Office Hours: I build partnerships at Stripe and previously led growth at Scratch and Affirm. Ask me all your partnerships, go-to-market, and investing questions!Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Alexis Zhu. I work on the partnerships team at Stripe and previously was head of growth at Scratch and head of revenue for strategic brands at Affirm.

Prior to Affirm, I invested in growth-stage healthcare companies at Summit Partners in Menlo Park and advised both domestic and global healthcare clients at UBS Investment Bank in New York.

I've been angel investing for the past several years in health tech, fintech, and DTC consumer (yum!! ping me if you ever want to chat coffee or vegan cheese). Some fintech deals include,,, I love traveling (50+ countries) and I'm a big fan of podcasts.

Ask me anything about partnerships at Stripe (we're hiring!), how we got our first 100 merchants at Affirm, what I look for in angel investments, podcast recommendations, and more!

Thanks for spending your time here @alexiszhu! 🤗I’m Ewelina, running, a platform that helps companies to automate personalized coupon promotions and minimize promo abuse. Could you please tell me how does Stripe decide with whom to partner and whom not to? I’m interested on how are you folks deciding on integration partners, reselling partnerships, etc. Also, what is your investment thesis and what would convince you to invest into company from abroad?Cheers,Evey,
Hi @ewelina - At Stripe today, we have 12 operating principles - and these aren't just for show, we really abide by them. The first is probably unsurprising -- "users first." The fastest way to get Stripe's attention is to have a lot of our users want your service and / or product. When that happens, Stripe sales reps and account managers usually hear about it right away and they let the partnerships team know. Alternatively we also on partnerships and bd do our own market research in conjunction with our product team counterparts, so we might reach out to companies in a certain sector if we think those companies could really solve user issues or help our users with their growth and/or operations. Since I'm mostly a seed / pre-A angel, I look for a passionate, articulate, and energized team that is working on a large problem that is poorly solved. And I'm looking for at minimum a handful of customers who are ecstatic with the solution. For companies from abroad, I usually need a little more background on why this is a problem in that specific country, especially if I know very little about a certain region and the fundamentals of the problem at hand.
Thanks for your response, Alexis! It absolutely makes sense - we usually are being asked by our customers to integrate directly with Stripe, so it's helpful to know we should direct them to you instead.Best,Evey
I’m sad that missed this. How do you transition from inside sales to an enterprise sales mindset to land large deals?
Hi, inside sales roles do not require negotiation skills, enterprise sales are big or complex deals that might involve closing different aspects of the deal, and most often price negotiation or certain aspects of the deal require should seek training in enterprise sales
Hi @alexiszhu! I just started a new legal tech start up company and am interested in using Stripe for payment processing and ID verification. I've asked to talk to someone about a demo/pricing, but I just keep getting emails with links to the website to learn more. Is it possible to talk to a human being who can help answer some questions for me? Please let me know!
Hi Alexis! This might be a tough one, but what is your top pick for vegan cheese and your top pick for coffee? I will pipe up and say that right now I am loving Miyoko’s Garlic Herb and Intelligensia’s House Blend.I was actually just looking at jobs at Stripe this morning. What is your favorite thing about working on Partnerships, and your favorite thing about working there? Is there any room for technical skills in your team? I’m currently in the FinTech space but looking for a new role. What are some emerging trends you have been seeing that you think would be important for future (aspiring) leaders to pick up on?
Hi @natalielieurance - LOCA ( for vegan cheese - it's amazing on nachos) and lots of different coffees... if you are big into drips or want something more portable for traveling, try - they are fantastic.I find partnerships to be so rewarding because you can create a deep relationship with a partner that can then drive incrementally faster growth for the both of you. At Stripe, we have a team in Partnerships called partner operations - this team makes sure all the trains run on time with our partners and there can be a bit of SQL involved. The team also works a lot with our product and eng teams, so having a technical background is also very helpful when it comes to getting work done, setting up new processes, and spec-ing out new tools, builds, or fixes. I think low-code/no-code is really interesting, especially companies building businesses around productionizing fintech infrastructure. I think global payments is interesting. And I love the intersection of e-commerce and fintech.
