Xfund’s Jadyn Bryden talks about GenZ in VC
Jadyn Bryden is a Vice President at Xfund. She first came to the firm on a part-time basis during her senior year at Harvard and has been a full-time VP since graduating earlier this year. Prior to Xfund, she was the Chief People Officer and then Chief Strategy Officer of Harvard Student Agencies. She also co-founded the Harvard Giving Pledge and the Harvard College Symphony Society. As part of the Harvard Innovation Labs, she advised student startups on campus.
Here, Jadyn discusses her connection with Harvard Student Agencies, what’s exciting about working with Gen Z founders, and how she’s building relationships at universities in Boston and beyond.
What was your path to Xfund?
Prior to Xfund, I worked with Harvard Student Agencies (HSA) as the Chief Strategy Officer. In that role I had the opportunity to work with the board of directors of HSA. Patrick is on the board and we got a chance to work together for the last couple of years.
At one point in the summer of 2020, Patrick was talking about how he was looking for a new investor to join the team in Xfund’s East Coast office. I had been interested in venture capital — a lot of people that come out of HSA go into VC, so I had learned a little bit about it from some of the former students that worked at the company.
So when I heard about the opportunity, I was interested, but Patrick and Brandon were looking for someone to join the team immediately. I still had a year left of college. We started talking, and I ended up joining part time for my senior year. I just recently transitioned to full time.
So now I have been working with Xfund for about a year. It’s a natural fit for me. I love being able to learn something new from every call that I’m on, and hearing from founders who are passionate about what they’re working on — it’s just super exciting to me.
Harvard Student Agencies (HSA) is famous for producing entrepreneurs. What was it like working there?
HSA is the largest student-run company in the world. They have over 12 separate businesses that are run independently, but under one umbrella, with the goal of educating students with hands-on business experience. Every year, the entire team turns over with new students as managers. I was Chief Strategy Officer and before that, Chief People Officer. At HSA, students get a chance to operate a company with real dollars, real consequences, and real wins. It’s such a cool thing to be part of, as a Harvard student.
I got involved with HSA through the tutoring agency. I was working with HSA as the China partnerships tutor, so I worked with students around the world. It was a cool opportunity to help students who didn’t have any exposure to the American education system learn how to apply for college.
Through that role I got to show my leadership abilities, and I was invited to join the HSA team as Chief People Officer. I was managing the general well-being of the 600+ employees at the company and revamping the payroll system. From there I rolled into the Chief Strategy Officer role. I got to manage the strategic plan. We had six different priorities, and my job was to ensure they didn’t just stay on this 20-page document, but actually came to fruition.
It was a cool opportunity for me to operate independent from the typical employee-employer relationship, where someone is telling you what to do. I had to take my own initiative and roll out the different projects I felt were important for the company. It gave me a good taste of what it would be like to work at Xfund, where I’m the only full-time person on the East Coast most of the time. I have to take my own initiative, oversee projects, and make sure that things happen. So it was the perfect segue and it equipped me to be successful in my current role.
What do you do as a VP?
The main role of any investor is to be sourcing good opportunities. I’m talking to a bunch of different founders every day, a lot of them from universities on the East Coast. Right in my sphere is Harvard, MIT, and Boston University, as well as Columbia, Cornell, and the other schools we’re involved in. In addition to that, I’m going to events, finding people who are entrepreneurial, and starting to build those relationships, so when people decide to start their companies later, they think of Xfund.
I’m also creating different events in the community. We love to host events with entrepreneurial organizations, or for students who might not know about Xfund. So any given day, I might be coordinating with major stakeholders at universities and planning something that would be beneficial for everyone.
We want to be able to use our expertise to help out communities — sometimes, students have no idea what it means to raise money in VC. So we’ll hold an event to tell them more about that.
Again, it just helps them have Xfund come to mind when they do start their companies, so we can achieve our ultimate goal: invest in great founders.
What do you see as Xfund’s value proposition?
Xfund’s competitive edge is our partnerships with universities. VC firms are a dime a dozen, but we are able to tap into a network of great talent at universities. We have our ear to the ground at these institutions — places where people are learning old knowledge and putting that together with new ideas. This network also allows us to help companies who might be looking for an engineer or to fill another role. We can provide great candidates from our network.
So, having those partnerships and relationships on so many campuses is definitely an edge for us, and I love that.
And within our team at Xfund, Patrick, Brandon, and I represent three different generations of investors. That gives people a diverse flavor of understanding they might not get from other VC firms. I think in general, the world is realizing that having a diverse set of people around the table gets you further and gives your team greater understanding. But we really put that into action at Xfund, so that’s a huge bonus.
What are the founders like in your generation?
The founders I have the closest relationships with are in Gen Z. They’re younger and don’t necessarily know which risks not to take. I think as people get older and go through the entrepreneurial life cycle, they start to recognize the pitfalls, see the patterns, and have that pattern recognition. The people I’m closest in age with don’t necessarily have that pattern recognition yet. But I actually think that can be an advantage.
They have fresh eyes — they are more willing to take risks with ideas that failed in the past only because the timing wasn’t right. For some ideas, the timing can be perfect now.
I think this younger, up-and-coming generation’s risk profile is exciting, because they don’t have that prior knowledge of, “Oh that didn’t work in the past, so it’s out.” Instead, their attitude is “Oh, maybe that could work now — let’s try it.”
In addition, being a digital native myself, it’s interesting to think back on the last 10 years, as more and more young people have become social media gurus. I’ve seen companies shift from having billboards on the side of the road, to now having targeted ads, where you have a conversation and suddenly you see ads on Instagram about it. It’s a whole new world. Being a digital native is a competitive edge that I bring personally to team.
Originally published at https://blog.xfund.com on January 9, 2022.