Investment Notes: Bella Acton - Our Creative Director!

Read why AfterWork Ventures is delighted to announce our investment in the latest addition to our team - creative powerhouse Annabel Acton!

Storytelling is one of the most important skills a startup founder can have. A good story does so much more than convey information: it resonates, it inspires action, it brings people together. Stories bring to life characters that readers can’t wait to meet, and paints a vision of a future that people are excited to rally around.

Today we’re delighted to announce our latest hire: AfterWork’s storyteller-in-chief and Creative Director, Bella Acton!

Bella often has the team in fits of laughter

As our Creative Director, Bella’s job will be to help all AfterWorkers - from our community members, to our portfolio companies, to the AfterWork team, tell their best stories. We’re excited to share these stories, not simply because we hope they’ll be interesting or instructive, but because we hope others see the ‘rhymes’ between our stories and their own.

What we loved about the opportunity

Bella is a natural storyteller

Bella has some serious writing chops - she was a regular writer for Forbes and Inc., regularly contributing delightful takes on innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship. Her articles are equal parts zany and incisive - we particularly love this one on killer business advice from Salvador Dali and this reflection on loneliness during the holiday seasons.

Nine months ago, Bella held our hand as we put pen to paper on our own origin stories. She sat down with us and helped us to define the key elements which we hoped to encapsulate in our brand story. Since then, Bella has led the development of our brand, from our logo, to the copy on our website, to the now-iconic rockhands on our landing page.

Bella is also driving our efforts to share the collective wisdoms of our community members with the world. She’s already launched two content series: Making Magic seeks to bust inertia and inspire businesses to approach what they do in new and provocative ways, while Fresh Fundamentals mines our community of operators for gold dust on how to excel at the basics of every function.

Bella is an eternal optimist, and sees potential everywhere

Bella is the founder of Never Liked It Anyway, the number one place for offloading your breakup baggage and moving on. In addition to being an e-commerce marketplace for unwanted items from past relationships, Never Liked It Anyway spawned a movement -    coalescing a community of people beating the breakup blues together. Off the back of the website’s popular blog, Bella published a book and the Bounce Back Stack - a deck of 30 challenges to get back to feeling spectacular after particularly bruising breakups. Right now, Bella is working on a pilot episode for a TV series!

Having built a resonant brand at her own startup, Bella is exceedingly generous in advising other companies on how to build their brands. Bella is a Senior Partner at Kin Group, where she works with Kin’s portfolio companies on brand, marketing, innovation, and growth. In addition, Bella has also mentored many startups through her work with Techstars and Antler.

As AfterWork’s Creative Director, Bella will be getting in the trenches with portfolio companies to help them develop their brand visions and tell their stories.

Bella will help AfterWork to build not only a brand, but create a movement

As early-stage investors, we spend a lot of time thinking about how companies grow their brand following. As every founder of a successful consumer startup knows, a brand which successfully captures the imagination of their customers, and in doing so, maintains a ‘share of voice’ greater than their ‘share of market’, is well on their way to a rapid growth trajectory. This thesis underpins our investment in some powerhouse direct-to-consumer companies, including Lyka, Vitruvian, and Outlaw Soaps.

AfterWork is a startup too, and we believe we can unlock growth by investing early in our brand. With a powerful and distinctive brand, we hope to punch above our weight in being top-of-mind for founders looking for investment, and for operators looking for a way to invest in the next generation of startups.

One of the ways we’ll be building our brand is consistently publishing thought-provoking material through our Substack. We’ve set ourselves an ambitious content calendar; we aim to publish every week! Bella has been the champion propelling these efforts, and she particularly excels at mining the community for their collective wisdom.

Our ambitions are larger than simply building an iconic VC fund. AfterWork’s purpose is to invest in founders who’ve taken a leap of faith, and made ‘after work’ their ‘life’s work’. We want the AfterWork brand to inspire a generation of people to do the same. As a spirited, high-conviction, trailblazing entrepreneur herself, we believe Bella is the perfect person to meet this challenge.

The challenges we saw

What is the role of a Creative Director at a brand new VC fund?

At a lot of VCs, first hires are usually an Investment Associate, a General Counsel, or an Operations Manager. Bringing onboard a Creative Director from Day One is unusual, and the role remains uncommon even among established VCs.

However, we believe creativity is the meta-skill of the 21st century. We love the thoughts Joel Connolly, the Creative Director at Blackbird Ventures, has on this topic. In this podcast, he opines that, “creativity allows us to exist in ambiguous spaces; to form communities of people who have similar interests; to join together disparate ideas; to have the confidence to learn and be self-directed learners”.

Bella’s role will be to infuse creativity into everything we do - and everything we put into the world. We believe the constant encouragement to think and live creatively is crucial for growing and innovating as a brand new, community-powered VC fund.

In addition to her internal facing role, Bella’s skillset will be available to help our portfolio grow. We hope having access to Bella’s wealth of knowledge will encourage our portfolio companies to similarly invest early creativity and telling resonant stories.

Bella already wears many hats

One of Bella’s former colleagues is Jarrod Bransden from the Bureau of Design. Jarrod has worked with Bella on many projects, and made this comment about her:

“Every time I chat with Bella, she’s either just jumped off a call with LA about the TV pilot she’s working on; or she’ll tell me about a great start-up she’s advising in her spare time; or about how Sadie’s done something hilarious - which reminds me that she’s crushing life while raising a bold and confident little girl at the same time! And that’s before we get started on the projects we’re working on together… Nothing is ever too difficult or ambitious for Bella.”

Essentially, Bella already has a lot going on! Initially, Bella will be joining AfterWork in a part-time capacity, while keeping her role as a Senior Partner at Kin Group.

But we believe the many hats that Bella wears is a strength, not an impediment. As a high-powered professional who also works on her own projects, Bella has empathy for both our community members and our founders. We’re honoured that she’s been convinced to make AfterWork a bigger part of her work!

How we got conviction

Since she joined the motley AfterWork crew twelve months ago, Bella has become an irreplaceable part of our team. Bella’s beautifully happy mood, her zany personality, her generosity of spirit, and her zest for life make working with her nothing short of delightful. Bella embodies everything we’re proud to stand for - and we are so damn lucky to have her along for the ride.