Thank you for the great answer, Alexis! Firstly, I am definitely going to check out LOCA and Dripkit. Secondly, I really love taking business operation problems and integrating tech into the solutions so reading about things like partner operations is right up my alley. Lastly, I am definitely going to try and find some articles about the trends you mentioned. Let me know if you have an recommended reading and thanks again :)
Thanks for leading your expertise on healthcare! I love seeing new blood enter that industry! What are your suggestions for founders who want to get savvy around securing needed regulatory approvals, collecting and using patient experience data compliantly as well as figuring out payment/ reimbursement? I mean beyond finding a reputable consultant? As a nurse by trade I I want solutions that actually help to be around long enough to really help people. - signed from the and of fax machines
Hi Alexis,In an early stage business which things you must consider before to do a partnerships?
Hi Alexis, Thanks so much for taking the time to host office hours! I have a few questions about your investing side. I'm quite curious about your career transition from growth-stage investor to operator, how is the process like, and if you were to rate the two types of transfers (investor-> operator, operator->investor), what's the more challenging one? I heard that in general it's harder from PE back to operator roles. What skillsets between the two do you see are highly transferrable and valued on both sides? What made you get involved in angel investing in the first place, and what kept you engaged and investing for the past few years?
Hi @yihuang - skillset and role choice both play a big part in this. If you come from an investor background that is heavy in client engagement and sourcing, it might be easier to show value and execute at a revenue-generating role at a startup (sales, growth, and account management). This is the path I took going from Summit Partners to Affirm. Once you join a startup, you'll be able to get a sense of other roles in the organization. I know a lot of people who have successfully switched to another team (e.g. product, strategy) from revenue or account management roles. If your investor background is more focused on financials and investment, look for roles at slightly larger startups growing their strategy and corpdev functions. Similarly, if you have an operator role that is heavy in strategy and product and you have operated in a space for a really long time - say fintech, you'll have a great chance of joining a PE/VC firm that wants to grow their fintech investments. On angel investing - I get a lot of energy from seeing companies grow from 5 to 10 to 100 people and beyond -- what a fun, rewarding, and special time. I also love meeting founders and helping where I can. Being able to invest is just the cherry on top.
We at Gender Fair enter into partnerships with F500s that meet our metrics, and get certified (a la fair trade) but in the last few years there are so many offerings in the DEI/gender space., we kind of get lost. Is there a better way to approach them? Any advice how to get attention?
Hi @amycross - The first thing that comes to mind for me is around standing apart in terms of credibility. Agreed that there are a lot of certification companies out there. The ones that really pique my interest, (e.g. I've used Best Places to Work before) are because they come off as very credible and have network effects. Ways they do this: give companies that pass a spotlight on their website (good as a recruiting tool), and give companies that pass a badge so they can put the badge on their own website (also great for visibility and credibility both ways). Feature your current clients in spotlights, blogs, and articles and start to target others in those same industries. Poll job seekers that come to your website on the importance of equality certification, etc. in their job search and post those results and use them in your sales outreach emails. Hope that helps!
yes, credibility is important. Unlike so many certification orgs, we have transparent metrics and scoring so don't get into any pay to play which is rife in this whole industry. Thanks for your time!
I’m very interested in the responses to all of these questions! 😄 Looking forward to learning more. Thanks Alexis!
Hi @bbrisk - Thanks for following along!
Hi, Alexis. I'm curious about health tech investors' view of challengers to the traditional medical-industrial complex. Is innovation in the fabric of healthcare delivery in the sense of meaningfully empowering users (shifting power away from providers/practitioners/insurers toward enabling self-health/individualized healthcare) considered tractable? If so, what is the appetite among VCs (or seed/angel) investors to support contenders in that space?
Hi @msyvr - healthtech is such a nuanced topic! There are several threads that investors will want to understand. A few: 1) how do you measure improvement/efficacy (ties in with customer retention, churn, etc.), 2) how do you get paid and is that sustainable (will it be strictly out of pocket or covered eventually by insurance w/ proof of efficacy established), and 3) how big is your target audience and why would they use your product/service over something that is covered by insurance), and 4) how will you educate potential users and gain trust and credibility. And of course many more questions depending on your specific product and the problem you are solving. I think it's also important to speak with investors who are focused and/or interested in HC and understand your problem. they can be your biggest champions. Not every VC firm will have experts or partners who want to focus on HC so fit is really important. If you can articulate that you are solving a real problem, with no clear/good alternatives, that affects a lot of people (large total addressable market), you'll definitely get meetings!
Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Alexis.
Thanks so much for giving us your time! What is the best way to learn about how partner decisions are made in relation to collecting consumer insights among large Fortune 500 brands in the DTC space?
Hey Alexis! What advice do you have for young women interested in transitioning into VC? I currently work in FinTech and my goal is to land my first role in VC. What 3 steps can I take to get closer to my goal? Thank you for your insight!
Hi @empoweredrachel -1) Start writing. Publish a blog, newsletter, or even tweet your thoughts on fintech hot topics. VCs love to see thought leadership and good writing skills.2) Start to develop your thesis on fintech (or whatever else you are passionate about) areas you think are up and coming and why you find them interesting. You'll get this question as well during interviews.3) Dig deep as to why you want to work at a VC - and make sure it really aligns with what you care about and are passionate about. VC's don't get to be on the ground floor of building a company, and being a VC can sometimes be a bit more lonely compared to operating at a startup. If you drive energy from cross-team collaboration, scaling a product, etc. just know that the VC lifestyle will be different.
Thank you very much, @alexiszhu! 1. Done! I tweet about women VCs all the time on Twitter 2. Working on developing my thesis. #3 shows where I'm currently at in my thinking.3. Understanding more about the role of a VC is where I'm at. Fundamentally, seeing the positive impact they have on individuals, communities, and societies inspires me. Women VCs are twice as likely to fund women entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs hire more women. Women entrepreneurs are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. They exemplify inclusive innovation and offer solutions to problems male-dominated societies have ignored for decades. I would love to keep in contact with you as I transition into VC. Kind regards, Rachel
Alexis - hey! I'm the Chief Strategy Officer at my startup. To date, I've mainly focused on partnerships, sales, and grants. We're starting prep for our Series A and I'm currently looking to now really evolve into this role as a true growth officer. What are your best tips for1) up hard-skilling myself to do this 2) formalizing & planning a company's growth strategy? 3) how / what way I should document my work/ plans (a tool, excel, google doc?)4) how I should present it to the team (power-point, excel), and what I should focus on is appreciated. 5) finally, series A strategy talks naturally orbit the topic of growth. How can I distinguish the discussion, which also applies to my CEO and COO who lead client acquisitions on another end), from my specific role as growth officer? thanks so much!
Hi @angstrom - 1: Spend time with your product team, understand how they work and what they care about. As you figure out growth you will undoubtedly ask them to help you build things to help the business grow. Spend time with customers and get actionable customer feedback, this will also help you make growth decisions. There are lots of books on growth (Elad's High Growth Handbook, Ben's The Hard Thing About Hard Things.. if anything these will get you excited about your new endeavors!).2 +5: Getting to predictable sales / growth execution is one of the hardest (and most rewarding things you can do. Start writing. Write down your plan - what verticals and industries will you focus on, what types of partners do you want to work with, how long you think your typical sales cycle is given previous closed deals, what milestones you want to be accountable for in 12 months, and how you want to staff a team to reach these milestones. Then share that doc with your leadership team -- tell them you want questions and comments in your document and then use their feedback to start a conversation. You'll be able to get on the same page with them which is very important and you can use that to tackle your 5th point -- sketching out swim lanes for yourself. 3 + 4: I like to write and document everything, and then use dashboards for all growth metrics. For sales, you should have a CRM, and if budget is an issue try Pipedrive - it's low cost and very functional. Then you can start to showcase your metrics to leadership on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. I find powerpoint / google sheets is the easiest to present, but documents are the best way to get feedback - especially google docs with comments and suggestions. Many firms (Amazon, Google, Stripe) are known for their writing - heavy culture. I didn't come from this culture but I'm now in one -- and I really love it. It's easy to collaborate on a document and add complex details, and it really forces you to put your thoughts down in an articulate way. Hope that helps!
Brilliant. You absolutely nailed my questions. Thanks so much! Keep killing it out there!
I'm a founder of a telehealth product, Healthily Match, and we're still validating the MVP. I want to use technology to help people with chronic conditions discover doctors and wellness solutions quickly. What do you look for when investing in health tech startups? Do you have suggestions for go-to-market strategies when targeting doctors?What are your go-to-market strategy or tactics that you've used to get your first 100 merchants?
