To support Amplifier’s growth and our continued investment in the supply chain, Siobhan Brewster has joined Amplifier as Partner. She has roots in private equity and real assets before transitioning into angel investing and early-stage VC over recent years. After stints in New York and Mexico City, she is now working with us from Berlin. Siobhan is an expert on fund management, infrastructure and energy investments. We are excited to welcome her to our team!
Q&A with Siobhan Brewster
How would you describe yourself in one tweet?
I am an intellectually curious nomad, always excited about a new idea or a different way of looking at things.
You have worked in and travelled to numerous places across the world. Tell us more about your story.
I was raised in Scotland before studying anthropology in London and living briefly in Indonesia. I cut my teeth in New York working with ING and Macquarie, raising capital and investing in large scale infrastructure projects across ports, communication towers, renewable energy and waste. Working with some of the brightest minds in real assets private equity was the best education I could have received.
How did you go from studying anthropology to working with banking and investments?
I think they are both about reading people — trying to make sense of why different people do certain things, what works and what doesn’t. They both involve a qualitative assessment of one’s surroundings and an imperfect understanding of the world.
For many, living in New York is a dream come true. Why did you end up leaving NYC and relocating to Mexico?
New York was mad, messy and invigorating — but when an opportunity arose to work on Macquarie’s first LatAm fund from Mexico City, I jumped at the chance to take on a new challenge and explore a new continent. And Mexico City brought many unexpected joys, including working with the wonderful team at the early stage firm Cometa (formerly VARIV Capital) and co-founding a startup myself.
Speaking of your own company: You are a co-founder of Atlas Unbound. Why did you decide to start a sustainable travel company from Mexico?
I have always been an avid traveller and after over five years of working in massive multinationals, I wanted to flex a different part of my brain, to get my hands dirty, to build something. Alexa (my co-founder) and I wanted to inspire fresh perspectives and reconnect people to the land through lived experiences. So we worked together with leading NGOs and grassroots communities to create magical journeys through remote parts of Mexico and Guatemala, effecting small but meaningful changes on a personal and local level.
What drew you to Berlin?
In Summer 2019, Amplifier came a-knocking with an investment thesis and a team that I couldn’t refuse. So I packed my bags with as much mescal and salsa macha as I could carry, bid a farewell to the temperate climate and hopped across the Atlantic.
You’ve spent a part of your career working for large corporations, but are also an angel investor and now working for an early-stage VC.
True, I spent the first part of my career working in multinational organisations with clear processes, very defined roles and extraordinarily complex spreadsheets built to calculate incalculable risk. I found myself spending time with as many teams as possible, realising that I favoured diversity of role more than the specialisation that investment banks were structured to encourage.
I understood the role of discounted cash flows, but I also believed in the importance of people, and culture, and purpose to succeed. My first angel investment was supporting a banker friend with his fledgeling company Black Sheep Coffee — two concepts that would have confused a risk model but that work really well in practice.
Your background is in private equity. Why the switch to early-stage venture capital?
Essentially, early-stage venture capital allows one to play in the grey and to harness qualitative, quantitative and sensory skill sets. All whilst working with promising entrepreneurs in an experimental sandbox of ideas that could change the way people live. What’s not to like?
Why did you choose to focus on the supply chain?
At first glance, the supply chain seems an incredibly unglamorous area to focus one’s attention but dig deeper and there’s an incredible world ripe for disruption. As a huge sector that we regard as the backend operating system to the world economy, there are big problems to be solved around driving efficiencies and improving sustainability.
Investing in Latin America offered the opportunity to improve financial inclusion, drive SME productivity and increase upward mobility — the supply chain is about reducing waste, optimising processes and streamlining global trade. I value the opportunity to work on big issues with the ability to have a meaningful impact. The fact I get to do it alongside Christian, Henry and the huge network and specialist knowledge they bring is a massive bonus.
If you were granted one superpower, what would it be?
I think I’d struggle to choose between flying and the ability to speak every language fluently. I’m not necessarily a natural linguist but I love to communicate and am ever curious about people’s stories and the way our minds work. I live to travel and the ability to fly would allow me to explore even more far-flung places and would certainly contribute to minimising my carbon footprint…