We’re a team of market and brand experts with investor discipline

Abby Murray Vachon

Recruiting Associate

Allison Light

Managing Director

Arthur Gallanter

Head Of Talent

Brandon Hightower

Strategist

Carlton Evans

Director of Production

Chris Hightower

Production Coordinator

Emma Dessau

Associate Strategist

Eva Pullano

Communications Director

Felicia Reyes

Creative Director

Jeremy Lind

Managing Director

Jess Wen

Design Strategy Director

Joanna Rees

Managing Partner

Katrina Zheleznyak

Strategist

Matt Hirst

General Partner

Tin Dinh

Designer

Yumeng Tian

Designer

Eva Huzella

Design Fellow

Cyril Gordon

Design Fellow

Abby Murray Vachon

Recruiting Associate

Abby is undoubtedly a people person who believes one of the most powerful things we can do is not only share our own stories, but listen deeply to others. In fact, she believes that truly listening to others is the most underrated skill of this century. Drawing from her background across the arts, politics, and business, Abby has found that listening and learning is the only way to make teams more successful today and yield a more inclusive tomorrow. 

Abby was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, and starting from the age of 6 her love of stories encouraged her to pursue a career in acting. For the next twenty years, she honed her craft at institutes such as Interlochen Arts Academy, University of Michigan, and eventually graduated from Wright State University with BFA in Acting & Musical Theatre. She then went on to study improv and sketch comedy at The Second City Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois. Some of her favorite credits include the Jeff Award-winning production of Sweeney Todd (Paramount Theatre), An Evening with Leslie Uggams (Victoria Theatre), and playing Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (SouthWestern Michigan Symphony Orchestra). 

Countless hours of hearing other people’s experiences at work––and witnessing the untapped potential of her talented peers––motivated Abby to focus on how she could help promote positive work cultures and help people find jobs they were more engaged in. This drew Abby to People, Culture, and Hiring––serving most recently as the Deputy Director of People on Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.

Abby is currently finishing up her MBA through the Collaborative MBA program with an emphasis in Leadership for Common Good. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors, especially going to the dog park with her dog, Mr. Rogers, and finding ways to bring some musical theatre into her life.

Allison Light

Managing Director

You can’t connect the dots going forward.

Allison wholeheartedly believes in the massive potential and world-changing impact that her partners can bring about. Armed with a unique ability to frame complex problems and flatten learning curves, she takes a pragmatic approach to the work, allowing her to remove noise and effect immediate change for her companies. Allison has partnered with dozens of companies across a wide-range of industries and in various stages in their growth. 

Originally from the Bay Area, Allison has extensive experience working on globally distributed teams and has lived across the U.S., Europe, and Southeast Asia. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and earned an M.B.A. from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Prior to West, she spent several years as a fellow of the Malaysia Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, working closely with the Malaysian government on initiatives to stoke entrepreneurship in the country, and leading a team responsible for the productization of Blue Ocean Strategy. She began her career as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and Co. in New York in both Asset-Backed Security and Hedge Fund & Private Equity industry groups. Answering a call to enter creative services, Allison went on to gain expertise in interactive production, pedagogical design, project management, business model design, and strategy. Her global background and mix of right and left brain thinking are ever-present in her work.

Allison loves podcasts and audio fiction, and also serves as the head of finance for Mermaid Palace, an art collective. In her spare time, she’s a serious home chef, does decent botanical illustration, speaks Italian moderately well, plays the cello poorly, and is the worst roller skater in San Francisco, where she lives.

Arthur Gallanter

Head Of Talent

Managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team, it’s a better way to build a company.

- Jeff Weiner

Arthur believes that there is almost nothing that can’t be achieved through good conversation. It is the common trait across his experiences as an entrepreneur, sales executive, recruiter, operator, and investor, and it is how he connects amazing individuals to critical roles at our companies. The combination of these experiences is also what enables Arthur to see the potential in every individual and know exactly where and how they can be most impactful within an organization.

Prior to coming to West, Arthur was with LinkedIn during its hypergrowth and eventual acquisition by Microsoft. During his time there, Arthur advised company executives who used LinkedIn for hiring and their overall talent acquisition strategy. His experience advising many different startups gave him a front row seat to the challenges and importance of hiring the right talent. This experience furthered his perspective on how essential it is for a company to be aligned around a central core – the process of defining vision, mission, strategy and objectives.

