A Brief Overview
Mary brings joy to empowering people improve themselves and the world around them. She is the founder of Improve, a company that improves people's lives using techniques inspired by improv comedy and behavioral research. To put some simple labels to her...she's an entrepreneur, recovering venture capitalist, startup advisor, author, speaker, philanthropist, and improv comedian. She started her first company at age 14, did early stage venture capital, was a Director at a Silicon Valley unicorn, wrote Straight From the Investor's Mouth: 111 Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs, and has performed on some of the same stages as comedy legends.
A Continued Not-So-Brief Overview
She is the creator of Improve, which improves people's lives using techniques inspired by improv comedy and behavioral research. Improve helps some of the largest and fastest-growing companies and their leaders innovate, solve critical business challenges, and improve performance. This all happens using a unique, fun, engaging, and effective framework that combines improv comedy, business and leadership tools, behavioral research, and neuroscience. Mary likes to say "it's like giving people M&Ms that are laced with vitamins! They taste good AND they are good for you!" Improve also has a product focused on improving mental health. With Club Improve, anyone can improve joy, connection, creativity, and reduce anxiety and fear, both at work and in life. In Mary's TED talk “How improv can improve your leadership and life” she shares the fundamental principles that underlie this work.
Mary is a founding team member involved in running an innovative philanthropic fund that helps entrepreneurs make contributions to good causes they care about.
Throughout her career so far, Mary has worked with tens of thousands of leaders and thousands of companies as an operator, investor, and advisor. Mary helped startup companies, including Plenty, Ozlo (Acquired by Facebook), True Link Financial (YC S13) and Fixed (YC S14, Acquired by Lawgix), and other ventures with growth, marketing, business development, fundraising strategy, and culture. She worked with R/GA Ventures to find, invest in, and support connected commerce companies. Previously, she was a Director at SoFi, a multibillion dollar online lender, where she led a marketing team, built out the business development team, and ran SoFi’s entrepreneur program and investments in startups. She worked at RPM Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm, concentrating on investments in online marketplaces, e-commerce, and automotive IT.
While running her first business, Iorio Gelato, and investing in startup companies, Mary started doing improv comedy to help her as an entrepreneurial leader and human with loads of anxiety. When she realized the positive impact improv comedy made in her work and personal life she decided to bring it to more people developing the frameworks underlying Improve over the course of a decade as an entrepreneur, investor, executive, and training as an improv comedian at The Second City in Chicago, The Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC, The Groundlings, among other improv theatres, alongside current and future famous improv comedians. She created Improve combining improv comedy techniques, business and leadership frameworks, behavioral science, and other research-backed techniques, to help leaders and teams solve business challenges, improve their effectiveness, and develop important leadership and life skills, such as improving communication skills, strengthening empathy and emotional intelligence, connecting with others, reducing anxiety, dealing with uncertainty, and making new strong choices to grow and improve. Mary has inspired leaders and teams all over the world to improve -- entrepreneurs, business and nonprofit leaders, small startups, Fortune 500 companies and top universities, including Lyft, TED, the University of Michigan, Fordham University, KPMG, Square, Patreon, TechStars, CBSi, R/GA, Silicon Valley Bank, 500 Startups, among others.
Mary is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has studied improv comedy at The Second City and The Annoyance in Chicago, Upright Citizen’s Brigade in NYC, The Groundlings, among other improv theatres. She is the creator and host of Startup Late Night, a late night comedy show featuring business leader guests, and has performed improv and comedy all over the country, including at Gilda Radner’s Laughfest, The Punch Line in San Francisco, and the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival.