started first company at 14
Improviser & Writer
roll with the punches
Food & Fitness Geek
power cleans & clean eats
up for new challenges & experiences
along this journey called life
A Brief Overview
I am the founder of Improve, a company that improves lives, teams, companies, and impact, in ways that work and just so happen to be fun and engaging. I am a keynote speaker, conference session facilitator, longtime entrepreneur, writer/author, improv comedian, and recovering venture capitalist and startup unicorn director. I gave the TED Talk “How improv can improve your leadership and life” and have spoken at TED Women, the Social Innovation Summit, TechCon, The Positive Business Conference, multiple years at the Agile Alliance conference, among speaking and leading interactive and empowering sessions for hundreds of companies.
A Continued Not-So-Brief Overview
I am the creator of Improve, which improves leadership, teams, and impact using improv inspired techniques supported by research. Improve helps some of the largest and fastest-growing companies and their leaders innovate, manage change and uncertainty, 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. It's like giving people M&Ms that are packed with vitamins! They taste good AND they are good for you! Improve also has a product focused on improving wellbeing. Anyone can join to improve joy, connection, creativity, and reduce anxiety and fear, both at work and in life. In my TED talk “How improv can improve your leadership and life” I share the fundamental principles that underlie this work.
Throughout my career so far, I have worked with tens of thousands of leaders and thousands of companies as an operator, investor, and advisor. I 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. I worked with R/GA Ventures to find, invest in, and support connected commerce companies. Previously, I was a Director at SoFi, a multibillion dollar online lender, where I led a marketing team, built out the business development team, and ran SoFi’s entrepreneur program and investments in startups. I also worked at an early stage venture capital firm, concentrating on investments in online marketplaces, e-commerce, and automotive IT. I was instrumental in creating and building an innovative philanthropic fund that helps entrepreneurs make contributions to good causes they care about.
While running my first business, Iorio Gelato, which I started as a teenager, and investing in startup companies, I started doing improv comedy to help me as an entrepreneurial leader and human experiencing loads of anxiety from all the inevitable change and uncertainty that came with running a business. When I realized the positive impact improv comedy made in my work and personal life I 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. I created Improve combining improv comedy techniques, business and leadership frameworks, behavioral science, neuroscience, 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, handling stress and anxiety, dealing with uncertainty, and making new strong choices to grow and improve. My work has empowered leaders and teams all over the world to improve -- entrepreneurs, business and nonprofit leaders, small startups, Fortune 500 companies and top universities, including Google, Lyft, Pfizer, TED, the University of Michigan, Fordham University, KPMG, Square, Patreon, TechStars, CBSi, R/GA, 500 Startups, among others.
I am a graduate of the University of Michigan and have studied improv comedy at The Second City and The Annoyance in Chicago, Upright Citizen’s Brigade in NYC, The Groundlings, among other improv theatres. I released my debut comedy special Living With My Parents in January 2022. I created and hosted Startup Late Night, a late night comedy show featuring business leader guests, and have 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.
Uniquely customized to your company or event, I deliver an engaging, energizing keynote, empowering imagination, impact, all while laughing and having fun! Invite me to captivate your audience with my ability to speak on a range of topics including managing change and uncertainty, entrepreneurship, improvisational leadership, improving team collaboration and belonging, employee wellbeing, and overcoming difficult challenges. I inspire audiences with my storytelling, humor, and engaging presentation style. I have spoken on global stages from major conferences to corporate events at Fortune 100 companies, at startup accelerators, top universities, fast growing startups, and on the same stages as comedy legends.
Take a peek below to see some speaking highlights...
International Leadership Association 2020 Conference (Virtual)
TED Women 2020 (Virtual)
TechCon 2020 (Virtual)
TED Women 2019
The University of Michigan Positive Business Conference 2019
Agile 2018, 2019
The University of Michigan Entrepalooza 2015
The University of Michigan Guest Lecture "The Art of Leading"
* Entre-SLAM *
For longer versions (30 minutes+) please email me
What people are saying
Here's what people are saying about me...
New York Times
“If every time I go for a run I stub my toe or twist my ankle, I’m probably not going to be excited to go for a run again,” Ms. Lemmer said. “To have those conversations go so poorly — that really created a fear.”
Prioritize your health, always. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing we need. As a part of our series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Lemmer. Mary brings the worlds of wellness and humor together, to empower individuals and teams to improve their lives...
Late night comedy show Startup Late Night was created to bring the world of technology to the late night comedy scene. Up until the pandemic, the group held live shows in New York City. Now, all of the group’s content is produced and shared online.
If you want to read more, just "Google" me :)
Interested in collaborating?
People usually reach out to me when they want to grow their business, improve their teams, improve their lives, entertain a corporate crowd, entertain a non-corporate crowd, commission an illustration or writing, have some other creative idea or business they want to bring into the world,
or otherwise want to say "hi"
Please send me a message!