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Office Hours: I’m a Senior Reporter at TechCrunch with 20+ years as a journalist. I’ve worked for Crunchbase News, Silicon Valley Business Journal and Forbes. I’m Mary Ann Azevedo. AMA!Featured

Hello Elphas!

I’m Mary Ann Azevedo. I’m currently a Senior Reporter at TechCrunch where I write about startups and venture, with an emphasis on fintech coverage. I have over 20 years of experience as a journalist reporting on a broad range of topics such as real estate, tech, venture capital, and healthcare.

I started my career writing for a small newspaper in North Carolina that was owned by The New York Times. I got into online journalism when online journalism was just starting to become a thing – in 1997. My first exposure to covering startups was in 1999 when I began reporting on the dot.com boom - and subsequent bust. I love covering startups because to me, they represent hope. While certainly not all of them succeed, there are many who have gone on to change the world and it’s exciting to write about them in their early days and watch them grow.

I started writing for TechCrunch in February of 2021. I immediately felt at home. The other reporters and editors are all so smart and passionate about what they do, and it’s inspiring. I respected the publication before, but even more so now. We all care about quality journalism and I love that I am afforded the freedom to explore topics that interest me, such as looking at Latin America’s growing startup ecosystem. I live in Austin, which is growing quite a bit. I moved here from the Bay Area, where I really enjoyed living. There are many similarities between the two locales – culturally and physically.

On a weekly basis, I co-host TechCrunch’s Equity Podcast where we talk about the business of startups. It’s a good opportunity for me to get out of my fintech bubble and talk about other subjects with my fabulous co-hosts and friends, Alex Wilhelm and Natasha Mascarenhas. I never thought I’d enjoy being on a podcast but it really is like having a conversation with my friends about startups and tech, where we get to be a bit more opinionated and analytical.

But first and foremost, I am a mom of two. My son is almost 15, and my daughter is 9. It’s not always easy juggling a full-time job and being a mother but I do feel like I’m setting a good example for them when it comes to hard work and responsibility. Sadly (or not), it appears that neither of my children want to follow in my footsteps to become a writer. But of course, I will support their choices. My son is passionate about coding and is self-taught. My daughter is more of a creative. I love them to pieces and actually learn more from them every day than I ever expected.

