On July 24, the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council and Princeton Alumni Angels of Greater New York hosted “Pathways to Entrepreneurship” to spotlight four female alumnae founders and investors. The event was hosted by IEX in New York City’s financial district. Maisie Devine ’11, Christine Hunsicker ’99, Ann Rodriguez ’99, and Karen Drexler ’81 participated in a panel discussing their path to entrepreneurship, the biggest hurdles they have faced, and the decisions that have powered their success.
Maisie Devine ’11
Maisie Devine is the global director of the AB InBev Sustainability Accelerator. Prior to her current role, she was an investor at ZX Ventures, a global incubator and venture capital arm of AB InBev that funds some of the Accelerator’s 100+ most promising projects.
Devine’s interest in venture capital was sparked by her early entrepreneurial career. After working for Interactive One, a digital advertising firm where she took the lead on projects with the agency’s 30 largest clients, she developed an app called Savvy which allows allows professional women to explore other job opportunities anonymously. For her work with Savvy, a Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund company, she was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the Enterprise Technology category, as well as Tech.co’s Top 20 Startup Founders Under 30 and AlleyWatch’s 26 Women to Watch in Tech in 2015.
Today, she is able to invest in promising startups with the knowledge of a former entrepreneur. “Coming to the table as an entrepreneur, knowing some of the struggles, but also some of the attributes to look for has really made me a better investor,” she commented. Ultimately, Devine urges all potential entrepreneurs to pursue their entrepreneurial goals because she is confident that the skills, work ethic, and lessons learned in a startup environment are applicable to all careers and beneficial in life.
Christine Hunsicker ’99
Hunsicker is the founder and CEO of CaaStle, a service that allows retailers to offer Clothing as a Service (CaaS) to their customers to help retailers compete in a changing economy. Prior to CaaStle, she held leadership positions in many successful startups, including COO of Drop.io (acquired by Facebook) and President and COO of Right Media (acquired by Yahoo). Hunsicker was listed as one of Crain’s New York Business “40 Under 40” and one of INC’s “The Most Impressive Women Entrepreneurs of 2016.”
She worked as a teacher in Germany, a reporting analyst, and a budgetary and planning consultant before finding her passion in the technology industry where she has worked for 18 years. CaaStle merges her interest in technology and desire to work in a fast-paced, startup environment. As she has exemplified, her advice to advice to all potential entrepreneurs is to pursue a solution they are passionate about. “The core to my success is focusing on something that I am extremely intellectually interested in,” said Hunsicker.
Ann Rodriguez ’99
As president of Borinquen Management, Rodriguez consults on projects in global sports including LA20 and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Properties. She was also Chief Operating Officer of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Prior to her current roles, she helped launch Atlanta United FC, a record-setting Major League Soccer expansion team, and in 2017 she was listed as one of SportsBusiness Journal’s “Forty under 40.”
She started working at a young age, funding her Princeton education by working three jobs over summer break. Rodriguez believes that working long hours and in a variety of roles is important in developing a strong work ethic and creating economic opportunities for future interests.
In addition to making smart, long-term economic decisions, her advice to entrepreneurs is to seek out a strong, motivated, and honest team. “Let other people help you,” she said. “People want you to succeed and people want to be a part of something cool.”
Karen Drexler ’81
From a young age, Karen was inclined to start at company. At age 11, she started her first one, designing clothing to sell to local outlets. Since then, she has founded roughly a dozen companies. Today, she is the CEO of Sandstone Diagnostics, a company that utilizes portable centrifugal technology to improve diagnostics in the healthcare industry. She is also a director of ResMed, founder of Amira Medical (acquired by Roche Diabetes Care), and founding member of Astia Angels. She holds 11 patents and was named the 2013 Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the Stevie Awards.
Although incredibly successful in her roles, Karen did not expect to work in the healthcare space. She graduated from Princeton with a degree in chemical engineering. However, after the death of her father from complications with diabetes, Karen decided to transition to healthcare.
Echoing the other panelists, Karen believes that passion in finding a solution is a prerequisite for a successful startup. When asked why she became an entrepreneur, she said, “Ultimately for me it’s about making a difference in people’s lives.”
Following the panel discussion, the presenters answered a variety of questions from the audience regarding CEO roles, recovering from setbacks, reaching funding goals, and more. To conclude the panel, the speakers were asked what advice they would give to their younger self. Each speaker emphasized resiliency to combat early company challenges and the importance of forming a collaborative, efficient team.