Meet Jem, Community Program Manager
Our team Q&As give you the inside scoop on the people behind Folklore.
Earlier this year, we announced the formalised Folklore Support Stack as a critical milestone for the firm; offering dedicated, market-leading support to our portfolio and the broader ecosystem via access to talent, educational and upskilling programs, a diverse and top-tier community and more. As we're working to propel our portfolio companies beyond financial contribution, maintaining the momentum of the support stack is critical to support our founders run faster and more efficiently at their visions.
And so we’re stoked to welcome Jem Hecht to the Folklore team and community. Jem has been embedded in the Australian startup ecosystem for 7+ years and brings a wealth of experience in and passion for VC, community building and ANZ startups. As our Community Program Manager, Jem will lead initiatives that support the incredible people within the Folklore orbit – founders, operators and those dedicated to learning more. This includes Chapters – cohort-based learning experiences, Campfire – a dedicated communications and resource platform, and everything in between.
What does your journey to Folklore look like?
From startup hopping to Venture Capital to impact investment, and scaling social enterprises and charities, I've explored the corners of the tech world. After a whirlwind decade of growth and opportunity, I stepped onto a one-way flight to Patagonia for fresh air. I had been travelling through Latin America when I arrived in Medellin, Colombia and met a community of digital nomads and founders. It was here that I recognised that I could both work and live abroad for a once-in-a-lifetime 6 months. From here, happy timing and opportunity helped me land my role as Community Program Manager with Folklore Ventures, back with the Sydney team!
I've worn many hats in my career, from being the sole operator for startups to managing APAC Corporate Affairs & CSR teams for a Japanese conglomerate. My tech romance began at university, but it was only in early 2020 that I was introduced to VC. Immersing myself in podcasts, blogs, and VC books - it was like diving into a sea of acronyms, opinions, people and networking (Clubhouse, anyone?). I got hooked, and now I'm thrilled to serve the Folklore and broader ecosystem once again.
I get to work in a community and an industry that I love on a daily basis while supporting founders and operators, as well as educating those interested in the startup world. It's an onward journey, but I am so grateful for this next chapter with the Folklore Community and look forward to forming deeper connections.
What energises you and gets you out of bed in the morning?
Ever read the 5AM Club? Based on the title, you may have an inkling that I am a morning person. I love to watch the sunrise, to embrace the silence of the early mornings. It's the pocket of my day where I get to practise yoga, meditation, and creativity without distraction.
If you haven't read the book - it's focused on starting your day by owning it, in order to be positioned to best serve your purpose. In this instance, by balancing my mornings, I am primed to support, service and connect with people, tasks and opportunities with a brighter spark.
It's a really great foundation to wake up every day with the knowledge that you are contributing directly to a community of founders & operators looking to change the world with disruptive technologies.
What do you find to be unique and exciting about the ANZ startup ecosystem?
Over these past few months, I have been exposed to countless industries and startup communities on a global scale. Travelling and working as a digital nomad has opened my eyes to a new appreciation for the unique positioning of the ANZ startup ecosystem; its blend of innovation and opportunity.
What sets it apart is its innate, supportive nature within the community – there is a genuine willingness to collaborate and uplift each other. Unlike the long-standing, super-communities found in the US and EU, the ANZ's ecosystem thrives on intimacy, where relationships aren't just transactional, but truly foster growth.
Due to the geographic isolation of the ANZ region, this intimacy drives a less competitive environment and a more unique 'in-the-trenches' mentality. The region does not face the same challenges as those across the Pacific and Atlantic pond/s, meaning that we're positioned to craft solutions that resonate with local nuances.
Moreover, ANZ's market size encourages nimble adaptability. While absorbing what we can from the US and EU tech leaders, it's not about blindly mirroring their strategies but creatively tailoring them to our backyard with a scalability mindset. The result? The ANZ tech ecosystem provides a launchpad for innovation, uniquely tackling local needs, and putting the Australian and New Zealand ecosystems on the map (for reasons other than the copious mammals, insects and reptiles that can kill you).
Why, in your opinion, is having a like-minded and diverse community so important for startup founders and operators?
We're all seeking connection. Being a part of a community is a lifeline; it sparks talent synergy, nurturing localised brilliance before outsourcing and a shared understanding that fuels collaboration and innovation. It's a space where ideas can evolve and flourish among those who inherently understand the challenges and triumphs of the startup journey.
However, the importance of diversity within a community should not be underestimated. While a like-minded community offers a sense of belonging, diverse perspectives challenge assumptions and foster creativity.
Beyond that, it's a safety net, a tribe that rallies in challenging times. Sharing the emotional and physical load with those who can be trusted and respected often acts as a reminder that a business is just a part of life's puzzle – not life's entirety. Those who truly seek to connect with those around them are able to tap into the fact that community is the cure. It's the cure for loneliness, overwhelm, writer's block, academic and professional limitations, etc.
In essence, the most important aspect of community is that of inclusion and engagement, and this should not be understated. I am so excited to be working closely with the Folklore Portfolio and Campfire community, aiming to provide not only a platform for networking and sharing insights but also a space where differing viewpoints thrive, leading to well-rounded growth and balanced success. It's the fusion of like-minded support and diverse challenges that truly empowers startup builders on their journey.
For any budding Community Managers out there, are there any initiatives, tools or platforms that you would recommend?
First and foremost, I think the most important thing to do is practise the art of listening. Every community is unique in its needs, dynamics, culture, pain points, and aspirations. It's important to take the time to review past interactions, discussions and feedback while ensuring the key purpose of the community is truly understood. While this is your first step, it doesn't stop here - actively engaging with individual members will provide insight into optimising and scaling the community.
As the community expands, platforms and processes are incredibly important to ensure that as a builder, you're prioritising the value and connection for active members, fostering a sense of belonging in an organic sense.
This is where processes and platforms will support your ability to maintain and stay on top of the humans that you’re engaging with. While nothing will replace human connection, technology truly supports the ability to stay connected, globally. This involves refining guidelines, assessing and optimising the user experience, and developing a content strategy aligned with clearly defined community goals. My personal BAU Bible is Notion, it’s the one-stop-shop for strategy, process, collaboration and internal knowledge hub.
Alternatively, I am an advocate for ensuring that there is an accessible ‘Hub’ of educational content, resources, community updates and upcoming events at their fingertips, and a communication platform such as Slack, Whatsapp or Discourse (depending on the size & goals) with integrations to assess engagement and stickiness. There are alternative platforms such as Common Room that support seamless onboarding and management of activity of members that could align well with values.
What are you most looking forward to over the coming months? Are there any initiatives in particular that you’re looking forward to building and scaling?
The digital nomad life is bright and sparkly from an outside perspective and I am grateful for the ability to work remotely, the technology that enables this and for the workforce mindset that allows me to do so, but I am really looking forward to our first in-person community event! The ability to work in alignment with my colleagues and to be involved with the ANZ ecosystem once again.
The heartbeat of my role? Obviously working with our portfolio founders and operators! Initiatives like Chapters, Campfire Sessions and Bootcamps light up my week. I'm thrilled to cultivate support, knowledge, mentorships, and talent, shaping a vibrant ecosystem together. We run our programs throughout the year, so always keep an eager eye out!
Finally, the investment side. Conversations with founders, peeking into their thought processes, and collaborating with our amazing Investment Team. It's a thrilling learning curve that I'm quite new to, but I can't wait to dive deeper into it. If you are working on a project or startup seeking support or investment, please do not hesitate to reach out directly!
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