Feature - Meet the Staff: Jean Kase

Name: Jean Kase

Company Role: Executive Director, The Entrepreneurs Network

TEN is an economic development program powered by COMIDA for tech startups and high-growth small businesses.

Favorite quote: “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” Master Yoda

Your top 3 favorite Podcasts/Books? 

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers, Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur

A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine, MD

The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company, Steven Blank and Bob Dorf

I love TED Talks and I love Storycorps.org/

What is something that the people you work with must deal with that you want to fix? 

Many entrepreneurs struggle with integrating sales, marketing, finance and operations into a cohesive strategy for growth.  TEN helps them learn a process for making decisions by experimenting, gathering data and gaining impartial, expert feedback so they can focus on building a company that is profitable, scalable and sustainable.

What do you do at TEN? 

I scout for entrepreneurs that have great potential and are coachable.  TEN only accepts 10-12 for our program series. A major differentiator of TEN is that our instructors and coaches are business owners and investors.  All of us are curious and share the desire to learn from each other. My role is connecting entrepreneurs with the people, training, best practices and resources that they need to execute their business plan.

What are your credentials/past experience, for working in your position? 

I worked with many business leaders when I was a Vice President at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.  I led The Chamber’s lobbying efforts and directly involved business owners so elected officials would understand how laws and regulations impacted their ability to keep and grow jobs in New York State.  I also created and managed the CEO Roundtable and Startup Resource Program. I serve on a company board and have previously served on several not-for-profit boards. I’m “book smart,” having earned my MBA at RIT and learn by doing, so I’m active as an angel investor with several startups and early-stage funds.

What do you like about working at TEN? 

I love working with entrepreneurs who are making the world a better through innovation.  Lean startup methodology can be applied to tech startups and established businesses looking to introduce new products and services or tap into new markets for growth.  Each TEN program also involves some customization based on the mix of companies so that the content and people best serve the entrepreneurs selected to participate.  

What’s your background? 

My most significant personal achievement is being an investor in start-up companies. I have done this as one of the few women investors in the Rochester Angels Network. I also helped Chloe Capital, a seed-stage venture capital firm, raise its venture fund so we could increase investments in women-led innovation companies. Women are underrepresented as angel investors and venture capitalists (20% and 7% respectively) which is highly correlated to women-led tech ventures only receiving 5% of investment dollars in a given year, and women of color only receive .2%. This is a passion of mine that is very personal. I want women to succeed because I know how hard it is. I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family. I put myself through college and was the first person in my family to earn a graduate degree, while a single mother and working a very demanding full-time job.  Investing in startups, particularly helping secure funding for women, is a tangible way to improve economic opportunity and create jobs in our community.

What are the values that drive you? 

I learned by example from my parents and the Sisters of Saint Joseph that serving others is how we serve God.  I’m the mother of an Eagle Scout and I embrace the value of service embodied in the Scout Oath.

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. 

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? 

I enjoy hiking, live performances (music, dance, theatre,) learning, traveling and spending time with family and friends (people and animals.)