Mentors for the 2019 Women Startup Challenge Solving Big Problems

NYC 2019  |  Finalists  |  Advisors  |  Judges  |  Mentors  |  Sponsors

Denali Tietjen

Early stage VC, General Catalyst + Rough Draft Ventures

Denali (named after the mountain, not the car), is a journalist-turned-venture-capitalist obsessed with the future of online and offline media.

On the investment side, she supports and manages a portfolio of 150+ seed-stage entrepreneurs through Rough Draft Ventures, General Catalyst’s university-focused program backing founders at the student level. Her primary portfolio includes Carbon, a stable coin for disintermediated cross-border payments, MarketSnacks, a new media brand for Wall Street news (acquired by Robinhood), and Nesterly, a platform for intergenerational home-sharing, to name a few.

Recognizing the directional impact investors can have on the industries in which they invest, improving diversity has been a driving principle in her work. Under her leadership, half of Rough Draft Ventures portfolio additions include at least one female founder.
Before working in investing, she was a reporter covering beats ranging from investing to healthcare at Forbes, at The Boston Globe, TechCrunch, The Christian Science Monitor, and WBUR.

She grew up in New Mexico and California and graduated from Tufts with a dual degree in Economics and Film & Media Studies, where her thesis “How Journalism Will Survive In An Era Of 140-Characters Or Less” earned highest honors.

She runs marathons, is addicted to podcasts, has a growing portfolio of rejected New Yorker Caption Contest captions, and thinks mayo is an under-appreciated condiment.

Maria Palma

Principal, RRE Ventures

Maria Palma is a Principal at RRE Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm based in NY. She spends most of her time thinking about the future of the fintech and consumer landscape. Prior to that, she ran platform for RRE, working with RREs active portfolio companies and corporate partners. Prior to RRE, Maria was Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Business Development for a NY-based ad tech company, Eyeview, as they scaled from 23 to over 100+.  Maria began her career at General Electric in Operations Management & Supply Chain. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Industrial Engineering from UW-Madison.

Maria is constantly drawn to helping entrepreneurs build their businesses.  Outside of work she is the board chair of a nonprofit in Africa, African Entrepreneur Collective, that works with entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Kenya across urban, refugee and rural environments to drive job growth.  She loves being involved in start-ups and enjoys the challenge of creating real value and changing industries that are broken. She finds it constantly inspiring, humbling and mostly, a ton of fun.

Marcia Mitchell

Chief of Staff, ff Venture Capital

Marcia is Chief of Staff at ff Venture Capital. In this role, she sits on both the operations and investment teams, managing deal flow, completing due diligence on potential investments and supporting portfolio companies. Prior to working in venture capital, Marcia spent several years working across diverse industries including investment banking, fashion, automotive marketing and tech consulting. Marcia holds a B.A. in Economics from Tufts University. While earning an M.Sc. in Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she founded the #WOCWorkshop series to address the needs of tech entrepreneurs; specifically women of color and diverse teams.

Diana Melencio

Investor, WISE Ventures

Diana Melencio is a venture investor for WISE Ventures, a New York based venture fund focused on early and growth stage technology companies across sports, media, entertainment, real estate, and adjacent industries. Prior to that, she co-founded two retail technology companies: securing funding and successfully leading major partnerships; most notably with the Hudson’s Bay Company, Neiman Marcus, MasterCard, and Hearst Media. She has lent her expertise as an advisor to several venture backed consumer brands and early stage start-ups. Prior to starting her companies, Diana spent close to a decade investing and consulting for reputable $12B+ funds in San Francisco and New York. During her time on Wall Street, she was a top ranking analyst in the Specialty Retail sector, as named by the Financial Times.

Diana has appeared on the Today Show, quoted in CNN, US News, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes,, Bustle, MarketWatch, and related to start-ups, fundraising, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Diana is a founding board member of the Ascend Educational Fund, a 501c3 focused on enabling and encouraging higher education and professional achievement for New York’s immigrant community.

Jenny Fielding

Managing Director, Techstars New York and CoFounder, The Fund

Jenny Fielding is the Managing Director of Techstars New York where she leads the program. She is also the founder and General Partner at The Fund, a first check fund investing exclusively in New York based companies. Her portfolio includes more than 100+ tech enabled companies. Previously, Jenny headed up Corporate Venture and Digital Innovation at BBC Worldwide where she made strategic investments and led business development deals. She has also started several tech companies, most notably Switch-Mobile, a mobile VoIP company that was acquired in 2009. Jenny began her career as a lawyer, spent time at JP Morgan and is a graduate of Columbia University where she is an Adjunct Professor.

Julie Zhang

Associate, betaworks

Julie works on investments & business operations at betaworks, which includes betaworks studio, the builder behind consumer favourites Giphy, Dots,, Betaworks Ventures, a thesis- driven early-stage venture fund, and Betaworks Camp, the thematic accelerator investing in frontier technology.

Having founded a couple of startups whilst studying at NYU, and working on the strategy teams for Sony Music, Mashable, Julie sought to learn how the big players made it. At Citigroup, she focused on exactly that, helping to productize working capital efficiency solutions for the Fortune 500. With newfound insights from both ends of the spectrum, Julie looks forward to adding value to inventive products and bold ideas.

When not focusing on startups, Julie enjoys attempting fitness obstacle challenges, sharpening technical understanding in design, and searching for the best sushi in town.

Claudia Reuter

Managing Director, STANLEY+Techstars Accelerator

Claudia Reuter is the Managing Director for the STANLEY+Techstars Accelerator which focuses on accelerating innovative companies in additive manufacturing and sustainable solutions. Recognized by the Boston Business Journal as a 2016 Women to Watch in Science and Technology, and as a Changemaker by HUBWeek, she is an experienced entrepreneur and executive. Prior to joining Techstars, she served as the SVP of Digital Services & Labs for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and was the co-founder and CEO of SchoolChapters, Inc. She currently serves on the Board of Directors at Lessonly, and as a member of the Advisory Board at Greenfig.  She is also the host and creator of the podcast, The 43 Percent.  You can follow her on twitter at @reuter_claudia