Madison McIlwain
partner, seed
 Madison McIlwain
energetic optimist >> entrepreneur’s champion

We are excited for Madison as she will be attending Harvard Business School in the fall of 2023!

“I studied history to understand the past—now I work with entrepreneurs to write the future.”

As seed partner at defy, I’m responsible for managing our seed portfolio alongside our team, actively sourcing new deals and helping our amazing entrepreneurs and companies grow. As a former associate with defy, I know first-hand how defy supports growth.

I’m passionate about retail innovation, supply chain and consumer technology. As a former product manager at Gap Inc., I worked alongside a team of over forty engineers to modernize our order management system and customer communication channels. I drove numerous technology initiatives, enabling SMS communication for customers and launching our first website-wide chatbot. During my time at Gap, I spoke at Dreamforce on the value of integrating thoughtful automation into the customer service experience.

Previously, I worked at Rent the Runway and an AI startup to create a shoppable virtual closet. I look at business through an operations lens, with an aim to build differentiated product experiences. I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves the opportunity to be in the room where it happens. With this goal in mind, I co-host The Room Podcast with a Defy CEO to highlight unique founder and funder stories to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I earned a B.A. in history from Dartmouth College with a minor in human-centered design from the engineering school. I trust the process of applying human-factor psychology and engineering principles to iteratively design better products and experiences, and take this approach to finding and working with entrepreneurs.

A California transplant from Seattle, I love running in the sunshine, challenging the status quo with my podcast, and continuing the search for the perfect cup of tea.

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