Q&A: Nicola Corzine

Nicola Corzine is the founding Executive Director of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, a non-profit that delivers world-class resources and mentoring to enable every entrepreneur across the globe to realize their maximum potential. Based in San Francisco, the Center— hosts events and classes, mentors entrepreneurs, delivers podcast content, and partners with colleges—has a core mission of helping entrepreneurs overcome business challenges, develop a network of influential peers and mentors, and build sustainable companies.

1790: Nasdaq has forged a partnership with Lehigh University: Why is working with colleges—and Lehigh, specifically—important to the entrepreneurship and innovation economy in the United States?

Nicola: Exposure to entrepreneurship is one of the most critical skills we can provide to students in the new economy. As more employers look to identify talent that can advance through business changes and innovation cues, more and more we are hearing them call out a need for finding great intrapreneurs to solve this need. Much of this development and understanding around the entrepreneurial mindset can and does happen in formative years. One of the most significant grounds of entrepreneurial exchanges can often be the university landscape, and as a result, the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center wanted to find opportunities to learn and grow with entrepreneurs in that environment.

Both Lehigh University and the University of Melbourne serve as two vital academic partners to the Center. Through them, our research on entrepreneurial models and impact are expanded, tested and validated in critical ways, and we can enrich their academic excellence and rigor with unique entrepreneurial classes and programs that augment the theoretical with practical advancement. In the last two years since working with university partners, the Center has seen and served amazing and diverse populations of student talent which has enriched its offerings for all entrepreneurs.

1790: In a recent Money Magazine article on career advice, you mentioned communication: Why is this skill valuable and essential for today’s Millennials?

Nicola: Communication is the gate to which all problem solving can begin. An idea left to oneself, can never address the pain points or inspire others when unshared. I think everyone accepts that at some level, but it is the movement of art and science when transformative innovation can and does occur. It doesn’t mean that everyone must be the quintessential motivational speaker that inspires thousands with their words, but it does mean that practice, intentionality, and dedication must be given to improving this outcome so that great ideation can be born. In the past, communication was a skill that was expected to be “hired” out from the founders and these days, the founders we all look up to make a significant effort to improve and enhance their communication for their business and personal goals. When we start looking at things through this lens, it becomes clear as to why effective communication is a must-have necessity for all.

1790: Who or what inspired you to work in the entrepreneurship arena?

Nicola: My father was an entrepreneur. He moved us out to the US when I was just a young girl and that exposure of realizing what was possible with an entrepreneurial view was core to my desire to see problems and potential solutions differently. Today I’m inspired by not just the great names of entrepreneurs we all know, but by all those entrepreneurs who have taken the risk and created an impact to improve our communities, make our lives more fun, and seek to change the world for the better. I may be a little overzealous in this area, but I think that entrepreneurship sometimes loses itself in the most well-intentioned ways, resulting in a smaller pool of future entrepreneurs. I believe the United States and the world are better off when everyone sees themselves as capable of entrepreneurial tendencies (whether they choose to act on them or not).

1790: Entrepreneurship and innovation occur throughout the United States: How do we ensure that ideas outside of the “known” hubs (Silicon Valley, Austin, Boston, Israel, China—for example) get an equal footing among funders, corporate partners, and mentors?

Nicola: Today, emerging markets of innovation struggle with access to resources including funding and mentors. While it can be exceedingly challenging to build a sustainable pathway for innovation, once the ingredients are in place resources can and should be expanding to new regions. With an economic lens at the forefront, we know that markets can and do shift in tides over time and therefore getting access to a more real-time system of understanding talent development as its occurring should help resolve some of this friction. Early identification of who is ideating and where innovation is happening is at the core of the Center’s mission. Once identified, the Center can throw its full support into those regions during their moments of development and need.

1790: With Elon Musk being the latest example of someone dealing with health issues, mental health is increasingly taking the forefront in entrepreneurship. While chaos and limited sleep are the companions of many professions, entrepreneurs seemingly thrive in this environment. The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center website stated that an entrepreneur is “[s]omeone who’s willing to sacrifice sleep, sanity, and savings to grow an idea—because that’s just how they’re wired.” How do we, as a community, address the real and perceived stereotypes that entrepreneurs often have to sacrifice their health to see their company succeed?

Nicola: Being an entrepreneur is the most isolating and challenging job of all. Ironically, the more successful one becomes, the lonelier it can become. There is little to no ability to turn off the stress, and the ever-present pressure of performance and that performance has an expectation and needs fuel. We always say that you never stop learning as an entrepreneur but similarly, you never stop feeling that pressure of growing the business and supporting the team that relies on you each day.

One way to release some of that weight is to make sure that support systems from other founders, mentors and ideally a business coach, can exist from the earliest of days. The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center has over 7,500 founders that are philosophically aligned and committed to supporting one another with more than 200 mentors and 300 teachers that surround their overall needs. Whether it’s with us or through another organization, make sure you have a support tribe in place to ease some of the ongoing worries and challenges that lie with being a fantastic entrepreneur.

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