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Liz Wessel


Entrepreneurship has always been part of my DNA. Even as a kid, I had entrepreneurial aspirations. Rather than the typical lemonade stand, I’d bring $2 bills to my elementary school and trade them with my classmates on the playground for as much as $5 because of how rare I (and I guess, my fellow classmates) thought they were.

This entrepreneurial mindset followed me to college, where I created the only discount program on Penn’s campus so that all my friends could save money on food, while I got to learn about starting and growing a company. When I hit senior year, I worked on a hackathon project with my friend JJ to build software that would help college students (especially those who are underrepresented) find jobs when they didn’t have connections. After a couple of years of working at Google, I quit my job and went full-time with that same friend, turning our hackathon project into a business called WayUp.

As co-founder and CEO of WayUp for over seven years, I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We raised over $40 million, scaled the team to a significant size, acquired over seven million users and thousands of employer customers, created a national holiday that trends #1 on Twitter every year, exited the business through M&A and so much more. I worked seven days a week and all hours of the day to build my company, and I loved (almost!) every minute of it.

After exiting WayUp, I joined Y Combinator from 2022 to 2023 as a Visiting Partner, where I helped select and support 110 early-stage startups in the accelerator’s batches as they sought to go from 0 to 1. I also spent six years angel investing on the side in what would later become several of the biggest unicorns in the country.

What eventually drew me to First Round had a lot to do with what I knew about the firm from my time as a founder. While I had an incredible group of investors in my corner, I was also constantly hearing about First Round from people in my network. I was blown away by the level of support the firm offered — whether it was introducing founders to their first customers, coaching them on pricing, or hosting intimate founder events to build a true community. As a founder, I remember thinking, ‘It’s absurd how much of an unfair advantage First Round founders have.’ That’s ultimately why I joined First Round as a Partner — to give that kind of unfair advantage to every single company I invest in.

And now, I’m so excited about backing the next generation of founders as a Partner at First Round. My interests span the spectrum— and that’s reflected in the angel investments I’ve made over the years. From fintech companies like Ramp to AI startups like ScaleAI to healthcare companies like Ro to B2B SaaS businesses like Artera Health, my investments run the gamut. However, I have a soft spot for companies that are reimagining old-school industries or ones that exist as a result of new or breakthrough technologies.

But more than the industry or vertical, I take a founder-first approach to investing. When I was building WayUp, I lived and breathed my company for seven years. I now want to work with founders who bring that same level of intensity — the individuals who will run through walls to overcome challenges, and the ones who understand the problem they’re solving in a way that 99.9% of the population doesn’t. I also gravitate toward founders who have deep domain experience or are extremely technical, but might not yet have the sales experience to sell to companies in the way they want.

To the founders who decide to partner with me: I will work harder than any other investor on your cap table. That’s a guarantee. Whether it’s painstakingly reviewing every sales call recording together to fine-tune your customer pitch, interviewing candidates for your earliest go-to-market hires, doing fundraising pitch practices on weekends for your Series A, or anything else — I’ll be there for every moment, big or small. Because I want every founder I work with to have the deeply fulfilling entrepreneurial experience that I was so fortunate to have.

Liz Wessel is a Partner based in San Francisco. Prior to joining First Round, she was a Visiting Group Partner at Y Combinator, where she worked with over 110 early-stage startups. Liz has also been investing as an angel since 2016, backing over 40 startups, including Ramp, ScaleAI, Ro, Artera (fka WELL Health), FreeWill, Snackpass and others.

Before starting her full-time investing career, Liz was the co-founder and CEO of WayUp, an early-career recruitment platform used by over 7 million candidates and thousands of companies. She launched WayUp in 2014 and ran it for seven years — during which time she raised over $40 million in venture and helped the company navigate a successful exit in 2021.

Prior to WayUp, Liz worked at Google as a product marketing manager. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s in Political Science, Mathematics and Japanese.