My compass: becoming Australia’s first Transgender Angel

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When I started out in tech, I was building MySpace processes, workflows and content for brands who were still unsure about what the fuck social media was. I’m talking pre-Facebook, when I was just a teen with a dream who wanted to make my own way. I was a young queer kid, searching for a place to belong, and forging my own path. I didn’t want a traditional job. I wanted independence, I wanted creativity, and I wanted the freedom to follow my passions.

That was over 10 years ago. And It’s been an interesting ride over the past decade and a half. I’ve run comms for some of the fastest growing tech companies in the country, won awards for comms and PR, and founded my own agency and startup studio. Looking back on everything I’ve done, it’s a lot easier now to pick out the threads of what I’ve truly enjoyed doing, and who I’ve loved doing it with. I can see how fraught my own path into tech has been, and how inaccessible so many of my passions were.

I hacked my way in, everywhere I could. I taught myself to code. I taught myself to build. I taught myself to make. I taught myself how to get better at content, and I made myself into an API, communicating between tech and humans. I’ve been told I don’t belong in tech. I’ve been told transgender people like myself aren’t a culture fit. I’ve been told that “soft skills” like communications and brand are less than “hard skills” like engineering. I’ve been told you aren’t a real founder if you don’t meet X number of arbitrary requirements. Along the way, I’ve recognised that my obstacles shouldn’t be anyone else’s obstacles.

As a transgender woman in tech, and now as one of the few transgender angels in the world, I am in a unique position to identify paradigms, products and people who have been overlooked.

Going into the AirTree Explorer program, I’m taking my first steps as an angel, finding, mentoring, advising, supporting through my work and investing in companies that I believe in. I am excited about the opportunity this represents, and I could not be impressed by the AirTree team’s focus on inclusion and democratisation, a focus that reflects my own.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what’s next for me, and I know that I want to invest in teams that are working on projects that will democratise the internet. Projects that will break open tech and create a new table, instead of a seat at the old one.

I know that I’m fascinated by:

  • WFH startups that can streamline and improve the cultural, productivity and social aspects of remote work
  • No-code platforms that will open up making, building and developing to entirely new demographics and segments, breaking down tech’s barriers to entry
  • Platforms and startups that create new, more accessible pathways into gaming and eSports
  • Creator focused tools, platforms, communities and channels that enable individual makers to build growing, scaling companies of one

Every one of those themes is about levelling the playing field. It’s about taking the opportunities that only exist for a select few today, and offering them to wider subsets of people.

I have a lot of strength in content, from podcasting to video creation to finding that perfect turn of phrase that can persuade the right people to care about the right things. I know how to educate, inform, entertain and intrigue. I want to do that now, more than ever.

My Compass

  • Smaller companies stay indie. Indie is always leaner. Leaner is always more profitable.
  • I won’t invest in startups that do not demonstrate diversity and inclusion at the founder level.
  • Bootstrapped, profitable and proud founders are worth it
  • Content is Queen
  • I will only invest in companies that need my help, specifically
  • I will invest through services as well as finance
  • I will invest in tech’s blindspots, both in people and in products

If you want to chat about what you’re working on, and how I could help you out, or what your startup is doing to shape the next 10 years of our lives in tech, I’d love to chat. You can reach out to joan@joanwestenberg.com

🍕🔥💯🙌

Written by

Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder tinyspells.xyz / thisisstudioself.com ✨ She/Her.

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