Angie’s List Co-Founder Talks Diversity and Building Tech Ecosystems

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women in similar fields so they can bolster one another.

“Twenty years ago, there was no conference like Midwest Women in Tech,” she says. “I firmly believe the most important thing is to build up your support system, because being a female tech entrepreneur is a lonely endeavor. Opportunities like [the conference] spread that support.”

Her go-to advice for startup founders, both male and female, is to make sure they’re surrounded by good people. “Make sure you’re being picky with your first hires, because a key part of making or breaking a company is its culture. And be honest about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and what you’re good or bad at. I think great people with mediocre ideas beat out mediocre people with great ideas, so find your team and be picky.”

Hicks is optimistic about the future of Angie’s List and its position as a market leader despite being in a crowded industry. She acknowledges that home services is a “huge” market, but says in many ways, word of mouth remains the company’s biggest competition.

“There are still new companies coming into the space offering other ways to find a great plumber—even Google and Amazon are playing in the space,” she says. “But what differentiates Angie’s List is quality. We’re not just matching consumers with plumbers, but seeing it through to a job well done.”

Hicks is also feeling bullish about Indiana’s status as an up-and-coming tech hub. She loves the friendly, non-cutthroat business culture and supportive environment that she feels encourages people to take risks.

“I’m really excited about where we are on our entrepreneurial trajectory,” she adds. “Any place has to go through a growth process where a few companies act as anchors, like Angie’s List or ExactTarget, and then they’re on the radar because VCs come back to the people and places they know. There’s a really neat environment around startups these days, and I’m anxious to see how the next generation of companies start to define Indianapolis, in particular.”

When she thinks about her own entrepreneurial journey, she points to the importance of staying flexible—when your neighborhood newsletter that lists service providers grows into a trailblazing website, for instance—and keeping one’s eyes peeled for the next opportunity.

“Always be learning,” she advises. “Never become lulled by the status quo.”

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Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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