Definitely want to hear your podcast recs! (or audiobooks if you have any)I love learning new things and hearing good stories, so really no topic is off limits. 😊
Hi @MollieFleury - Audiobooks I really enjoyed: The Gene (great storytelling and history of genetics and the human genome), Shoe Dog (Story of Nike), Invisible Women (data-driven research, great examples on why we need more inclusive data on women to make decisions in healthcare, infrastructure, technology, etc.).Podcasts: Ones where I learn: Radiolab, Invisibilia, Planet Money, Revisionist HistoryOnes that are fun: The Moment, The Sporkful, My Favorite MurderLet me know your recommendations too!
Awesome, thank you!Lately, most of my time is spent with Spanish learning podcasts. Otherwise, my go-to is usually the Tim Ferriss Show or Armchair Expert.Greenlights, read and written by Matthew McConaughey, is a great audiobook! I also just finished Just Kids by Patti Smith - as somebody with an engineering and analytical mind, it was wild to peek into the perspective and mindset of artists and musicians.
Hi Alexis, Thank you for joining office hours! I am currently working on a startup in the genomic space. I would love to connect via a 20 min coffee chat to hear more about about what you look for in angel investments and any recommendations you may have for gaining more users. I look forward to connecting with you!
Hi @alexiszhu! Thank you so much for sharing your time with the Elpha community and doing office hours! My question is: when it comes to startups and partnerships with larger organizations, how developed does the product/tech need to be in order to pilot or engage in potential partnership conversations? Thanks :)
Hi @DallasB - It depends on how complicated your product/ tech is and where it sits / how it is used. For example, if it is something that will take a bit of integration time for the user to install and it will sit on the user's public-facing website where all their customers can see -- you will likely need to have a fairly well-tested product. Let's say it's a product that doesn't require any integration and the end user is actually the employees of a company, then it might be easier -- you could even just convince the company for a small subset of their employees to try your product (get your foot in the door), and then land and expand (to other parts of the company's organization) from there. Hope that helps!
This is very helpful and validating! Thank you so much.
Hi Alexis!I was wondering what the best way is to successfully get an interview at Stripe or Affirm?
Thank you for asking this question. I'm also interested to learn more about the interview process at Stripe and Affirm.
Hi @devonkline - For these larger companies, submit your resume online, but also try to speak to someone at the company who is doing a role or in an organization you want to learn more about. Ask your network if they know anyone who works at the company you are trying to learn more about. If you don't have connections or mutual connections, try cold outreach via LinkedIn - but make sure you are targeting people who are on the teams you want to join. Ask for 15 minutes of time - people are very busy especially right now as we head into the end of the year. Tips:- Know what role you want - look online at the careers page and find the right fit. Don't make the person you talk to do the work of trying to "find you a role."- Ask them who the hiring manager is, or if they could tell you after the call. Sometimes they might not know, don't take that as them not trying to be helpful.- Ask questions so that you can write a good cover letter or email to the hiring manager. Use your 15 minutes strategically.- Email the hiring manager or recruiter directly with a very personalized note and attach your resume.Note - in companies as large as Affirm and Stripe, you'll need to target the right people to chat with. For example, if you send a note to someone in product asking about an operations role, you'll probably get crickets.
Hi Alexis,This is so cool! I recently founded a company in the dog space in NYC. I'd love to see if we can connect via a 20 min zoom as I'd love to learn about your experience with angel investing, how you got your first 100 merchants on affirm. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn: to talk soon!Jamie
Hi Alex,What is your advice to partnership if you are an early-stage startup and no one knows you? Thanks.
Hi Alexis! Thank you for your time. I’m wondering how far along was the product before Affirm got it’s first 100 customers (ie were you reaching out to customers before the product was finished)? How did you those customers? What agreements were made with them and did it change as you went from 100 to 200?
Ah! What positions are you guys hiring for at Stripe?
Hi @Tiara - Pretty much everywhere! and see open roles here:
Hi Alexis!Mentoring growth stage startups, where Salesforce is still pricey to afford; What tools/dashboard system do you recommend for partnership pipelines
Hi @lucilalawrence - Agree! I recommend Pipedrive as a starter CRM - it's pretty useable and very quick to set up and connects seamlessly w/ gmail. Note that with Hubspot and SFDC you'll get a more comprehensive set of integrations.
