Meet Stef Safahi, Head of Brand Experience at Folklore
Our team Q&As give you an inside look at the people behind Folklore.
Stef brings an extensive background working in PR and communications with some of the world’s leading technology companies across the US, UK and APAC. She looks after our brand and communications, and advises portfolio companies on their PR, brand and marketing strategies.
Tell us about your journey prior to Folklore.
I’m originally from California but went to university in Chicago where I studied Political Science. By the time I’d graduated I hadn’t nailed down an exact career path, but I did know for certain that I wanted to leave my mark on the world – to contribute to something bigger than me. And for that reason, I knew that a traditional corporate career track likely wasn’t on the cards.
I’ve inherited a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit, grit and creative energy that I’ve devoted a great deal of time trying to understand how to effectively use in a way that’s true to who I am and plays to my strengths.
I’ve always been particularly partial to early-stage startups. My first role out of university was the stereotypical Silicon Valley startup experience: I joined an events ticketing startup that saw me working with the founders out of their living room from a shared house in San Francisco. The company didn’t take off as we hoped, but my interest in working with companies at this stage certainly did.
When I joined the San Francisco office of leading global PR agency Hill & Knowlton, I found that I missed the frenetic environment of a company that’s just getting started. At the time, we were working primarily with bigger enterprises – a whole other comms ballpark.
Just before I left Hill & Knowlton for my next stint that would take me back to Chicago before later moving to Melbourne, I kicked off an “HK Office Hours” initiative. The idea was simple: Our team would partner with local VCs to offer their early-stage portfolio companies PR guidance and general feedback on their narratives. It gave these founding teams PR expertise without the hefty price tag and connected us with some of the most innovative and promising companies and their networks.
What did you learn from your experience founding a startup?
After a little over two years in Melbourne, I decided to trade Vegemite for Marmite and moved to Bristol in the UK. A few months – and one global pandemic – later, I found myself back home in the US. As my friends and I navigated the uncertainty, anxiety and isolation together, I noticed that so many were unable to access mental healthcare at a time when it was so needed.
I rolled up my sleeves and decided to take the plunge into building a startup along with one of my friends who’s an established life coach. I knew next-to-nothing about what goes into actually building a company and all the work that has to happen to bring a vision to life – and to keep it running. More than anything, I realised the importance of having good investor partners on your journey.
At those earliest stages when you’re pre-revenue and even pre-product, a good investor can help you stay focussed on the right things as well as give you tactical guidance and strategic counsel that can make a world of difference. At Folklore, I’m working with the team of investors I wish I had and able to see firsthand what a difference it makes to early founders and operators as well as the entire ecosystem when you have VCs who are willing to be part of your journey from day one.
What’s your scope at Folklore?
Like community building, storytelling has emerged as a must-have skill for founders and founding teams. Being able to craft a compelling brand narrative and evolve that over time in a way that remains authentic and unique can set a startup apart from its competitors. More than that, it can make or break your company’s success. With a great story, you'll connect with customers, employees and investors alike.
In my role, I get to craft and share Folklore’s story with the world. I also get to tell the stories shaped by our portfolio and the ecosystem, and to share with the world what ANZ founders can achieve.
Folklore’s vision to back companies from their earliest stages through their entire life cycle, and to become a multi-generational VC that’s investing responsibly resonates deeply with me. I am so excited to be part of the team bringing that vision to life.
What draws you to Australia?
Besides my obsession with “Kath & Kim”, the culture, immense beauty and livable cities across Australia, I also feel particularly drawn to the vast opportunity that lies within the emerging VC ecosystem.
Compared to the US where VC is quite mature, Australia’s VC moment is still evolving. Right now, we’re experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of something from its earliest stages, to play a role in shaping its future and to ensure that it becomes a force for good for generations to come.
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