Joanna Rees is Managing Partner at West, a market accelerator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has significant experience as an investor, entrepreneur, advisor, educator and mentor with deep expertise in helping companies and organizations define their market and build powerful brands. Joanna is drawn to companies and nonprofits with solid missions and value structures.
On West SF
West is a market accelerator and venture studio. They provide market development expertise and funding to innovation economy companies from seed through growth. While they apply their practices in many ways across each of our portfolio companies, fundamentally they’re about ensuring that products fit markets based on their unique value proposition. They test their way to traction and only invest when they know they have it. Joanna Rees has been interested in the happenings of West since its inception.
For West, it’s not just about selling products in a convincing way; it’s about going from concept to product in such a way that they end up in the lives of consumers. It’s about company success, but also about being meaningful and creating a truly excellent product.
West is experienced in working with companies across all stages of development. From determined startups to established brands, they look for ingenuity in every company that they work with. When they’re looking to invest, they seek out companies that ask one driving question: “What if?” From research ventures to social media to food, West has dabbled in many industries with fantastic companies looking to change the world.
They are always looking for smart, scrappy, imaginative ways to make their way into people’s hearts that make their companies indispensable. For them, it’s about driving category leadership.
A common thread runs through each and every aspect of Joanna Rees’ career is the desire to innovate and, in every sense of the word, do better. At times, that’s meant overseeing marketing and innovation within established companies. Other times, it’s investing in and advising early-stage best-of-breed innovative ideas to help businesses grow. With a rich career history in multiple industries, Joanna tailors her skill set to suit the unique needs of each one of her for-profit and non-profit endeavors.
Career and Background
Joanna Rees currently serves on the corporate board of FICO (NYSE: FICO), Care.com (NYSE: CRCM), Harvest Power, Prelude Fertility, Mursion and Hickies. She also serves on the nonprofit board for the Representation Project and serves as a Senior Partner of the B Team. Most recently, she led the formation and capital raise for Endeavor Catalyst, an impact investment fund supporting high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Endeavor is focused on guiding high-impact entrepreneurs to success around the world. They are interested in funding entrepreneurs that can help sustain economic and community growth in various countries. The network that they have created in a global support system of mentors and business leaders working in tandem to succeed.
Endeavor was founded in 1997 as a new type of nonprofit. Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner sought to leverage the power of entrepreneurship to transform countries. Many do not have the concept of an entrepreneur in the same way as the United States; leading to Rottenburg and Kellner launching ventures to bring their creative spirit to other countries.
Since then, the company and its members have been hailed by Time, Harvard Business School, and the Stanford Graduate School of business. With over $770m raised by Endeavor entrepreneurs in 2016 alone, the organization continues to grow and foster even more startups.
Endeavor looks anywhere and everywhere for entrepreneurs with the savvy to scale their business. The organization uses a five-step model when it creating their entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Launch: Endeavor looks for local leaders in the private sector and the conditions to enable long-term growth. The organization visits companies, seeking out noteworthy individuals and potential opportunities in markets.
Select: They then screen candidates, seeking out individuals of all backgrounds, levels of education, and ages. This stage includes local and regional interviews and concludes with an International Selection Panel.
Scaleup: They encourage entrepreneurs to grow, offering mentorship, networking opportunities, and strategic advice from years of collective experience. They aim to give the new entrepreneurs the framework necessary to spread ideas and skills later on.
Multiply: Endeavor entrepreneurs work to influence reform in their countries, address new market needs, and encourage others to innovate as well.
Reinvest: Once they have achieved success, Endeavor entrepreneurs look to give back and invest, both in the organization itself and in other promising entrepreneurs. Philanthropic efforts are also a part of Endeavor’s mission to give back worldwide.
Joanna Rees took an interest in Endeavor after hearing success stories about the entrepreneurs that the organization helped support.
On The B Team
The B Team was founded on the idea that business can fight corruption. If Plan A is business as usual, they are focused on Plan B: acknowledging the issues inherent in many corporations and working to resolve them in a civic-minded way.
Transparency is a central tenet of the B Team. Corruption often hides behind businesses that obscure their dealings, and creating a culture of transparency can help hold these organizations accountable. This can also help create and enforce ethical standards for businesses to operate under.
For the B Team, people and planet are priorities. With natural resources running out at an alarming rate, it falls to businesses to find better alternatives for the long term. Businesses can be a drain on the environment, but with right practices, they can also lay the framework to help it recover.
They also realize that a business should be run like a community, with every employee a constituent. Human rights are important for the B Team, and they are invested in creating better leadership that adequately supports the employees of every company. Even outside of a company, fair treatment of others that it deals with is crucial to fostering mutual respect and collaboration.
For both of these goals, the B Team also wishes to redefine the incentives to work toward each. Currently, businesses are not rewarded in a tangible sense for being transparent and ethical, but creating a culture that rewards good business practices is the best way to see these goals through in the long run. For Joanna Rees, who has worked with a wide variety of businesses over her career, the value of the B Team and its focus on responsible practices is apparent.
The B Team is about creating a network of companies with shared values that are willing to collaborate on these issues. They understand that it can be difficult to fix all of these problems on an individual level and that only through cooperation can change be affected.
On The Representation Project
The Representation Project is a nonprofit that uses media and film as a means for influencing cultural transformation. Media holds more influence over cultural ideas than many know, and stereotypes of any sort can negatively polarize segments of the population.
The Representation Project began in the wake of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s film Miss Representation, which discussed the ways that media can influence society at large, particularly in regards to women in the workforce. Through media, social and otherwise, TPR has changed industries such as advertising, film, and television by holding them accountable for their depictions of individuals in their works. TPR aims to create national conversations and reevaluate ideals of masculinity and femininity, among many others.
Joanna was the founder of VSP Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm focused on early-stage companies combining technical innovation with market development.
Joanna has served on the board of more than 25 venture-backed companies across a broad range of industries She also served on the Board of the National Venture Capital Association (“NVCA), the Coppola Companies (Francis Ford Coppola), and as Chairman of the USA for Madrid-based FON, Joanna was the co-creator of the Build Brand Value CEO forum which she ran from 1997 to 2003 as part of VSP Capital.
For over a decade VSP used Joanna’s thoughtful and market-driven approach to provide crucial end-to-end support for 60+ burgeoning Bay Area companies, weathering the dot.com collapse and helping to establish firms in a diverse range of industries.
Years of business
Bay Area companies supported by VSP
Board memberships with venture-backed companies
Joanna has significant experience in finance and investment banking including positions at BA Securities and a boutique merchant bank, Vrolyk & Co. Joanna held several senior marketing management positions with Groupe Danone, a $20+ billion global consumer products firm, and began her career at DMB&B.
The World Economic Forum selected Joanna Rees as a Global Leader for Tomorrow (GLT). The Aspen Institute selected Joanna for its Henry Crown Fellows. Joanna serves on the non-profit board of Endeavor Global, The Representation Project and Build.org. Joanna is a seminar moderator for the Aspen Institute. She is also a Senior Mentor for the Henry Crown Fellowship. She earned her MBA from Columbia University (beta gamma sigma) and a BS from Duke University where she was a member of the gymnastics team.
Joanna is always seeking ways to make the most of her business and civic leadership. From her 2011 mayoral candidacy to her ongoing involvement in leadership seminars and classes, Joanna is dedicated not just to making an impact on others — but in helping them find their voices and make their own impact on the world.
This blog will cover Joanna Rees’ interests and involvement in investing, market development, leadership, and more.