Arthur joined LinkedIn from QuinStreet where he was responsible for driving growth across clients in the education space. Before QuinStreet, he worked at a Madrid based startup and managed all English language customer support. While attending Santa Clara University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Management, Arthur founded Bronco Student Services providing food delivery, laundry, and storage to services for students. The company is still in operation today.

Arthur will jump at any invitation to go skiing. Just say ‘powder’ and he is on his way. He fulfills his creative interests making furniture and pasta, as well as learning new hands-on skills.

Brandon Hightower

Strategist

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

- Alan Watts

Brandon is a strategist whose life’s mission is to “use technology to enhance our essential humanity and make the world more beautiful, more intelligent, and more just”. He is a skilled and highly original synthesizer of insights, unexpected answers and human-centered design techniques to source fresh ideas that propel his partner companies to real-world impact. 

Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, Brandon came to California, drawn by the lure of palm trees and autonomous robots, to study at Stanford University, graduating with a B.S. in Product Design. Brandon has since independently consulted for a number of young companies in user research, product definition, and design strategy, and has worked as a UX Designer and Design Researcher for SAP Silicon Valley. During his time at SAP, Brandon worked on a number of projects introducing AI into legacy workplace technology. As a designer, Brandon sought to always advocate for the user and make experiences a little more delightful, constantly challenging what was expected of design in a large B2B organization. 

In his spare time, Brandon likes to be seen in cool outfits and get lost on the internet. An average weekend consists of watching hours of Richard Feynman and James Baldwin lectures, crying while watching fashion shows online, and shopping for vintage clothes.

Carlton Evans

Director of Production

Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.

- Miles Davis

Carlton is a veteran producer, curator, entrepreneur, and former academic who has worked across Film, TV and business. He leads multifaceted creative projects that are commensurate with the grand visions (and often modest resources) of early-stage companies. 

Motivated by a thirst for knowledge and an endless desire for new experiences, Carlton moved from his hometown of Montréal to the Bay Area where he earned his PhD in Film Theory from Stanford University. With nearly two decades of creative production experience for a range of clients including Cisco, Facebook, Oakland Museum of California, and Mountain Hardwear, Carlton’s television and film work has premiered at festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW. Carlton is the founder of the Disposable Film Festival, which celebrates innovation in new media filmmaking internationally, as well as the co-founder of PROJECTOR, an organization that puts companies, causes, and directors together to create films inspired by revolutionary ideas. Carlton’s work at West brings his engagement with film and documentary full circle, helping new companies translate their stories and giving them life through multimedia.

Since relocating to Berkeley in 2014, he’s fully embraced the warmer climate and East Bay lifestyle, spending most of his time outdoors hiking or in the family garden with his wife and daughter.

Chris Hightower

Production Coordinator

Christopher is a curious and highly analytical problem-solver. He actively communicates between clients and the West team to ensure the successful delivery of assets. His background in music has given him a unique perspective in understanding how to coordinate all of the elements of production to create powerful outcomes.

Originally from Orlando. FL, Christopher attended the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating with a B.A. in Percussion Performance and a minor in Music Industry. While attending UCLA, he worked as a Communications and Events Coordinator with UCLA Library System to produce events and manage their social media accounts. Christopher has also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was a regular performer with the American Youth Symphony, and a member of the UCLA Solid Gold Sound Marching Band. 

Christopher is a pop culture fanatic who enjoys consuming all types of media and regularly finds himself going down rabbit holes finding fan theories, interviews and trivial facts on just about anything, from movies to reality tv to anime.

Emma Dessau

Associate Strategist

The trouble is, you think you have time

- John Kornfield

Emma is a researcher, writer, and lover of words. She goes deep with companies to define and build effective brand strategies and is energized when seeing the work come to life in real-time. 

A Bay Area native, Emma attended the University of Southern California, graduating with a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies. While at USC, Emma honed her interests in content and audio production, serving as the Head Producer for Match Volume, an interview-based podcast through Annenberg Media. When time allows, she also enjoys assisting with West content creation, and co-leads West’s quarterly Fellows program. 

