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Disrupting McKinsey

Judy describes her journey from McKinsey to startups and back again.

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Judy Wade leads Fuel By McKinsey from San Francisco. She shares her incredible journey from Harvard to New York to South Africa to California through multiple sectors and industries, culminating in her role helping entrepreneurs in pre-IPO companies.

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My first career at McKinsey

I joined McKinsey in New York right out of graduate school at the Kennedy School of Government. I spent about five years making my own McKinsey; I worked mostly in tech and with the New York City schools. I loved it.

After I was elected partner, I felt ready for a new adventure. The firm was looking for partners to open a new office in South Africa; I volunteered. The African National Congress had just taken over so it was a remarkable time and opportunity to help make a material impact.

Branching out and building something

I came back to the US in 2002, settling in San Francisco, my hometown. I wanted to try my hand at growing something, so I left the firm for a time and spent about ten years in venture. I became an entrepreneur-in-residence. I was with Second Life. I helped turn around a games company. I started a medical device company. I was able to look at the world with a completely novel lens, which was refreshing and energizing.

About a year–and–a–half ago, I came back to McKinsey to lead a new area serving pre-IPO companies. As an entrepreneur, I saw first-hand the growing need for the expertise and insights our Fuel By McKinsey service line offers. Now, I have the best of both worlds – I’m back with the firm I love and I’m still an entrepreneur, building a startup within McKinsey and advising other entrepreneurs as they launch their own ventures.

It’s so easy to get up in the mornings. I’m working with colleagues who push me and share my values. I’m making a meaningful difference to entrepreneurs.


So, what is Fuel By McKinsey?

We help founders and funders succeed. Most of the work we do centers on accelerating value efficiently and effectively. We aren’t venture capitalists, so we usually come in after market fit has been established to help companies accelerate growth as efficiently as possible. For example, we may help them determine how to enter new segments or create new pricing structures.

We serve early stage companies from seed through exit and in every industry. We work with SaaS companies, biotech firms, e–commerce marketplaces, etc. They’re all disruptive and have huge aspirations for rapid growth.


Meet our team

Most of our team members have startup experience and industry, functional or sector–specific expertise. Many started at McKinsey, then went into the startup world, like me. One of our teammates was the chief of staff at Coupa. Other members were product managers or data scientists. We even have a former law professor who drives our knowledge. We leverage McKinsey’s knowledge in traditional topics like strategy, private equity, telecom and tech, and organization.


You do this at McKinsey?!

In some ways, Fuel By McKinsey does things radically different from the traditional McKinsey. We started it a few years ago to be intentionally disruptive to our status quo. We knew that, to be relevant to our big tech clients, we needed to better understand venture–backed startups and we found we could help startups. Much of what pre-IPO companies struggle with and need to succeed is our bread and butter.

However, pre-IPO companies have specific needs and we have an opportunity to try out new things and innovate to meet them. For example, we’re creating Fuel Access, where an entrepreneur can get an hour of a McKinsey expert’s time on the topic of their choice. We have McKinsey Academy training courses and a Fuel Ignition Club community for consultants and very early stage entrepreneurs to connect. That’s what makes it so exciting to be here. We’re helping the whole ecosystem create more value and building communities of people – inside and outside the firm – who are excited about building new things.

Find a role like Judy’s.

About Judy

Judy is an IS venture leader for Fuel By McKinsey, one of our firm’s 50+ startups. She has served as a senior executive with a number of startups and as a McKinsey partner, working in New York, South Africa and San Francisco. Judy holds a bachelor’s in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s in public policy from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

If you’re in the Boston area, you can join Judy, Laura Davis, and Jong Lee for a Harvard Business School Alumni Association Roundtable Discussion on Angel Investing on February 8th.