In this Tea Talk, we get to know Jess Erickson, startup enthusiast, Director of Marketing for 500 Startups (a CloudPeeps investor!) and Founder of Geekettes, a community for women in tech. Learn more about Jess’ career path, her thoughts on what the future looks like for women in tech, who inspires her and more below!

Location: San Francisco, CA

Day job: Director of Marketing at 500 Startups

Hobby / passion project: Right now I’m learning how to produce music using Ableton Live and my Korg SV1. Oh, and revining hilarious Vines.

Life motto: When life gives you lemons, paint that shit gold.

How did you get to where you are today? What led you to work with startups?

I remember the first time I became interested in technology. It was when I was working for a small startup out of Manhattan, but I knew the feeling was part of something bigger. I immediately fell in love with how limitless technology felt; how it crossed borders, ages and skills sets.

I have a strong PR background and helped launch several tech startups and products in Germany and New York. Fast forward a few years later, I met Dave McClure when he came through Berlin for a Geeks on a Plane tour. We kept in touch and he later introduced me to 500’s Managing Partner, Bedy Yang who participated as a judge in an all-women’s Demo Day that I organized with the Geekettes.

That’s when I started to really appreciate and admire 500’s work and dedication towards diversity and inclusion initiatives. When I relocated to the states in October, I spoke to Dave, met the 500 team and within a few weeks, I quickly joined the family. It’s been one hell of a ride and I couldn’t think of a better way to pop my Silicon Valley cherry.

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What’s it like working at 500 Startups?

I’m a big tech nerd. I’ve been working with startups for six years now, and it turns out that I’m addicted to the fast-paced and creative environment. Everyday, I get to work with ambitious and globally minded people. This year, I joined 500 as the new Director of Marketing and it kept me really busy. When you’re truly passionate about what you do, time flies, especially in a place like Silicon Valley. Next week, I’ll be transitioning into a new role. Stay tuned…

What skills do you think top marketers and community pros need to have to rock today’s environment?

Creativity, strong writing skills and an appreciation for great storytelling are essential.

You founded the incredible Geekettes community. What prompted you to start it?

I believe that there should be a greater proportion of women in the creation and decision-making process on all fronts: from investing to mastering code to jump starting one’s own business, or even funding businesses.

Geekettes takes a positive and productive step by initiating helpful actions to create a gender balance in the tech sphere. I want to encourage women to strive for what they believe in, to take risks, to mentor one another and to inspire the next generation of women to pursue careers in technology and entrepreneurship.

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What positive changes are you seeing for women in tech today? What challenges?

There have been huge strides in advancing women in technology over the years. There is a group of extraordinary women and men who have dedicated their lives into building programs that foster new opportunities, innovation, job creation and inspiration for the next generation of women. Notable groups include (but not limited to): Hackbright, TechWomen, Girls Who Code, Women 2.0 and the Grace Hopper Conference.

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Who inspires you and why?

Many folks inspire me so it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one individual. But if I had to reflect on the past year, I’d say my colleague Yiying Lu. She has brought joy, generosity and unconditional love to the 500 Family. She inspires me to stay positive when the going gets tough. If you’re reading this, thank you.

What did you like most about living in Berlin – and now SF?

Berlin for its arts and edgy counterculture; San Francisco for its openness and beautiful surroundings.

Finally, what’s your favorite cup of tea?

보리차 or Bori cha (Korean roasted barley tea).

Have a question for Jess or someone you’d like to see us interview? Leave your questions and ideas in the comments below!

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Kate Kendall

Kate Kendall

Founder and CEO at CloudPeeps
Founder and CEO of CloudPeeps. Created The Fetch and Freelance Friday. Writer. Lover of chai tea, building communities and working remotely.