With an intrinsic desire to catalyse the fire within others; deep experience of Silicon Valley best-practice and passion for deliberate, legacy-leaving leadership, meet Heather…
Why venture capital?
“A big part of what drives me is catalysing the fire within others - organisations, teams and individuals - in order to fuel conscious growth.
In March of 2020 my family and I ventured from San Francisco to New Zealand to visit my husband’s parents. Armed with a suitcase full of wine, a suitcase full of clothes and a travel stroller, we planned on staying two weeks. COVID had a different agenda. After a year of working remotely for our California employers, my husband and I decided to officially relocate to New Zealand.
Upon surveying the NZ tech ecosystem, I realised that local startups on a high growth trajectory faced similar challenges to US ones when building the foundation for hyperscale. There were common themes in their questions relating to expanding into global markets and they were all excited to be able to tap into the experience of someone who has ‘been there, done that…’“
After some significant deliberation, I realised that at this point in my career I didn’t want to help just one company succeed...I wanted to have a positive, lasting impact across the entire technology ecosystem. There are so many passionate founders and operating teams in Aotearoa. Founders and teams that not only have a desire to shine on the world stage - they also have the skills, expertise and drive to thrive and truly diversify and transform the New Zealand economy. I wanted to help them all. VC presented the perfect opportunity to transition from supporting just one organisation and team to being able to apply what I’ve lived for nearly two decades to team New Zealand. It was the perfect platform to inspire, share and evangelise best-practice brand and go-to-market strategy that helps businesses scale in a meaningful way.
There is so much excitement, fervour and opportunity that surrounds young, high-growth companies. They’re moving at pace. The risk taker in me, the lover of adventure, is intrinsically drawn to this. Years of experience, however, has taught me that this needs to be balanced against the deliberate creation of clearly articulated strategy and purpose, mindful leadership and a culture of belonging, trust and inclusion. These more ‘human’ elements that guide conscious growth are often overlooked in the tidal wave that is a startup. When coupled with a pragmatic foundation fueled by a highly orchestrated growth engine, this combination leads to outsized success on a global scale. If I can help bring balance in these areas and play a small part in ensuring the technology sector becomes a formidable part of the New Zealand economy, then I believe my efforts in VC would have been well spent.”
More importantly, why GD1?
“I was drawn to the sheer effort GD1 puts into helping its portfolio companies succeed using every resource they have and the long term vision for the fund managers. The team are not ‘armchair VCs’. Joining GD1 represented a compelling opportunity for me to maintain my love of operating. For, at my core, I am first and foremost a strategic operator. At the time I joined, we were on the cusp of raising Fund 3 which was a turning point for the firm. The vision was infectious. I wanted to help tell GD1’s story in a way that would elevate our brand and position the firm as well deserved market leaders. I also loved that I had the opportunity to make a lasting impact through a mandate to build out our impact and ESG programmes. This is something I’m deeply passionate about and have been committed to my whole career.”
What do you do at GD1, 9-5?
“I wear two hats at GD1. I’m the CMO and an Operating Partner. As an Operating Partner, I’m a leadership and growth advisor to our portfolio companies. What that looks like on a day-to-day basis differs. It could involve helping craft a strategic narrative that’s aligned with company vision and then advising on how to translate this to every aspect of the organisation to fuel growth. It could also include strategic advice around meaningful PR and stakeholder communication; applying global best-practice to all aspects of go to market operations; exploring and designing tech stacks; and digging into principles for successful account based marketing and product-led growth. In short - I help socialise and operationalise go to market excellence. I also act as a connector - making key, meaningful introductions, catalysing deal-flow for our founders and helping with due diligence. In my role as CMO, I lead GD1’s brand, community and communication efforts. Given my degree and my background in clean tech, I’m also responsible for our ESG efforts.”
What makes you a good Operating Partner?
“I’ve held brand and go to market operating roles for nearly two decades. I’ve sat across the board table from investors, pitching strategies and reporting on results. As an executive in Silicon Valley, I have lived experience scaling companies and delivering tripple digit YOY growth. Furthermore, I’ve been a founder. I believe this lived experience enables me to provide real-world, practical guidance and empathise with founders and operating teams.
It enables me to provide not only execution guidance; but also much needed emotional support.”
What’s your superpower?
“I think my super power is condensing vast and often very complex information into a compelling, understandable narrative. This skill allows me to triage competing priorities through a lens of being able to quickly deduce the impact, scope and importance of each of these. However, given my pragmatic nature I also surveyed my colleagues. They think that my empathy is a superpower that catalyses and encourages others to think beyond challenges, teaching them their power and encouraging them to discover what they know.”
What gets you up in the morning?
“In addition to my four year old and four month old waking at the crack of dawn? I’d say curiosity and a genuine love for connecting with humanity helps me start my day.”
If you won the lotto, what would you do?
“First up, I’d arrange a giant meetup in Hawaii for all the friends and family who I haven’t managed to see in two years thanks to Covid (it’s half way between New Zealand and California). Then, I’d pay off any debt that isn’t locked in at a low, low interest rate. After this practical matter is taken care of, I’d probably invest the rest into GD1’s Fund 4 (when we do raise it :-) ), allocate some to web3/crypto; and double down on projects that focus on climate change mitigation. I’d also start an investment fund for my two little boys. Day-to-day, however, I would continue doing exactly what I’m doing.”
What would you say to someone wanting a career in venture capital?
“If you’re interested in really empathising with founders and operators, join a high growth company. This will give you first hand experience to better understand the trials, tribulations, successes and excitement that is associated with scaling a company.”