Ask me anything about online journalism, venture capital, fintech, being a working mom, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @maryannazevedo!Elphas – please ask @maryannazevedo your questions before Friday, March 4th. @maryannazevedo may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi @maryannazevedo nice to meet you!I just had my first baby in December and have returned (earlier than I'd like) from maternity leave to raise our seed round (I'm the founder of Panion a community building platform focused on helping people create more inclusive, safe spaces online). I want to be up front about being a new mom, especially since I might have the occasional urgent situation during a Zoom call, but I'm worried investors will somehow find too much risk in a female founder who is now a new mom despite how much I've achieved up until this point. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and any strategies you've heard from other founders on tackling motherhood and raising capital. Thanks! 😊
Nice to meet you too, @mellie! and congratulations! I think if an investor gets upset that you're a new mom, you don't want their money anyway (easy for me to say)! one thing the pandemic has done has normalized that people -- all people -- have families and lives outside of work. just be graceful and unapologetic if an urgent situation comes up, your poise will speak for itself!!
Thanks so much for your time and support @maryannazevedo. I am a native North Carolinian so neat to hear about your first job. I am also the founder/CEO of a company that has been around for about 1.5 years and just finished our initial fundraising. We have not done any PR or media, and I am curious what you would recommend for early stage folks like me/us to get our name out there and build meaningful relationships with reporters. Thanks in advance!
As a former tech/biz journalist, I can tell you it's good to start following the most relevant ones in your space *now* and to start liking/commenting on their work. That way they'll pay more attention to you when you have something to pitch :)
good advice!
Hello! You can certainly try to pitch a story on your raise but be sure to include what makes your startup unique and different from others in the space. origin stories always of interest. don't feel like you have to have a PR firm at such an early-stage. I actually appreciate it when founders reach out directly!
Thats great to hear. Thank you very much!
Hi! I'm so inspired by your story as writing about tech and startups is something I really want to get into. I'm looking to transition from a f/t marketing role at a start-up (5+ yrs working in marketing) into freelancing and I want to pursue more writing on the site. Do you have any advice for someone making a marketing to journalism transition?
Hi @georgette! The fact that you're at a startup is good because you obviously have experience in the space. maybe you can start by blogging on topics you'd like to cover as a journalist and start pitching yourself to editors at publications you'd be interested in writing for.
As someone who has been reporting on startups for so long, do you have any hope for women or non-white people breaking through the funding barrier and creating real wealth? Money is still not flowing. If many successful women owned businesses are now getting acquired by PE funds--ie Sunshine, Spanx, Bumble, how will that impact future funding ??
Hi Amy! Good question...as a woman and a person of color, I would like nothing more than to see more women and underrepresented people in general. I think successful exits like the ones you described above can't hurt but it goes beyond that. I think it is going to require a sincere, concerted effort on the part of investors and LPs to actively invest in a more diverse founder base.
Hi Mary, I love reading your intro. It's awesome that you're doing what you love!My question is around building human-centric company culture in the tech startups. From your experience journaling about these companies. What do you think is the challenges for tech startups to be more human-centric, especially as the companies grow?I experienced many layoffs at tech startups and was on the chopping board in the last round. As I transitioned into coaching full-time, I want to influence organization culture at large but can't pinpoint what's truly needed yet. I'll be stoked to hear your perspective. Thanks!!
Thanks very much @wenhsu I would probably be speaking more from an employee perspective here. I have worked remotely for several years now, and I think most employees just want to feel respected and that their needs are being heard and considered. Flexibility is super important to many people these days so helping people feel like they can do what they need to do for their lives and their family as long as they get their jobs done and done well is also a big plus (this might really applies to roles that don't have pressing deadlines on a daily basis). Also, if your organization is in fact remote, it can be a challenge to break down silos. But an effort to bring people together online even as much as possible to get to know each other beyond work meetings would go a long way IMHO.
Thanks for your insight Mary!
@wenhsu - could not agree more that CULTURE matters at every organization, especially startups. Since you are looking to learn more about influencing organizational culture, I recommend following the work of Therese Gedda, who helps founders DESIGN the culture they want, and Karen Jaw-Madson, who addresses organizational challenges that affect business performance. https://www.linkedin.com/in/karenjawmadson/https://www.linkedin.com/in/theresegedda/
Thanks Kirin for the examples of two women built culture for a living. This is awesome! I've started following them and read some of their work. Cheers!
Hi, Mary Ann! Thank you for sharing your story and doing this AMA. I'm a freelance journalist and currently work as a copywriter for a tech company. I have two questions! First, do you see any untapped potential or an increased need for writers in tech in the future? Second, as a journalist, I aspire to write for publications like Forbes. How can I make that leap? I currently write a column (topic is careers) for a national publication in Canada, but have had a hard time even finding the right people to contact at higher-level pubs. -Deja
Hi deja - having trouble tagging you so will just go ahead and reply! I think tech journalism is an area where there will always be a need for talented writers. I suggest finding a niche or topics you're really interested in/knowledgable about and try to hone your skills there. It's great that you are writing a column. There are a ton of career-related angles in tech even, such as how companies are fighting to retain and attract talent, for example. I think also just keep in mind you have to start somewhere..it took me nearly 20 years into my career to start writing for Forbes :) So just be prepared to get clips in reputable publications where you can to have samples of your work out there, and make contacts. Think of interesting topics and don't be afraid to pitch them to a targeted publication. A good editor will appreciate your initiative!