Hi Alexis,Would love to hear your thoughts about how Stripe's partnership team is structured and what are the key activities that you perform day to day.Cheers!Kate
Hi @KateHo! As you can tell from our website, Stripe has a lot of products! And most of our products require partnerships - it can be with the networks on the payment side, or with banks on the treasury side, or even with device manufacturers for our terminal product for in-person payments. With our partners, we could be creating new revenue streams, building new products, seeking out strategic engagements, and developing new business opportunities. It's a really fun team to be a part of and we work closely with our counterparts across the company, and especially in product.
@alexiszhu Thx for doing OH. First, have you tried the Miyoko's Oatmilk pepperjack slices on Keto toast sprayed with olive oil? Man, that is my everyday breakfast now - so good. Here's my ?: I'm working on a SmartProfile and what is the best way to approach getting lots of brands signed up (like you did at Stripe & Affirm) more quickly? Was there a hack you used? And what position do you reach out do typically? Tysm. Jo
Hi Alexis! Thanks so much for joining Elpha for Office Hours! What is your favorite vegan cheese? I have to say that vegan cheeses have been one of the areas that I feel haven't evolved much over the past decade on the vegan food front - or maybe I just haven't discovered the right ones yet! This video from WIRED has me thinking that it will be awhile before there's any yummy vegan cheese options:, how did you get your first 100 merchants at Affirm?
Really?! I’m so surprised by this! I’ve been blown away by the variety of delicious vegan cheeses that are available to me now that didn’t exist even 5 years ago. Both commercial and artisan products are STREETS ahead of where they were. I’m curious where this impression comes from on your side? I’m in South Africa so maybe it’s just that we’re only getting exposed now and other countries have had the option for a long time 🤷‍♀️
I've tried the options at the grocery stores in California - sold at Sprouts or Whole Foods. Would love to hear about the ones you've tried and loved that would be available here :)
Hi @brianarani - I'm glad you asked!! LOCA - is my hands-down favorite :).For the first 100 merchants - we cold emailed and called :). Yup, very old school. I was very comfortable with this strategy because I did a lot of cold outreach at my private equity job prior. And with very personalized emails we got great conversion rates for the first call, and a great funnel from there to close.
Thanks so much for the vegan cheese rec Alexis! And it's good to know that cold emails/calling can lead to high conversion rates if properly personalized.
Hi Alexis, any tips for folks trying to pivot from another area of business to partnerships?
Hi @sylviamendez - first understand what "partnerships" means at your organization. In some companies it's more sales, in others it is more bd -- talk to someone on your partnerships team to understand what the day-to-day is like and what skills you need to succeed on their team. Ask them if who else you should chat with. Then take your current role and match those things you already do today to those skills you've heard are important for your partnerships team. For example, if you are in customer success at a b2b company, you probably have great account management skills, the ability to prioritize and manage user asks, and the ability to strategize on growth and future upsells, etc. -- all those are skills easily transferable to partnerships.And spend more time with your partnerships team if you can. If they are open to it, ask them if there are any calls you can sit on to get a sense of their pitches with new partners. When I was managing the sales team at Affirm, I had an open call policy -- anyone, regardless of role (engineering or product or operations, etc.) could ask me to join a pitch call to listen in, and I'd let them. I think it's a good way to build network effects in the business as well.
Thanks so much, this is really helpful!
Related to Sylvia's question, any tips for folks trying to pivot from law?
Hi @Isie - For outside counsel pivoting to a startup - if there's an opportunity for a secondment that could be a good way to dip your toe to see if you even like startups. Or apply directly! Startups love seeing a good blend of "I got trained at a law firm" but "I can also think outside the box and be flexible with my business counterparts."If you are already at a startup in the legal function, depending on the startup (larger companies might be easier) moving to roles like bd or corp dev could be more logical (since a lot of those roles are negotiation heavy). High level, I think it's important to understand why you want to pivot away. And let that passion really come through as you talk to folks in your company who are in those organizations. Let them know why you would love a chance to work with them or on their team, and where you think you could add immediate value. If you are at a startup already, take the time to develop those relationships now so if a role does open up, they'll think of you.
Thanks @alexiszhu!
We are a health tech startup currently raising funding. Would love to get your perspectives on what works and what doesn't for (angel/VC) investors. If you have 20-30 mins would also like to walk you thru the pitch and what we are doing.