A firm believer that education is an invitation to action, Emma learned about the issue of college homelessness while at USC, and in response during her senior year, launched an overnight shelter for college students experiencing homelessness. She continues to seek out opportunities in her present-day life that address issues relating to homelessness.

Eva Pullano

Communications Director

If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.

- Moshe Feldenkrais

Eva takes a holistic approach to PR, communications, and content. She lights up when helping entrepreneurs discover their own voices and perspectives, and when envisioning the content and communications programs needed to support impactful brands. Eva has the opportunity to not only shape how West’s story is told externally, but also support our entrepreneurs in their efforts to build impactful brands.

Eva originally hails from New York and holds dual degrees in International Studies and French Language & Literature from the University of Michigan. She got the venture capital and startup bug when she made the conscious decision to head to San Francisco and immerse herself in the tech industry––witnessing firsthand how ideas could swiftly transform into businesses and businesses into cultural shifts. Prior to West, Eva managed communications for the investment platform, CircleUp, and served as a resource to portfolio companies on their PR and communication efforts. Eva cut her teeth at LaunchSquad, leading PR initiatives for early-stage startups across industries including fintech, blockchain, adtech, and cybersecurity. 

While she has ping-ponged between San Francisco and New York, Eva now feels at home in Northern California––splitting her time equally between REI and Sports Basement. A former competitive figure skater, she traded in her ice skates for hiking boots and skis. A lifelong mover, she remains a company member of the Isadora Duncan International Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization committed to the enhancement of education through movement and the arts, and has performed nationally and abroad.

Felicia Reyes

Creative Director

It don't take a whole day to recognize sunshine.

- Common

Felicia specializes in creating design systems and brand identities that map to business needs and scale alongside ever-growing brands. A multi-faceted designer, she infuses every project with the knowledge of how design must underscore product, marketing and company strategy. Felicia creates visual, connected stories that bring brands to life and give founders the tools to share their unique vision with the world. 

Originally from The Bronx, New York, Felicia holds an MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts in San Francisco and is a graduate of Purchase College where she majored in Media, Society and the Arts with a special interest in installation art. A creative leader in developing global branding systems, digital experiences and advertising campaigns, Felicia was most recently the Associate Creative Director at John McNeil Studio (JMS) where she led campaigns from concept to execution for companies such as Cisco, L’Oreal, Dove, Google Pixel, Rolex, Product (Red), and Nest. 

Felicia is a former Oakland resident who has now settled in Long Beach, CA (for the time being). She is a screen printer, apparel designer and works with charities that helped raise money for her ancestors’ homeland of Puerto Rico. She frequently daydreams of being on the island.

Jeremy Lind

Managing Director

What would we think if the telephone was invented after email?

Jeremy is a creative hybrid whose breadth of work includes advertising campaigns, product transformations, acquisition marketing, creative activations, experiential spaces, partnerships, retail, identity expressions, and brand development. Jeremy designs for the space where product, creative, and communications meet. He specializes in architecting end-to-end experiences, from awareness, through the product journey to engagement to advocacy. 

Jeremy started his career in politics, holds a degree in Political Science from Point Loma Nazarene University, and also attended The Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, taking on a variety of roles on Capitol Hill, before switching to the brand world. Prior to West, Jeremy worked as Creative Director and Producer at both Weiden + Kennedy and the Martin Agency where he collaborated with a variety of world-class brands including Wal-Mart, Comcast, American Cancer Society, Microsoft, Nike, Target, Starbucks, Honda, and Old Spice. Jeremy has been recognized with several awards including One Club’s Best of the Digital Decade, a Cannes Grand Prix, and the ANDY Innovation Award.

Jeremy previously served as the adjunct professor for the Creative Technology track at VCU Brandcenter. If he’s not at his desk, Jeremy is wandering the streams, forests, volcanos, deserts, and coffee shrines around Portland Oregon with family, friends and creatures.

Jess Wen

Design Strategy Director

Good design is like clear thinking made visual.

- Edward Tufte

Jess is the bridge between design and strategy who helps partners simplify and then visualize complex and often-times competing concepts within their business and product. Jess has partnered with dozens of companies from seed to growth stage to help steer and heighten the brand to increase enterprise value and create better business outcomes. 

