Audrey
Vallen

“Whatever happens, fly the plane.”

I first had the pleasure of meeting Audrey back in 2014 when I first started working with the firm. There’s something you need to know about Audrey. She’s a renaissance woman—part artist, part economist, part craft maker, part deal maker, part MFA, and part CPA. 

She’s unflappable. A stabilizing force. An anything-can-be-done mentality. Not surprising, given that she comes from a military background.  Much like myself, Audrey was an “Army Brat.” Born in Texas but quickly found herself a nomad on a global caravan to Kentucky, Massachusetts, Kansas, Virginia, and even Okinawa, Japan. This explains why her organizational discipline and get-it-done tempo dwarfs anyone in the building. 

Continuing her bon vivanting, she found her way to Boston College. Defying her father’s Army pragmatism, Audrey earned a summa cum laude in Art History. She tried to humor her fleeting interest in political science. But, it simply didn’t captivate her like the study of how artists interpreted the social, cultural, economic, political, and religious advancements or upheavals of their time. She parlayed that into her first job out of college, where she became the manager of a famous and infamous photography studio with a vaulted history of Presidential portraiture and immortalizing celebrity weddings. 

But, Audrey soon found that the art world didn’t pay. So, she tried her hand in a statistics class at the Tompkins Cortland Community College, where she found out she had a real knack for numbers. Then, off on another excursion. This time to California, where she parlayed that one class into an MBA at Santa Clara University, emphasizing accounting.

The South Bay must have made quite an impression on her because this is where she planted roots. If she were going to accumulate more stamps in her passport, it would be through a plentitude of family vacations.

Audrey’s first finance job out of the gate was at Coopers & Lybrand, an accounting firm. It later became the “C” in “PWC.” Most people don’t remember that there used to be the “Big 8” accounting firms that became the “Big 6” and are now known as the “Big 4”. Early on at Coopers, Audrey had two big moments by obtaining her CPA and meeting her husband, Steve. It was one of those romance novel moments—the ultra-busy filing season, throngs of junior team members crammed in a conference room in a planning meeting and, boom, their eyes met and locked. And, as she puts it, “The rest is history!” The next thing you know, there’s a house in Saratoga and three kids to fill the bedrooms—Miranda, Grace, and Eric.

Then the VC recruiters came knocking, asking Audrey to serve on the Finance team of their funds. No surprise. Most of her clients were Sand Hill Road venture funds. Her first stop was at Institutional Venture Partners as Controller. Then Bay Partners as CFO. Then Panorama Capital. Finally, and I’m more than a bit biased here, Audrey made her best career decision yet. She joined Founders Circle as CFO shortly after it was founded. Here, she is the ‘Great and Powerful OZ’ to our ‘Scarecrow,’ providing us a brain where we fall short. In September 2021, Audrey took the role of Chief Administrative Officer at Founders Circle.

Audrey is far more than a finance professional who’s simply plying her trade at an investment firm. She is deeply woven into the fabric of the venture industry. Audrey was a founding board member of VCBC, a non-profit association of venture finance professionals, and a board member of PECFOA, The Private Equity CFO Association, a venture CFOs peer group. Said differently, these are the organizations that have powered the back-office operations of every venture fund in Silicon Valley. So, in short, Audrey is a force to be reckoned with. 

But, remember, Audrey is bequeathed with many renaissance talents. Audrey is a long-time quilter. This is far more than an avocation. She’s turned quilting into a vocation—a side gig, in modern hipster parlance. Audrey is the proud owner of a quilting store, “The Granary Quilt Shop,” in Sunnyvale. You may not know it, but there are many quilters out there and not much in the way of specialty shops to purchase the fabrics, patterns, tools, and how-to classes they so covet. I’ve seen what comes out of her shop, by her hand and that of her patrons. We’re not talking mere blankets here. They’re works of art. Each tells a story of time or place. Much like those art history classes where artists depicted the visual stories of the life that they observed around them, quilting is a tapestry of a similar sort. 

Given everything that Audrey brings to the table, we couldn’t be happier that she’s sitting at ours.

by Mark Dempster