Investment Notes: Welcoming Jessy to the Partnership

We're excited to welcome our employee #1 Jessy Wu to the AfterWork partnership. Jessy has been an indispensable part of our community, brand and growth and we couldn't be happier to announce her promotion.

It’s been almost three years since AfterWork Ventures said Hello World. We have a lot to be proud of and thankful for.

As first time fund managers, we’re used to keeping our nose to the grindstone and sprinting towards the next battle. But once in a while, we must pause and celebrate - not only what has been achieved, but the forces driving it.

Today we pause to celebrate our employee #1 Jessy Wu joining the AfterWork partnership.

We’re timing the announcement with Jessy’s feature in Forbes Australia - where she reflects on her path from Philosophy to Venture Capital, and how grassroots initiatives such as low-stakes, beginner friendly porker are as important for advancing D&I as flashy initiatives

Jessy joined our team in 2021 as an Investment Manager and Head of Community - having previously been a Fellow in our community. She has become an irreplaceable member of the AfterWork team across all parts of our business - from leading investments, partnering with founders, shaping and growing our community-powered edge, and being a formidable fundraiser.

We’ve regularly used the framework of Investment Notes to unpack how we think about building and nurturing the team. As arguably our most successful ‘investments’ - it feels appropriate to continue the tradition.

Read on to learn about our original investment thesis, why we’re excited to welcome Jessy to the partnership, and what’s exciting us for the future.

You can read our previous Investment Notes on Jessy here and here.

What we got right

A quick study and becoming a formidable investor

As a leader within the investment team, Jessy has proven her abilities as a sharp investment thinker and whip-smart unpacker of businesses. Time and time again, her analysis has both augmented the Investment Committee and forced us to confront gaps in our thinking.

A Fintech investor by training, Jessy drives the team’s thinking on this key investment thematic - demonstrated through the investment she led in Primary - the modern operating system for treasury management.

Jessy asks incisive questions that go right to the heart of the key issues within your business and is a thought partner in solving them. She also brings her personal strengths to help drive the business forward - especially in brand building, growth hacking and fundraising strategy.

- Ben Buckingham, Founder of Primary

Her interests are broad and has demonstrated an ability to go deep across a range of thematics. Recently, she lead our investments in Searcheye - a platform that helps tech companies build world class brands with digital PR and high quality brand signals and Turnto -  the platform for cutting-edge information and conversation about chronic health, to accelerate medical breakthroughs.

On more than one occasion, Jessy has swayed the Investment Committee’s decision. She is able to see beyond assumed limitations and articulate the ‘why now’ for new entrants. Her views are delivered with a sharp analysis and a healthy dose of bravery - to steer us towards decisions that improve our investment decision making and the way we operate our fund.

Constantly innovating our approach to community

Jessy has been an important source of activation energy and inspiration for our community. She blends innovation and creativity with impeccable intuition to ensure AfterWork remains at the forefront of what’s interesting and fresh.

Some people have experienced the magic firsthand at one of AfterWork’s ‘One Conversation Dinners’, where we assemble groups of people with distinctive perspectives to deeply discuss topics such as Mimetic desire, the Role of the Fourth Estate, and the Future of Longevity.

One of the ‘Conversational Menus’ from our dinner on The Fourth Estate

Unafraid to speak truth to power

It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge Jessy’s famous identity as the Patron Saint of LinkedIn.

When we set out to build a new venture fund, we knew we had to build a dynamic and energetic brand that resonated with founders, operators and investors. In a landscape where older funds have an order of magnitude more resources and budget for marketing and events, Jessy found a way to cut through.

In an industry that is sometimes more hype than clarity, she has helped to build the AfterWork brand into one that’s known for its authenticity and thoughtfulness. Her ‘personal brand’ is well known in the wider ecosystem - and it hasn’t come overnight. We can tell she’s just a little bit chuffed that she’s become the most followed venture capital investor in Australia on LinkedIn.

It goes to the heart of who Jessy is - that most of the time, she wields her platform not for personal or financial gain, but to speak truth to power and be the voice of those who cannot afford to be as vocal.

Jessy has a unique combination of two very rare qualities: the personal courage to publicly challenge ideas others may only criticise only in private, and the fair-minded philosophical rigour she brings to developing those views. In many ways, she embodies qualities we look for in founders - being contrarian and right.

Jessy is a relentless brand ambassador, holding her own on panels with titans of the VC industry at SXSW

More recently, Jessy has been unafraid to call out the cone of silence that surrounds the culture of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the startup ecosystem. We’re in awe of her determination to go deeper than a surface-level understanding of problems, elucidating the nuances and tensions in the tech industry - that can both benefit founders and employees, but also victimise them.

What exceeded our expectations

Jessy leans in to help inflect the trajectory of early-stage companies

One of the most dynamic and challenging parts of being a Partner is working with and influencing portfolio companies, especially where we may be only a minority shareholder in their business. Jessy challenges our portfolio companies thoughtfully, always trying to sharpen their thinking in a way that is equal parts incisive and caring.

This could take the form of a quick steer off the back of an investor update, or doing the work of an entire PR agency to help our portfolio companies craft their PR and personal brand strategy.

“Jessy is that rare combination of rigorous and thoughtful. Her process is very deliberate, and she quickly gets to the key questions. She really encourages focus on the key issues by pushing for discipline around the way we communicate to stakeholders across the business, be that customers, investors, or otherwise.”

- Chris Thurston, Founder of Searcheye

Jessy with Chris, the co-founder of Searcheye

A values-driven leader

Our values were co-created by the entire AfterWork community, and Jessy has emerged as an incredibly powerful champion and defender of these foundational tenets of AfterWork.

She has been unwavering in her decision to live by them and is the first to point out where something may run contradictory to them. So much of what we’re reflecting on today, and Jessy’s journey at AfterWork more broadly, can be perfectly summarised through our foundational values: ‘dream diligently’, ‘all crew no passengers’, ‘the more we give, the more there is’ - and our favourite - ‘fly your freak flag’.

What we’re excited for

Jessy promotion to the partnership comes at an important time for AfterWork, as we hit our stride and continue to scale up our operations.

As a new member of the partnership we’re proud to have Jessy at the bridge - leading the AfterWork team, community, and partnership towards an exciting future - where we continue to make good on our promise to do VC differently.

We hope you’ll join us in congratulating Jessy!

Her most iconic moment might still be dressing up as the SXSW logo