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

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

An elevator pitch, fast espresso, lunch or Zoom chat is perhaps 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 mentioned 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 powerful curiosity in style, e-commerce and the patron 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, ladies 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 form of is aware of what their dad does. For my household, I used to be actually lucky that regardless that my dad all the time labored actually arduous, we actually prioritized household dinners. In these conversations, questions and curiosity had 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 form of give us the 2-minute pitch and he would ask, ‘What do you consider this concept?’ That form of question-and-answer expertise from a younger age was simply ingrained in us, to be curious. And I cherished 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 traces, watching my dad find out how principally the web — and what I contemplate my on a regular basis life at the moment — acquired created, all the time acquired me enthusiastic about know-how. It opened the door to what was taking place 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 discipline?

Madison McIlwain: I believe what I discovered most from my dad is the ability of investing in folks and placing that on the core of the way you construct nice firms. We’re 32 years aside, so there may be 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 believe I’ve him beat on client frontline/social and what’s taking place in that world. I don’t assume he’s on Clubhouse but, so I might 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 appears 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 believe for me rising up, Seattle was so essential.

The ecosystem that I’ve right here is absolutely highly effective and thrilling. However as I look to my associates again in Seattle, numerous my highschool associates moved again house and are working in huge tech they usually’re additionally getting began on their journeys of constructing their very own issues or leaving to hitch 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 search out feminine founders, do you’ve a specific viewpoint on what might change round serving to extra ladies get the required backing in tech?

Madison McIlwain: I ought to begin off by saying I’m fortunate that I’ve an unimaginable staff with Defy who’ve all the time valued my strengths as a younger girl and seen that as an asset. I’ve all the time felt empowered to have the ability to have a look at nice firms, irrespective 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 remedy the world’s issues simply as I noticed match. And so I believe that that gender mentality is just not one which’s ever actually come into the forefront of how I method fixing issues and investing. Nevertheless, I might be remiss to not word the place there are alternatives for development and the place the numbers fairly frankly could be miserable at instances.

I believe what it comes right down to is, how do you get to know these entrepreneurs? How do you connect with them? In the end we’re promoting to them on why we’re going to assist them construct the subsequent huge enterprise. If I’m being sincere, it’s simpler for me to attach with younger ladies. 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 ladies investing and extra ladies in entrepreneurship.

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

Madison McIlwain: I’ve all the time cherished retail know-how and I believe I actually grew up in a very attention-grabbing time the place e-commerce was simply coming on-line. I grew into what’s now e-commerce and the ability that that holds for shoppers and entry to something. Once I had the chance to do product administration out of school at Hole Inc, on the scale of their billion-dollar market cap provide chain, it was a suggestion I couldn’t move up as a result of it felt like the fitting factor to do to be taught on the legacy earlier than saying, ‘All of it must be redone and ripped out and modernized.’ What can I be taught from these giants who’ve been round 50 years when Shopify manufacturers die on daily basis? Getting that 1,000-foot view was extremely useful to tell the place I believe 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 client experiences and I imagine superior client experiences win in the long run. They win for comfort for me. And that’s nice. However once I take into consideration what differentiates a retailer and what differentiates a model, and the way shoppers care at the moment about what their manufacturers stand for, they take care of the values they usually typically now wish to put their {dollars} behind the place these values are going. Amazon doesn’t do this as a lot. That’s not likely why you go to them. And I believe that’s actually a crucial inflection level. So procuring by your values and by your model goes to proceed to be a method that I believe different forms of retailers are going to win, or a minimum of create a very good carve-out for themselves out there.

And listed here 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 pondering and particularly how that applies to the whole client provide chain. We’ve got all the time loved speaking about innovation and entrepreneurship, and I used to be pleasantly stunned when she determined to change into a enterprise capitalist. I might 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 patron provide chain, however it goes past the programs and workflows. She additionally has an unimaginable eye for style and design. I’ve personally benefitted from her eye for style as she has considerably upgraded and helped my wardrobe change into extra “on pattern” through the years. And, imagine me, I wanted the assistance! Whereas we share a core worth that each individual deserves the easiest alternative to succeed, Madison has centered her efforts right here on creating alternatives for girls to have the schooling, data and entry to change into as completed in life as they aspire to be! Her podcast The Room and her work with San Francisco Ladies Faculty are a pair examples as are her efforts to again feminine founders.

GeekWire: Does it make it enjoyable to test in along with her and speak store?

Matt McIlwain: It’s actually enjoyable to share a profession with one in all your kids. And, whereas there have been many challenges in the course of the previous 12 months, a silver lining for us was that we had been in individual fairly a bit and would typically go for jogs and speak in regards to the enterprise world. We are also identified to speak about tendencies and corporations on the dinner desk, however typically there was a bit an excessive amount of “store speak” 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 house. It will get nice mild however has horrible insulation! Between my monitor, laptop computer and crops I’m set for type, perform and contemporary oxygen.

What’s the one piece of know-how you couldn’t dwell with out, and why? My Zojirushi; prompt sizzling water is a sport changer as a tea drinker.

Your greatest tip or trick for managing on a regular basis work and life. (Assist us out, we’d like 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 numerous satisfaction dragging issues from “In Progress” to “Full.” Whether or not it’s on Notion, Coda, or Trello, I believe 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 guide launch of Twilight’s fourth guide … that is the Geek of the Week column in any case!

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

Biggest sport 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 Faculty!

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

Most essential know-how of 2023: Expertise and provide chain innovation that empowers totally closed loop client conduct! We have to construct higher programs that permit shoppers to buy whereas sustaining our planet.

Last phrases of recommendation in your fellow geeks: Lean into curiosity, and when you’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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