is she totally different from you?

Matt McIlwain: Madison has a deep ardour for the buyer provide chain, however it goes past the methods and workflows. She additionally has an unimaginable eye for vogue and design. I’ve personally benefitted from her eye for vogue as she has considerably upgraded and helped my wardrobe develop into extra “on pattern” over time. And, imagine me, I wanted the assistance! Whereas we share a core worth that each particular person deserves the perfect alternative to succeed, Madison has targeted her efforts right here on creating alternatives for girls to have the schooling, data and entry to develop into as achieved in life as they aspire to be! Her podcast The Room and her work with San Francisco Women College are a pair examples as are her efforts to again feminine founders.

GeekWire: Does it make it enjoyable to examine in along with her and discuss store?

Matt McIlwain: It’s actually enjoyable to share a profession with one in all your kids. And, whereas there have been many challenges through the previous 12 months, a silver lining for us was that we have been in particular person fairly a bit and would usually go for jogs and discuss in regards to the enterprise world. We are also identified to talk about tendencies and firms on the dinner desk, however typically there was a bit an excessive amount of “store discuss” on the dinner desk!

Be taught a bit extra about this week’s Geek of the Week, Madison McIlwain:

Madison McIlwain’s work-from-home set-up in San Francisco. (Photograph courtesy of Madison McIlwain)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it give you the results you want? I’ve a desk that sits within the Victorian bay window in my 100-year-old San Francisco condominium. It will get nice mild however has horrible insulation! Between my monitor, laptop computer and vegetation I’m set for kind, operate and recent oxygen.

What’s the one piece of know-how you couldn’t reside with out, and why? My Zojirushi; on the spot scorching water is a recreation changer as a tea drinker.

Your greatest tip or trick for managing on a regular basis work and life. (Assist us out, we want it.) I’m a little bit of a Notion addict. As a former PM, I really like utilizing Kanban boards for private group. I additionally get a whole lot of satisfaction dragging issues from “In Progress” to “Full.” Whether or not it’s on Notion, Coda, or Trello, I feel having a private “roadmap” to drop all of your to-do’s into helps declutter your thoughts.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time Machine. I used to be a historical past main!

I as soon as waited in line for … the midnight ebook launch of Twilight’s fourth ebook … that is the Geek of the Week column in spite of everything!

Your position fashions: My Dad, Kirsten Inexperienced, Eva Chen.

Best recreation in historical past: “BlackBerry Brick Breaker.”

Greatest gadget ever: The Kindle.

Favourite app: Proper now, Fable! I like to learn and this app is unlocking unimaginable studying suggestions and folios. Suppose Spotify, for books.

Favourite trigger: San Francisco Woman’s College!

Most essential know-how of 2021: COVID-19 vaccine.

Most essential know-how of 2023: Know-how and provide chain innovation that empowers solely closed loop shopper conduct! We have to construct higher methods that permit shoppers to buy whereas sustaining our planet.

Closing phrases of recommendation in your fellow geeks: Lean into curiosity, and if you happen to’re a founder, keep decided to construct a greater expertise in your clients.

Web site: Defy and The Room podcast

Twitter: @MadsMcIlwain

LinkedIn: Madison McIlwain



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