Joanna Rees - Dynamic and Caring

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Joanna Rees is one of a handful of women venture capitalists (VC). She is currently a Managing Partner at West, a market accelerator and venture studio that specializes in the end-to-end process of designing, building, and launching purpose-driven brands. She invests in bold ideas and transforms visionary companies into category leaders. She has significant experience as an investor, entrepreneur, advisor, educator, and mentor.

“I am an entrepreneur who bootstrapped my way into the old boys’ club of venture capital,” said Joanna. It took a lot of grit to get to where she is today. Joanna said people laughed at her idea of starting a venture firm, and that it was a challenge to transition from a non-traditional background. In the 80s she spent 5 years working as a marketing executive for Groupe Danone, a French food company. She even opened a restaurant, but later closed it. Her dream was to become a VC, and she was determined to reach her goal.

Joanna, with a couple partners, founded Venture Strategy Partners, where she did consulting work for clients. When her associates pulled out, she reframed, found new partners, and dumped the consulting work to concentrate on deal flow full time. She spent 15 years as a Managing Partner at VSP before transitioning to the same title at West.

This ladybadass has also been involved with The World Economic Forum, The National Foundation for Teaching and Entrepreneurship, The New Schools Venture Fund, The Aspen Institute, Endeavor Capital, and other, similarly-named groups. She is currently active on the corporate boards of FICO, Care.com, Harvest Power, Prelude Fertility, Murision, Hickies and more. Whew! Is there anything Joanna doesn’t do!?

In fact, there is not. She even ran for mayor of San Francisco in 2011. She had an impressive list of campaign contributors such as Mark Pincus of Zynga, Marc Benioff of Salesforce, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, assorted Pritzkers and Bronfmans and Coppolas, the wife and the sister of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, and the musician Quincy Jones. James Ludwig, former head of Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco said of Joanna, “She is smart as hell, a real person, not political.” Unfortunately, she did not win the election, but continues to impact San Francisco through her position at the venture capital West.

Joanna has some advice for fellow ladybadasses. “Make your decisions based on purpose and impact. If you can’t deliver on one or the other, it is not worth much of your time and energy.” Sage council from a very accomplished woman.