Lisa Xu of FirstMark on the emerging community industry and navigating Venture Capital



Lisa Xu, Investor at FirstMark Capital

Lisa, tell us about yourself!


Hi! Well the quick version in a somewhat chronological order goes something like the below...

  • I grew up outside Philly

  • I'm the daughter of Chinese immigrants

  • I went to Penn for undergrad and fell in love with business while studying at Wharton.

  • I then joined Bain & Company out of college and went on to work for 2 NYC-based VC-backed startups (Peloton and Handy).

  • I then joined FirstMark Capital (an early-stage VC firm in NYC) after Handy sold to ANGI.

  • I love living in NYC and continue to be very bullish on the city both in terms of tech ecosystem and culturally. Pre-Covid I loved exploring the city, and am a particularly heavy participant in the dining scene :)

You were an early employee at Peloton what are your main takeaways from seeing that community grow? What should other brands be taking into account when thinking about their community?


I was not as early as many of my colleagues (joined in 2016), but Peloton has always put its community first. It was Members, not Customers – from hiring a dedicated community leader and team to putting on huge community events (like Peloton Homecoming) to celebrating Members every day in the product (instructor shoutouts, milestones, etc) - their community was always a driver of the product as much as product was a driver of the community.


What industry are you most excited in as an investor? Why?


It is not so much an industry but very fitting for this - I'm spending a lot of time thinking about community - both community-driven products/services and community platforms and tools. I think community will become (or already has become) a need to have, not a nice to have, in modern businesses and will become a huge competitive advantage going forward. COVID has been a huge tailwind for digital communities and I expect this trend to continue - which will mean there will be a lot of opportunities in the platform and infrastructure layers of community!


How did you get into the VC world?


It happened pretty organically. I had always been interested in startups and investing, especially since I had some really great growth equity firms as clients at Bain. But I wanted to get some operating experience first and see what it was like on the other side. I thought it would be difficult for me to relate to founders without at least working at a startup for a bit... After Handy's acquisition, I started exploring the VC world more intentionally, mostly by talking to friends and friends who already worked in the industry. Through these conversations and subsequent introductions, I ended up in a bunch of interview processes (all in NYC) and was fortunate enough to be offered a role at FirstMark!


Tips for other women interested in investing but not sure where to start?


Honestly start with interest. If you're seriously considering VC, you should be following startup news, reading blogs, purely out of interest. You should have formed some opinions on technology...maybe even about the world and where it's going - does not have to be fully formed but this type of stuff should excite you. You should meet people in industries you're fascinated by and at companies you admire. These are all things that you will need day to day in the Investor seat. Some of this is perhaps easier said than done and I recognize not everyone has an extensive network to begin with. One great thing is that the internet has democratized thought leadership quite a lot. People who are young, with a little background, but really interesting and provocative thoughts can write and get noticed on their merits. That's just one example of how to break in if you think you are an "outsider."


So as you know, community is kinda everything to us... how has your community helped you, personally or professionally?

Oh man where to start... My community has helped me in so many ways...to focus on the professional side a bit since we are talking about breaking into VC. I have been a member of so many (formal and informal) communities since I started my adult life. It has helped me find my professional passion, connect with amazing people, and find mentorship and inspiration outside of my company and direct colleagues. Community is super powerful - and I'm really excited about how the concept of community has evolved to fit the digital world we live in now.

Enjoyed this? Join the come meet Lisa in the Women in Biz Space on March 30th for a talk on all things VC & community. Download here.