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Q&A with Entrepreneur in Residence Nancy Kirby

slide of EIR Nancy Kirby and quote from accompanying story

Q&A with Entrepreneur in Residence Nancy Kirby

Entrepreneurs in Residence at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works offer guidance and mentorship to member companies and share their expertise in a wide range of industries. One of our newest EIRs at Rev is Nancy Kirby, an experienced Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer.  

Kirby has led IncubatorWorks for over nine years and has served as the CFO, COO, and most recently Executive Director. Under Kirby’s leadership, IncubatorWorks has helped support local NY businesses, specifically in obtaining the NY Minority and Woman-Owned Business Certifications.  

In addition to her work at IncubatorWorks, Kirby has been the CFO at the Campagna Center, Action for a Better Community, and ReNew Rare Earth, Inc. She was also the Vice Chair at CSS Workforce New York. With Kirby’s experience in Finance and the Southern Tier, her guidance will be invaluable to Rev Member Companies. We sat down with Kirby to learn more about her work and what she is looking forward to in her role as an EIR.  

Why does Upstate NY attract entrepreneurs?   

I was born in Upstate, grew up here, and came back –because of the beauty of the area and the connected community. Living here allows me to live a country lifestyle with my horses while being part of an extensive network of resources supporting startups. That network includes incubators, universities, industry, and investors, who can respond quickly to entrepreneurs who are looking for a dynamic location to launch their startups.  

What is the best piece of advice you would give an up-and-coming entrepreneur  

Whatever else you do, be sure that Customer Discovery is a continual process as you develop your startup. You may think it’s a great idea, but until you validate it with potential customers and find out if they are really willing to pay for your solution, your startup will not succeed.  

How has your experience shaped how you view entrepreneurship and the startup world?   

I’ve worked with entrepreneurs from my twenties as their Contract CFO, and in my experience, the difference between those who make it, and those who don’t, is their willingness to build a strong team for the startup—and also be willing to be coached and take action on the advice of that team.  

How can the entrepreneurship community support a diverse and underrepresented small business community?  

As Executive Director at IncubatorWorks, I led the effort to provide entrepreneurial support to diverse and underrepresented entrepreneurs, with a targeted effort during my last 3 years there. During that time, of the 100+ entrepreneurs we supported with our accelerator program and our direct mentoring, over 25% were members of the BIPOC community and more than half were women. The LGBTQ+ community was also very involved. Now as an EiR, I get to apply the lessons learned in connecting to diverse entrepreneurs. It all begins with meeting them in their community—connecting to events and places that are already familiar to diverse groups–then opening the doors to connect these entrepreneurs to all the resources and support available in our startup ecosystem. Accessibility is key–and it goes both ways—in creating an inclusive startup community.