Jess holds a BFA in graphic design from Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MBA from California College of the Arts. Currently based in San Francisco, she has lived in New York, Baltimore, Erlangen (Germany), Beijing, and her hometown Taipei. And it is her dual design and strategy vantage points––compounded by a deep awareness and appreciation for other cultures––that allow her to fly at different altitudes of expertise while maintaining a shared vision and path forward with every partner. Prior to West, Jess was the 5th hire at doc.ai, a digital health company where she helped grow the business 5X and close two successful rounds of funding. Jess’s portfolio covers local and international clientele including UNICEF, FWD.us, National Wildlife Federation, Ashoka, Aecom, Tegna, and Adobe. 

Jess is also part of the organizing team at TEDx SanFrancisco and Social Capital Market (SOCAP), and teaches at design-orientated universities to share her belief that “designers have so much more to offer beyond the pixels.” She serves as an advisor and mentor with The Last Mile, Year Up, and Quarter Zero.

Joanna Rees

Managing Partner

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

- Margaret Mead

Joanna Rees is committed to changing what historically has been deemed impossible in the world of startups and venture capital. As a seasoned brand marketer, company builder and investor, she has spent her career embracing the idea that “the best way to change the future is to create it”. Joanna supports entrepreneurial leaders at the intersection of brand creation, company scaling, and growth. 

In addition to her work at West, Joanna currently serves on the board of FICO (NYSE: FICO), Tentrr, Prelude Fertility, Boon Supply, and Perch. Joanna has previously served on numerous boards including Care.com (NYSE: CARE), Leapfrog (NYSE: LEAP), Quinstreet (Nasdaq: QNST), The Coppola Company, National Venture Capital Association, Endeavor Global, New Schools Venture Fund, and as a Senior Partner of the B Team. Joanna was also a candidate for Mayor of San Francisco in 2011––a first-hand exercise in building a personal brand. Joanna was named a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum and a Henry Crown Fellow by the Aspen Institute, where she now moderates the Henry Crown Fellowship.

Joanna brings significant experience in venture capital, finance, and investment banking––as the Founder of VSP Capital along with roles in investment banking doing M&A and private placements––to West. With deep roots in marketing and branding, she has held several senior marketing leadership roles at Danone and DMB&B. She previously led the formation and capital raise for Endeavor Catalyst, Endeavor Global’s impact investment fund. 

Joanna isn’t afraid to turn things upside down having been a gymnast at Duke University where she earned a BS in Psychology and her MBA in Finance at Columbia University. Joanna strives to create opportunities for women as the Board Chair of The Representation Project and on the board of Him For Her and its affiliated public benefit corporation, Illumyn. She loves to cook, especially when she can use the ingredients from her garden. She and her husband, John Hamm, talk leadership, play golf and bike ride, having (hopefully) successfully raised their four children.

Katrina Zheleznyak

Strategist

Katrina is driven by a fascination with human decision-making, sensory systems, and finding the common point where perception, interpretation, and reality meet. Bringing a dual business and neuroscience background to her role at West, she is able to bridge these strengths by helping companies balance consumer behavior and brand strategy, user experience and go-to-market plans. Katrina has long-running experience navigating the inner workings and rapid growth of early-stage startups, aligning internal team needs with the externalization of a strong, emotionally resonant, scalable brand. 

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Katrina ventured over to the East Coast for close to a decade in order to calibrate to different cultures, perspectives, and speeds. She most recently completed her MBA at NYU Stern in New York, where she absorbed an unfettered sense of the stark differences – and similarities – across the spectrum of human experience. Prior, she lived in D.C. while obtaining her undergraduate degree in Neurobiology from Georgetown University, where she countered long days (and nights) in the research lab and library with her work at the local radio station and art studio. Katrina has worked for a number of seed-stage and Series A startups, most notably as an early employee of Recess, a category-defining CBD beverage company. While initially brought in due to her life science, healthcare, and R&D background, she witnessed firsthand the unparalleled power of brand and building deep, bidirectional relationships with the consumer. She has since collaborated with ethically-driven companies in areas such as bioengineering, alternative protein, music streaming, and mental health, as well as a number of nonprofits focused on upskilling, workforce development, and restorative justice. 

