5 Questions with Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan

Apr 14, 2023

Tricia Martínez is the Managing Director of the Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan Accelerator. Tricia is an experienced serial entrepreneur, executive, and activist passionate about driving large-scale impact through technology and innovation. Tricia has earned titles including top 20 founders of color by Conscious Company Magazine, Hispanic Entrepreneur of the Year by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a top 100 FinTech Leader, Most Influential People in Blockchain, among others. Tricia is also an alumna of the London Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars participating in the 2016 program with her blockchain-enabled financial services platform, Wala.

01. What are you looking for in startups for the Techstars Chicago Powered by J.P. Morgan Accelerator?

We are looking for bold founders utilizing or interested in utilizing Data and Artificial Intelligence to address global problems, scale businesses, and design new business models. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence technologies enable computers or machines to exhibit human-like intelligence including problem solving and adapting. From machine learning to deep learning, AI has immense potential to disrupt present and future industries and take our society to new places given its ability to learn and calculate at incredible speed. Using AI to monitor carbon emissions, improve manufacturing processes, advance cybersecurity, and help you manage your finances are just a few of the possibilities that excite us!

Areas of interest:

  • Sensors

  • Predictive analytics

  • Natural language processing

  • Computer vision

  • Machine learning

  • Robotics process automation

  • Autonomous vehicles

  • Neuromorphic computing

  • Infrastructure management and security

  • Big Data

  • Fintech

  • Decision making and behavior prediction

  • Advanced manufacturing

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring to being a Techstars MD?

Over the course of my entrepreneurial life, I’ve gained a wealth of experience designing products, building and managing passionate teams, scaling technologies, and most importantly driving impact. I’ve dealt with my fair share of challenges and setbacks. However, I have comfort in the unknown because I see a blank canvas as a way to change the world. Through my learned experiences, I preach these 8 mottos:

  • Mission-driven: Always let the mission drive you and your actions.

  • Empathy: Design, lead, and create by understanding those who you are serving.

  • Entrepreneurship: Always stay curious, hungry, driven, and keep building.

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion: We are stronger, more resilient, and fierce when we are different.

  • Mental health: Always take care of yourself and your family.

  • Grit: When things get really hard, learn to push harder and bounce back.

  • Innovation: Aspire to improve and go beyond the norm.

  • Passion: Have fun and always stay hungry!

03. Why is DEI in the startup ecosystem important to you?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are top priorities for me as a Techstars Managing Director, investor and entrepreneur. We are stronger when we are different. When people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences come together, incredible things can happen. Not only will all of society benefit from seeing diverse representation across businesses and industry, but inclusive environments also drive more innovation and impact. It is a no brainer!

As a Latina, I’ve unfortunately been one of the only ones at the table in the fintech, blockchain, and AI world. That is going to change. It is my responsibility as an innovator to push norms and build more inclusive environments in the startup community so that we have greater representation, can be exposed to better ideas, and scale more impactful solutions. 

04. Tell us about your personal experience as an alum of a Techstars Accelerator and why you are returning? 

When you are a first-time founder there are endless lessons to learn. This is just part of the journey. And for startups leveraging novel technologies in difficult markets, the risks are even greater. Participating in a Techstars accelerator will enable you to go through these challenges alongside other founders who are going through the same startup growing pains. Our entrepreneurs will have a proven support system that includes myself and our incredible Payments team, mentors, and partners who will all help guide you through this experience and do whatever they can to make sure you succeed. (And you will learn and gain more than you could ever imagine in a 3 month time frame!)

The saying “Techstars for life” is 100% accurate. Participating in the Techstars program with Barclays bank in London was honestly the best few months of my life. The skills I gained, the relationships I built, the experience I had is what set me on a path for success. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. My life’s mission is to change the world and that is what has led me back to Techstars. Through the Techstars Chicago Powered By J.P. Morgan I can do just that by investing in, supporting, and nurturing game-changing startups that are tackling some of the most complex problems in our world.

05. What is your favorite thing about the Chicago startup scene?

Chicago is where I started my startup journey as a founder and as an investor! After having lived and worked across a number of innovation ecosystems around the world I can proudly say that Chicago is one of the best. The #givefirst Techstars mentality runs true throughout the city with mentors, investors, founders, universities, and others that want to foster a thriving startup ecosystem and will do as much as they can to help you be successful. Not to mention, Chicago is “the City of the Big Shoulders,” which is in reference to the hard-working people that built this city into an industrial hub. The 4th industrial revolution is here and Chicago will be a driving force across all things logistics, AI, quantum, and more! 

Join us for an AMA on April 26th to meet the team and learn more!