Nicole is a Managing Director at Techstars, a startup accelerator based out of Boulder, Colorado. She’s been with Techstars since its early days in 2009, has run 8 programs and has close to 90 companies in her portfolio. She’s on the Board of Directors for the Application Developer’s Alliance and theEntrepreneur’s Foundation of Colorado. She’s on the advisory board for the University of Colorado’s Venture Fund, The Global Accelerator Network, andKangu.org. She was named one of the “Coolest People in New York Tech” and an Extraordinary Woman in New York Tech by Business Insider in 2013, Marie Claire named her one of the “NewGuard”, and Entrepreneur Magazine named her One of the Most 7 Powerful Women to Watch.
What startup verticals interest you most right now?
Agriculture, security, human powered AI (meaning using AI to help people do their jobs better), and products/services targeting the babyboomers. We’re spending a lot of time thinking about what the world looks like when self-driving cars take over the roads and it becomes illegal to drive. It’s a fun exercise and will happen in our lifetime! Lastly infrastructure is always interesting — and areas I’m focused on are how apps can work together in intelligent ways. There’s a great article by Jonathan Libov on The Futures of Text that highlights this. I’m not sure I agree that text messaging is the future of apps (personally, I hate typing on the screen and think it is awkward and time consuming) but completely agree that some universal interface like text that communicates with apps in an intelligent way will power the next generation.
What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?
I’m seeing a lot of companies raise Series A with very high valuations. I think a lot of companies are not going to be able to make enough traction before their next financing in order to justify and increase in valuation. So we’ll see a lot of downrounds, unhappy investors, and unhappy entrepreneurs as the market corrects. Entrepreneurs who keep valuations modest, raise enough capital to show a significant uptick in traction/sales, and focus on growth of revenue will be in a great place to weather the coming storm.
Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?
One area that I’d love to see improved is personal finance. There are a couple of great companies out there making strides here (like Learnvest), but helping middle and lower income families plan, save, and understand more about their finances will be critical. I’m worried for future generations because debt is rising, income isn’t keeping up, parents won’t have enough to retire on, causing them to lean on their kids who will already be in debt from college. I’m not talking about budgeting tools, those exist (although they aren’t great). I’m talking about financial coaching and planning.
If you could wave a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing (personally or at work), what problem would you solve?
As someone without an administrative assistant, my two biggest areas of pain are travel and scheduling. However, I’m using two great services that are helping with this, both involve people AND artificial intelligence. X.ai is a scheduling tool that uses AI, but is backed by humans to quality check the appointments. It’s cut down on an amazing amount of email and time I spend scheduling. Nativeapp.com (disclaimer, I’m an investor in Native) is a human that is backed by artificial intelligence to help me book my travel and solve problems when I’m traveling (like cancelled flights, lost luggage, etc). Using both of these services has showed that AI + humans are a killer combination.
If you have a startup or you’re interested in any of Techstars’ portfolio companies, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Nicole directly at email@example.com.