Outside of the professional realm, Katrina is an avid outdoor enthusiast and budding adrenaline junkie, staying true to her Bay Area roots. She loves camping and backpacking, touting an ability to start a roaring campfire in any terrain or conditions. She turns to trail running when she wants to move from point A to B quickly, or opts for a meandering hike when she wants to slow down. She will come to a full stop for the occasional tree, plant, mushroom, or vantage point of interest, keeping alive her childlike love of foraging, biology, and our natural world.

Matt Hirst

General Partner

Matt is a writer, researcher and marketer who has spent his career at the intersection of business and culture. He balances deep experience and an open-mindedness, making him an empathetic leader and brand builder who cuts right to the thesis of any story. Matt sits across the firm’s studio engagements and portfolio companies, ensuring that the full breadth of his own and the team’s experience is deployed to create the maximum value and impact. 

Matt joined West in 2016 from Google where he served as the Global Head of Brand Experience alongside the Search, Maps and Translate teams. Prior to Google, Matt spent nearly a decade at Red Bull, in London and Los Angeles, leading the brand’s iconic work in action sports, music and events. His credits include producing an event racing airplanes along the river Thames in front of 40,000 spectators, making front-page news by jumping Tower Bridge on a motocross bike and working with a who’s-who of the music industry in programming 500 music events a year, including month-long festivals in New York and Los Angeles. He built and programed recording studios, art galleries, and has made numerous films and documentaries including a 10 part series memorializing a Google-funded amateur space race which he produced with JJ Abrams and Bad Robot. 

Matt advises a number of companies in the culture and tech space and sits on the board of Switcher Studio, a West portfolio company. He is also the co-founder of AGEIST, a media and research consultancy. His writing and research has been published in The Economist, Financial Times, The Guardian, Forbes amongst others, and he spoke at Tedx in New York in 2019. Matt holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters in Media and Cultural Theory from Goldsmiths, University of London. He is an endurance athlete and is a passionate believer in pencils.

Tin Dinh

Designer

Where do ideas come from? From looking at one thing, and seeing another. From fooling around, from playing with possibilities, from speculating, from changing, pushing, pulling, transforming, and if you’re lucky, you come up with something worth saving, using, and building on. That’s where the game stops and the work begins.

- Saul Bass

With his flexibility to learn and adopt different styles, Tin is a multifaceted thinker who draws from his unique design ethos to help West’s partners launch their ideas into the world.  A multidisciplinary designer, he works best when outside his comfort zone turning abstract ideas into impactful and unique branding systems.

Born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Tin came to San Francisco at 17 to pursue his high school and undergraduate education. After receiving his BFA in Design at University of San Francisco, he worked at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. as a digital marketing designer on a variety of campaigns and assisted with developing creative directions for the Pottery Barn Kids brand. In parallel, Tin also served as the Creative Director for Bob Cut Magazine, where he developed content, as well as creative directed and designed their biannual publication featuring stories and interviews with local artists and community cultivators. 

Besides his love for design, Tin enjoys spicy food, dark coffee, and strongly believes that dancing is the best form of exercise. He is also a father to his house plants and new puppy, Kiwi, and loves wearing overalls.

Yumeng Tian

Designer

I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.

- Saul Bass

Yumeng is a graphic designer with a passion for making meaningful things that help brands to have their own voice in the world. She believes in the power of visual language to help tell a brand’s story. As a Designer at West, she brings her superpower of attention to detail to every project.

Born and raised in Beijing, China, Yumeng came to California to study at the Academy of Art University, graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design. Yumeng started her career as a freelance graphic designer at a Chinese creative agency bringing her outside-the-box thinking to a range of clients across different industries. After more than a decade of absorbing both sun and knowledge, she made the decision to relocate back to her home country of China, where she is now based. 

Yumeng finds inspiration everywhere, especially at local small businesses where she is consistently awed by great packaging designs. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, forests, travel, badminton, and learning how to surf in Sanya (Miami in China) with friends.

Eva Huzella

Design Fellow

Cyril Gordon

Design Fellow

Being Here

People. It’s how we make impact.

Open Positions