Nicole Glaros is a true Colorado outdoorswoman.
An avid skier, biker, and world traveler, she’s always seeking her next adventure. It’s a philosophy that translates well to her day job—the former serial entrepreneur spends her days developing the next generation of entrepreneurs as head of start-up accelerator TechStars’ Boulder, Colorado, base.
But for her next adventure, she’s leaving her home in the mountains and heading for the Concrete Jungle—where she’ll be the new interim managing director for TechStars New York City. The subject of the eponymous Bloomberg TV reality show, TechStars NYC is one of the organization’s most influential programs.
Glaros has some big shoes to fill. Dave Tisch—known in start-up circles for his role as co-founder of TechStars NYC—stepped down from the role in August to focus on his angel investing fund, Box Group.
“I’m super excited because it’s a new adventure,” exclaims Glaros. “No one can fill Dave Tisch’s shoes, but I hope to build upon and augment what he created.”
With her years of TechStars experience, Glaros is a natural pick to take over the NYC program. “It’s my sixth city [of TechStars’ seven programs], so I know the common mistakes to avoid,” she says. Glaros is also a committed cheerleader for the TechStars brand, reciting the accelerator’s mission without skipping a beat.
“We help world-class entrepreneurs make sustainable companies. The program is a catalyst: We bring together mentors and entrepreneurs and then ‘let the magic happen,’” she explains. “The ingredients are in NYC already, but we bring them together and teach them to completely engage. We go deep. That’s the magic of TechStars.”
With everyone from Wired magazine to The Next Web hand-wringing about an accelerator bubble, the proliferation of start-up incubators and accelerators is a hot topic. And no discussion of accelerators is complete without a mention of TechStars and its Silicon Valley frenemy Y Combinator.
Glaros emphasizes her “immense” respect for Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham, and describes the relationship between the two organizations as “generally friendly.” When asked about the potential rivalry, Glaros is diplomatic: “We attract different types of entrepreneurs.” She highlights the size of TechStars’ mentor pool (over 100) and commitment to hands-on help.
“We don’t see ourselves as a fund,” Glaros says of the TechStars ethos. “We see ourselves as co-founders with entrepreneurs. We put entrepreneurs first, not the fund.” Glaros is a true believer in the TechStars approach—she’s put her money where her mouth is as an investor in the Boulder program she’s managed since 2009. “I feel completely confident leaving Boulder. My money is in good hands,” she says with confidence.
But ultimately Glaros’ departure from Boulder is temporary, as the TechStars team searches for a permanent leader for the New York program. It’s no surprise that the organization is taking its time to find the right replacement. The quality of a team is important to TechStars. (Glaros joked recently on her blog that “Team” is four of the top five things TechStars looks for in an application.) “We’re really working hard to make sure the right team is in place. That’s partially why we haven’t announced a replacement yet,” Glaros explains.
Although Tisch’s exit and another recent departure announcement from NYC program director Adam Rothenberg have some investors concerned about the future of TechStars, Glaros says leadership changes don’t appear to have affected applications, which are pouring in at about the same rate as years past.
The deadline is today, Friday, January 18, at 11:59:59 PM ET, but Glaros has been knee-deep in applications since well before the holidays. Common themes include the usual cast of tech characters—mobile, e-commerce, crowdfunding—but Glaros says she’s also seeing a lot of applications in the human resources and hiring space: “Start-ups are trying to kill Monster or be a better Indeed.”
Although TechStars doesn’t explicitly ask for gender in its application, Glaros says she’s definitely seen an increase in female applicants. “More often than not, I see an application and think, ‘This is a really interesting idea,’ and then I dig down and see that it’s a woman entrepreneur.” Glaros admits that women are more likely to start pink-collar start-ups instead of “hardcore engineering companies” but says that’s okay. “Women control the purse strings in many sectors of the economy,” she reasons.
As the number of female applicants grows, Glaros is cognizant of the need to recruit more women at the top. “We’re always looking for more female and technical mentors,” she says as she describes TechStars’ “really, really high bar” for its mentors. (Multiple-time entrepreneurs with numerous exits under their belt should get in touch.)
For now, recruiting mentors takes a backseat to reviewing applications. Glaros will eat, sleep, and breathe apps until the next class of 10-15 TechStars NYC start-ups is announced. But in addition to wading through hundreds of applications, Glaros has one other item on her to-do list before she moves to New York City: “I have to get new running shoes to handle the concrete.”