Meet our new Head of Platform & Community: Ludweenah Graham
We’re excited to introduce our new Head of Platform & Community, Ludweenah (Luddy) Graham!
Luddy joins us after working as an operator at some of Australia’s most iconic growth startups before making the switch to supporting founders. Here's a little Q&A to get to know her.
You’ve worked at startups and now venture capital, how did you get here?
I have a very colourful path to VC. It didn't begin in finance, law or management consulting. It began with Shoes...
My first glimpse into the startup universe began as a Shoe Stylist with Shoes of Prey, a startup that helped women design their own custom shoes. What I thought would be a fun, carefree ‘in-the-meantime role’ quickly escalated into the responsibility of an Operations Manager leading a high performing team across Australia and the US within three months.
The Shoes of Prey story sadly ended (f you don't know the story, feel free to do Google) and post the demise of the business, the burnout was real. It was felt by everyone, none more so than the founders. I suspect that's where my founder empathy began to develop.
While challenging, this story provided some valuable yet hard lessons for all founders to learn from (you're welcome). I’d recommend reading Jodie Foxs’ book- Reboot or Michael's blog if you’re interested.
That was just the beginning though... After drinking too much startup Kool-Aid for my own good, I was hooked. Cue Queen's Don't stop me now 🚀
So, where did you go next?
After two years spent exploring various early-stage startups, I found myself in a full circle moment with Koala - another consumer tech startup.
Learning from Shoes of Prey, I redesigned and launched stores across all major cities in Australia within a month, then closed it all down after 6 months of testing assumptions about the customer's journey.
Fair to say it was a whirlwind project with some ridiculous moments like an Airtasker stealing my visual merchandise 2 hours before I had to fly to the next location to launch (Ugh, the inconvenience 😒).
How did you make that transition to VC?
I joined Antler, an accelerator program focused on “idea-stage” founders. I wanted spend some time focused on supporting founders and this was the perfect way to do that.
The best way to describe my role is high volume, high intensity. I transformed into a human CRM system of founders, business ideas, models and pitches across different industries.
Let's just say I've heard my fair share of founder motions and emotions 🎭.
At one point, I felt like I had turned into Oprah, for founders.
Why the shift?
Firstly, I was on a mission to scale how I could help founders.
And secondly? I wanted to be a diverse representation in an industry that lacks people who look like me 💃🏾.
What have you learned and would advise to founders?
After my experience and listening to 300+ founders, here are my top-of-mind tips:
- Culture - Set it from the beginning! This is your code of conduct and language used when managing a team, attracting amazing talent, and aligning customers with your business.
- On getting to know your customer - Test and iterate your assumptions about them, with a healthy dose of listening to your customer (not too much) and data.
- Co-founder relationships - It's essentially a marriage. Set the ground rules and develop a safe space to be both honest AND take on honest feedback, otherwise it can become a nest of resentment.
- Mental health - You can't expect to perform at a high level if you don't look after your mental and physical health.
- Founder ego - YES, you have one 👀, YES, you are visionary, and YES, you need your ego for your big ambitious goals. BUT, keep it in check with data and a brains trust team who can be openly honest with you.
Why join Galileo?
This one was an easy one for me after looking through their portfolio, and hearing the positive feedback from their founders, I was sold... It also helped that I got to know James & Hugh over six months and was inspired by their vision and how aligned our values are.
So what the 🙊 is a Head of Platform & Community?
Put it simply, I help improve the Galileo experience for founders while cultivating its community and building out our platform of strategic value-adds for founders.
The earlier stage the funding, the more important it is to support founders, who are stacking up their own processes and learning the “job” of a founder, often for the first time.
To founders: I'm their sounding board and hype-gal who can dish out a healthy amount of real-talk if need be.
To Galileo’s partners: I support our deal flow, screening, marketing and ops...also dishing out a healthy amount of real-talk if need be [Hugh: this is … often].
So far, my time has involved reviewing the journey for our existing portfolio of their first 6 months as Galileo founders; working on what that means for our brand and communications with ‘future Galileo founders’; supporting the growth and fundraising of our existing portfolio; and working to build our community of coaches, advisors and wider startup supporters for our founders.
I look forward to embarking on this new journey with Galileo. With only a month or so in, I can tell we have some exciting times ahead ... cue Queen's Don't stop me now.
If you're a founder curious about Galileo, reach out to me, or apply here. If you're a startup operator, or VC interested in chatting ops, people, career, diversity & Inclusion in the space - connect here. 💜