The Woman Behind the World's Leading Tech Accelerators

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Angelia Müller, the Chinese-Japanese-German New Yorker who has developed tech accelerators and investment vehicles from New York to San Francisco, is an absolute force to be reckoned with. She shaped New York City's first retail focused design accelerator for Parsons, XRC Labs, and has been a key driving force behind the wildly successful IoT accelerator at Techstars, arguably the world's leader in tech ecosystems. Angie has a knack for sourcing startups on the rise and if a founder is in her elite mix of chosen ones, Angie then helps to guarantee their success by aligning the brightest people with the most meaningful resources and mentors. Below, Angie talks about the evolution of IoT (internet of things), wearing multiple hats successfully and choosing to join an accelerator.  

It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing the corporate hat, the founder hat, the NGO hat, the family woman hat- your identification is not static.

Your career has spanned from big data to the startup hustle to running accelerators. Can you tell us about your path?

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family where my mother is the mastermind and CEO of a bootstrapped successful business. Having grown up to see her go from 0 to 1 taught me that the journey is long and as long as one works hard and creates sustainable value, everyone wins. That’s my attitude towards career paths. It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing the corporate hat, the founder hat, the NGO hat, the family woman hat- your identification is not static. You are always learning valuable skill sets and gaining experience about the world. So I jumped from big corporate to consulting to accelerator builder and investor- which all bring different vantage points and understandings to “how the world works”.

In a few sentences, can you tell us about the evolution of thinking around IoT ? 

IoT is the internet of things and it signifies the growing network of “things” that enable the exchange of information, data, and learning that make our world more efficient. The evolution of thinking has shifted from consumer to B2B plays. IoT was very much focused around the home and consumer electronics in the 2010s because the famous use cases like Nest seemed like an indication that IoT was becoming mainstream. But then investors realized the opportunity was much bigger in industrial use cases (think drones that collected information on crops that take out the manual labor) and now the focus is much more around the industrial use cases.

What is the difference between various accelerators? Why should companies join any one?

We should all be reminded that organizations are the sum of the people that make it. That is the same case with accelerators- without the people at the helm, the program is nothing but just “empty infrastructure”. Accelerators are a people business, and the thing they sell is network. Always do your homework on what network you’d be able to tap into by joining a program. Even within Techstars there are multiple programs, and each program reflects the network of the managing director. Make sure the alignment between your needs and what the network offers is there.

Where do you get the motivation to do what you do every single day?

I love what I do! I derive a lot of satisfaction in life from deep, meaningful relationships. In my role I am privileged to meet so many amazing people who are lazer focused on improving themselves, their causes and the world- and to be able to help them allows me to feel like I’m working on something bigger than myself.  

Is there a moment in your career that you look back to for inspiration?

If you are fearful towards an idea, you must run towards it.

Yes. When I made the jump from corporate to accelerator life where nothing is certain or structured, I was definitely testing my risk tolerance. But I totally believe in the saying that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. Obviously don’t do something stupidly rash and all risks should be calculated, but if you are fearful towards an idea, you must run towards it.

Can you share one of your favorite success tip(s)?

“Not all that shines is gold.” Don’t go after the shiny stuff. Winners are always those that create sustainable, long term value- and a lot of that is unsexy and unglamorous. 

What is your platform of preference?

[I use] Twitter for news with added commentary from people whom I respect, Facebook to source the community for any business needs (a lot of my friends are in tech), and Instagram for my personal expressions. [I like] Medium for business.

We have heard you define this before with the Fashion is Your business Podcast: what is FashionTech?

Fashion tech is technology that empowers people in the industry to leverage and maximize their creative energy. Backend technologies make our IT/legacy systems less terrible, and front end and consumer technologies are new ways to engage with consumers and add value. 

Do you have advice for FemmBosses on the rise about getting involved in the startup world or fashion tech?

Just decide you are going to get into it and stay committed. That’s a huge step. Then, know yourself. What do you need in order for you to make the next informed step? Are you a social person and therefore need to meet friends who are in the space who can inform you? Are you an analytical person who needs to read a lot about emerging trends? Think about what’s worked for you in the past when you’re in exploration, and take steps that propel you forward. Take baby steps. You will get there.

Can you give us some behind the scenes of what it’s like to be in tech in 2017 while trying to raise VC funding?

Shit is hard. Especially since VCs are now writing bigger checks for later rounds. You need to first have the contextual awareness to know that what you’re building is really necessary. Then, connect people with your vision. If you can’t get random people to be excited about your product, the investors likely won’t care either. Lastly, find people and resources in your city who can help introduce you to the right people- and then- build relationships with these people. Think of people as people, not walking cheques or some VC overlord.

What’s next for you?

I’m looking to build the next ecosystem for value driven leaders. I want to bet on people, not their businesses, and there are some new models of investment vehicles to explore. Lots ahead of me, but let me execute first and then I’ll explain.

What does FemmBoss mean to you?

A FemmBoss is someone who makes the world better because they’re in it, and executes with kindness and compassion. A lot of people think that a “boss” is authoritative and therefore likely to be inconsiderate of others views. I think we are entering a new era of leadership where the goal of the leader is to figure out a way that ensures that everybody wins- and no longer ascribe to the concept of the zero sum game.