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

An elevator pitch, fast espresso, lunch or Zoom chat is likely to be how some buyers 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 she or he 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 she or he has a powerful curiosity in trend, 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, girls in tech and extra. Preserve 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 dwelling 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 though my dad all the time labored actually arduous, we actually prioritized household dinners. In these conversations, questions and curiosity have been all the time inspired and naturally all of us would speak about 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 liked 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’d 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 principally the web — and what I contemplate my on a regular basis life in the present day — obtained created, all the time obtained me enthusiastic about expertise. 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 wonderful and funky issues happening within the mid 2000s.

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

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’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-3 was. I believe 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 considered one of my invitations on that one.

GeekWire How does your information of VC and rising up in Seattle translate to dwelling in San Francisco and doing that job?

Madison McIlwain: Nicely, I like Seattle. It’s the place I grew up. It seems 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 could 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 actually highly effective and thrilling. However as I look to my mates again in Seattle, lots of my highschool mates 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 take a position throughout borders, so to talk.

GeekWire: In serving to firms get funding, do you search out feminine founders, do you could have a specific viewpoint on what might 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 unbelievable workforce 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 take 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 clear up the world’s issues simply as I noticed match. And so I believe that that gender mentality just isn’t one which’s ever actually come into the forefront of how I strategy fixing issues and investing. Nevertheless, I’d be remiss to not word the place there are alternatives for development and the place the numbers fairly frankly could be miserable at occasions.

I believe what it comes all the way 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 subsequent huge enterprise. If I’m being sincere, 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: 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 liked retail expertise and I believe I actually grew up in a extremely fascinating 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 customers 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 proposal I couldn’t go 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 every single day? 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 rely the previous gamers out.

Amazon is wonderful at offering nice shopper experiences and I imagine superior shopper experiences win ultimately. 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 customers care in the present day about what their manufacturers stand for, they take care of the values and so they usually now wish to put their {dollars} behind the place these values are going. Amazon doesn’t try this as a lot. That’s not likely why you go to them. And I believe that’s actually a crucial inflection level. So purchasing by your values and by your model goes to proceed to be a approach that I believe different varieties of retailers are going to win, or a minimum of create a extremely good carve-out for themselves available in the market.

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

(Picture 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 a way issues work with nice consideration to element and persistence. She additionally loves design pondering and particularly how that applies to your complete 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 grow to be a enterprise capitalist. I may need guessed that she would begin her personal firm in some unspecified time in the future!

GeekWire: How is she completely different from you?

Matt McIlwain: Madison has a deep ardour for the patron provide chain, but it surely goes past the techniques and workflows. She additionally has an unbelievable eye for trend and design. I’ve personally benefitted from her eye for trend as she has considerably upgraded and helped my wardrobe grow to be extra “on pattern” over time. And, imagine me, I wanted the assistance! Whereas we share a core worth that each individual deserves the perfect alternative to succeed, Madison has centered her efforts right here on creating alternatives for ladies to have the schooling, data and entry to grow to be as completed in life as they aspire to be! Her podcast The Room and her work with San Francisco Girls School 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 discuss store?

Matt McIlwain: It’s actually enjoyable to share a profession with considered one of your youngsters. And, whereas there have been many challenges throughout the previous 12 months, a silver lining for us was that we have been in individual fairly a bit and would usually go for jogs and discuss in regards to the enterprise world. We are also identified to speak about developments and firms on the dinner desk, however generally 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. (Picture courtesy of Madison McIlwain)

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

What’s the one piece of expertise you couldn’t dwell with out, and why? My Zojirushi; immediate sizzling 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’d like it.) I’m a little bit of a Notion addict. As a former PM, I like utilizing Kanban boards for private group. I additionally get lots of 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 spite of everything!

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

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

Finest gadget ever: The Kindle.

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

Favourite trigger: San Francisco Girl’s School!

Most essential expertise of 2021: COVID-19 vaccine.

Most essential expertise of 2023: Expertise and provide chain innovation that empowers solely closed loop shopper habits! We have to construct higher techniques that permit customers to buy whereas sustaining our planet.

Ultimate phrases of recommendation on your fellow geeks: Lean into curiosity, and when you’re a founder, keep decided to construct a greater expertise on your prospects.

Web site: Defy and The Room podcast

Twitter: @MadsMcIlwain

LinkedIn: Madison McIlwain

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