Founder: Nicole Yeary
Company Description: Membership organization that connects and helps business and technology women entrepreneurs
Company Website: http://ms-tech.co/; @MsTechGroup; Facebook
Date of Interview: July 2015
Nicole Yeary is the founder of Ms. Tech, a membership organization that helps business and technology women entrepreneurs collaborate, network and ultimately invest in each other.
On learning the ropes:
Nicole spent many successful years working in health insurance business development and sales. In 2008, she decided to pursue her own healthcare startup, and even with her years of industry expertise and knowledge, she found herself faced with a whole new world of challenges.
“The startup world was so different than any business world I’d ever known.”
To tackle the learning curve, she ended up taking a job with a newly funded startup as their first official full-time hire. She asked questions; she attended pitch events; she took additional gigs. This all pre-dated the current startup scene in Chicago – pre 1871, Starter League, Startup Weekend, and BuiltIn Chicago.
On switching pursuits to Ms. Tech:
Following her natural spirit of collaboration, Nicole attended and formed informal communities through brunches (#shygirlbrunch) and created a Facebook group to bring business and technology-focused women together for discussion.
“I wanted to make something that we could share and take going to lunch or brunch together to another level. I wanted to see us all get something out of it.”
“How can we do business together? How can we transfer the wealth among us, and how can we invest in each other?”
From the Facebook group, she realized that “the knowledge share was huge. People fed off of that. They got excited. There were a ton of smart women sharing what they knew and together we created a community that provided networking along with an added layer of well curated mind-sharing. That became an incredible resource, an instant perceived value to our Ms.Tech tribe and community.”
In January 2014, Ms. Tech became an official entity and added a First Class Membership option. Today, they have about 100 members.
On examining the issues:
“Only 2.7% of venture-backed startups are female founded — that’s not the problem. That’s the issue caused by a deeper rooted problem. To really uncover the root cause of this issue has been a journey. We started by asking questions: How many women need startup capital? How many women are pitching VCs? How much are they asking for? Do they know how to navigate the due diligence process? These are all questions we are working on so that we can develop impact measurement; develop the most viable solution that will create the greatest impact; and truly leverage greater economic empowerment for all women.”
Nicole wants to focus her time on identifying sources of the actual problem. “Our First Class membership has taken us from a Facebook group to an organization that is serious about working on a solution by taking assumptions and putting them through the same lean methodology to test our hypothesis. That makes us incredibly grateful for every partner and First Class member.”
On unifying as a community to succeed:
Nicole believes that at every level, banding together is more powerful than operating apart. “The conversation is split among women as well. Not everyone has the same networks and the same accessibility.”
“We are challenged together. We are investing in each other and changing the status quo so anyone can disrupt industries. I would like to see women I know continue to lift each other up, take a vested interest in each other’s work, and do business with one another.”
“Even in Chicago there is some traditional segregation between neighborhoods and communities. I continue to work toward a ‘Team Chicago’ mentality, a message of pride in what the people in our city are doing. We should become cognizant of what similar social missions are represented by other organizations, and take inventory of our strengths and opportunities to become cohesive.”
You can find Nicole at 1871 brainstorming and researching the most effective ways to make impact – “All of my work is done ‘to impact’ first. My purpose is to make tangible change and create impact. “