IVCA Feature: Nicole Yeary on the Companies Participating in the 2017 Spring WiSTEM Cohort Program

IVCA Feature: Nicole Yeary on the Companies Participating in the 2017 Spring WiSTEM Cohort Program

April 12, 2017

One month ago, Chicago’s essential technology incubator, “1871,” announced that their WiSTEM organization (Women in Science Technology Engineering and Math) will begin their Spring “cohort” program, the first of three in 2017, and their fourth one overall. The customized program, that is designed to accelerate and cultivate opportunities for women in technology, will have 14 companies participating in the 12-week mentoring program – covering topics designed to increase business acumen and relationship building. The program concludes with a Showcase event where the businesses will get an opportunity to pitch to the tech and investor communities.
 
The IVCA reached out to Nicole Yeary, who is a co-facilitator of the WiSTEM program and the Founder/CEO of Ms.Tech Co., which is a social impact membership organization to empower leaders in technology ventures. She talked about the new cohort, and the realization of providing and expanding entrepreneurial roads for women in business.
 
IVCA: The WiSTEM 1871 cohort program has been going on for a year and a half. How have you adjusted the 12-week program to make it work better for you and the participants?
 
Nicole Yeary: Each WiSTEM 1871 cohort is unique, and every cohort provides feedback before, during and after the 12-week program.  Both seeing insight, listening and applying feedback as quickly as possible is an essential part of the success of the program. The ecosystem and tech industry change quickly, and we have to be equally as adaptable – frankly, that happens to be my favorite part of the work we do.
 
IVCA: You put 38 companies so far through the program, with $10 million dollars raised and 200 jobs created. What is the ‘X factor’ that these businesses gain by participating in the WiSTEM program?  
 
Yeary: The ‘X factor’ from where I stand is simply the benefit of having each other -- the ‘cohort effect.’  We facilitate a program where founders who come from various industries and expertise, are different enough yet are traveling similar journeys and experiencing similar struggles, or have at some point.  WiSTEM creates the time and appropriate space for those conversations and discussions to take place. 
 
IVCA: There is a very diverse class of cohorts that began on March 21st. What was common in their application process that made them the best picks for the program?  
 
Yeary: Our picks are not much different than that of an investor, as we are betting on the jockey, not the horse. In addition to that, we were sure to choose the founders who we felt made the best cohort for the program. We've found that having varying skill sets, products and types of technologies help add experience and expertise that helps create an ideal cohort.
 
IVCA: The three pillars of the program are technology, community, and access to capital. Of those three, what do you find that most companies who participate in your program lack?
 
Yeary: Access to capital, hands down.  Many of them have built prototypes and are members of communities – but the access to capital is undoubtedly and undeniably something that majority of startup founders struggle with, both men and women. The great part about 1871 is the ability to invite the team members from MATH Ventures, Chicago Ventures or any other 1871 based firm or angel group to lead a discussion or session with us. The best part they are all ready and willing to participate and from that many of the founders build ongoing relationships with those investors. 
 
For more information about WiSTEM at 1871, click www.1871.com/1871_accelerators/wistem/. For more information about Ms.Tech Co., click www.ms-tech.co. For more background on the companies participating in the WiSTEM cohort, click www.1871.com/press-releases/1871-fourth-wistem-cohort-announcement.