Thanks so much for the insightful reply, @maryannazevedo!
To piggyback on @amycross post: What responsibility do you think tech Journalism has in diversifying the narrative to include more stories on women and non-white people? Should we create and stay in spaces like elpha or should we ask institutions like Techcrunch to do more? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks.
I think putting yourself out there in front of journalists is important! i can tell you that at TC we strongly value diversity in our interview subjects, on our team and in our audience. it's hugely important to us and we pay attention to things like how many women are on a given company's board or if an executive team is all white males.
Hi Mary Ann, thanks for sharing your story that’s amazing! I was wondering in terms of a technical writer role, how much of the technology did you have to learn and how did you go about that? Did you try to train in your own time for technical aspects? Thank you!
I would not describe myself a technical writer, although I do cover technology! Most of the time it is the business of technology but with that comes a lot of technical information, yes. I did have to learn and most of that came from asking a lot of questions of the people I interviewed (there are no dumb questions!) and just simply reading as much as I can on a given technology or topic.
Can you share some tips/advice on storytelling (e.g. making audience engaged, etc)?
I think it depends on the audience-what their interests are and why they are listening to your story to begin with. Authenticity is always appreciated I think!
Thank you for sharing your story! I just followed your podcast. I am it the very early stages of my startup. Can you share any advice for founders on getting press and publicity?
Hi @KatieJohnson! I think it's best to take a very measured approach to seeking press and publicity. Startup journalists are being inundated these days with pitches..we truly can't keep up! Research journalists who cover your space and when you have news that might be of interest, feel free to email them directly. I don't recommend asking to talk to one just to tell them about your company. I mean this in the kindest possible way, we simply don't have time for that. Make sure your subject line is enticing and get to the point in your email as to what the news is, why it would be of interest to their readers and what makes what you do unique! Best of luck.
Thanks!
Thank you for the opporunity @maryannazevedo. I appreciate your candor around how hard it can be to juggle all the things we want to do and get out of life. Curious what you believe entrepreneurial organizations (ie: small venture funds, accelerators, university departments, etc... - usually aimed at early stage founders) can do to support their own brands and receive press attention?
I think the key is researching and targeting the right journalists. with accelerators, small venture funds and university departments in particular those might be local publications for starters. you can then try pitching larger publications but definitely need a national angle/tie...
Love that you're sharing with and giving to this community, @maryannazevedo! I watched your byline move from Crunchbase to Techcrunch and celebrate all your success! As a former journalist (covered the dot-com boom in NYC and scaling of social/web 2.0 from LA), I'd love to know what is the ONE thing you always look for in a story, no matter the topic? And what stories are you most proud of and why? Thank you!
Thank you! I really look for passion in a founder in terms of why they started the company and what their goal is. Also just uniqueness - if something really stands out from the rest, that helps a lot. I'd need to think about the stories I'm most proud of -- there have been a few over the years!
Hi Mary! Thanks for the opportunity. I have a question about press. How can a software development agency go about generating press coverage? Is it always when something big happens or do sometimes companies reach out to publications and see about generating coverage?
Hi, you need to have news relevant to a particular publication. What is news to one might not be news to another :) I'd avoid reaching out over every little thing and save the contacts for truly important, impactful news. Do your research and make sure you're reaching out to the right pubs and journalists!
Hi @maryannazevedo, good to meet you here! Would love to get your perspective on the topic of diversity in startups in the USA. Also, will you be interested in doing a podcast together? I run Women who Build where I speak with relatable and inspiring women in startups to inspire action among young women who often do not take the first step towards starting up, which is the most difficult one. Let me know. :)
happy to be a guest @karon147! I think we are definitely seeing more diversity in the startup world today but there is still much work to be done. as a journalist, i do strive to cover as many founders from a variety of backgrounds as I can
I will DM you.
So wonderful to meet you Mary Ann and thank you for taking the time to be with us this week! I remember reading your coverage on Better.com and found all of it so well-written and quite thoughtful considering the impact on the employees (totally fangirling!) I am myself an early-stage investor at Moxxie Ventures while getting my MBA full time at Wharton. I have been in VC for over 6 years now. I worked at an accelerator before and your colleague Jordan Cook was our TechCrunch connect and reporter in residence as I liked to call her :) She gave our founders so many interested pointers on pitching to reporters. With that, I'd love to know 1) What are the best ways to pitch you stories? 2) I imagine you must be super swamped so where do you find the best stories and how do you even define a good story? 3) And given your interest in fintech, any trends you think will dominate the next 2-3 years? Also I can't wait to see more fintech in Africa coverage from you :-DFeel free to answer one or all of them! THANK YOU and would love to connect!
Hi @iynna! Thanks for your kind words. Great to hear you worked with Jordan before. She is awesome. With regards to pitching me stories, e-mail is the preferred method. The subject line is important so it's worth taking a little extra time to make sure it includes the most important, relevant information :) I AM honestly inundated with pitches. I don't have time to respond to them all and I can't even cover some deals that I find interesting due to lack of bandwidth. For a better chance at coverage, I know it sounds crazy but a few weeks' notice helps tremendously. I work weeks in advance on embargoed news. You don't have to have a press release ready to go but a paragraph just explaining what the news is, why it's important to our readers and what is unique about it helps. I'm drawn to technology that feels different from what else is out there as well as interesting origin stories. Fintech is going crazy and infrastructure and embedded fintech seems in particular to be quite hot. I don't typically cover the African region, although it is definitely one that is exploding. We have a couple of amazing reporters on the ground there, Tage and Annie!