West Names Venture Capitalist/Mayoral Candidate Joanna Rees as Its New Managing Partner

By Patrick Coffee 

West, the mysterious not-an-agency run by former Apple VP of marketing Allison Johnson, has made a big move on the leadership front by naming Joanna Rees, veteran of various venture capital organizations and educational advocacy groups, as managing partner of its San Francisco and New York-based offices.

Rees ran for mayor of San Francisco in 2011, and she has held both traditional in-house positions and advisory board-style roles at a number of investment-related organizations in the Bay Area. She most prominently spent 15 years as managing partner of VSP Capital*, but she has also been involved with The World Economic Forum, The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, The New Schools Venture Fund, The Aspen Institute, Endeavor Capital and other, similarly-named groups.

It’s not clear at this time what Rees will be doing in the new role, exactly. The last person to go by “managing partner” at West was longtime Intel executive and CMO Deborah Conrad, who described her role as such:


“I was privileged to spend a year at West in a unique CMO-in-residence role advising and overseeing marketing efforts for early stage companies in the West portfolio. In this role, I helped CEO/founders bring their vision and mission to life.  As a CMO–IR, I had an opportunity to meet and work with some of the most talented marketers of my career, and get first-hand experience in the challenges and opportunities young companies face as they get to scale.”

We last reported on West in March, when COO and CFO Simon Phipps departed to launch his own consultancy HMSS. We also heard from multiple sources (some of them former employees) that the operation went through a significant round of downsizing in January that eliminated much of its creative, production and strategy teams.

The hiring of Rees would appear to be part of a relaunch for West, whose newly redesigned website greets us with images of a very juicy burger. We have emailed the company about the news, but we would be more than a little surprised if they actually responded to us for the first time ever.

The consultancy’s mission statement currently reads: “west partners with inventive young companies to design new markets, products and services that change the way we live.”

*Her tenure at VSP involved some lawsuits whose specific implications we don’t quite have time to parse, but according to VentureBeat the organization split apart due to Rees’s relationship with fellow partner John Hamm. Now-former partner Matt Crisp, who filed the initial suit, later apologized for accusing the two of various improprieties. Hamm is now both Rees’s husband and a managing partner of SodaRock Partners, the consulting firm that the pair launched in 2013.