GTPulse: New Executive Director Takes the Lead at 20Fathoms

Lauren Bigelow isn’t waking up at 5 a.m. or taking cold showers to start her day. The new executive director at 20Fathoms, a tech and startup incubator located in downtown Traverse City considers herself a night owl.

“I am not a morning person, I’m a total night owl. If I’m up at five in the morning it’s because I haven’t gone to bed yet. I honestly have pulled more all-nighters as an adult in the consulting world than I ever did in school,” she said.

Lauren comes to 20Fathoms with impressive work and academic background that includes a Ph.D. in anthropology and a wealth of work experience in the tech and nonprofit worlds but before building her career as a tech star, she was an archaeologist.

“I am a prehistoric archaeologist. It’s a subfield of anthropology and I love data, dirt, travel, academia, and I had all of it. Excavations were like adult summer camp.”

The thrill of working in an interesting, fast-paced, hands-on environment translated to working in tech. Lauren’s first tech job was at an incubator with a similar concept to 20Fathoms. She started in 2004 with a company called Clean Tech Venture Network, a startup that focused on finding investment resources for investing in clean energy and technology. 

“So that was my first startup. That was 100 hour weeks. I mean, just crazy. My boss and I had some investors in Europe but mostly people on the west coast. We would do conference calls at 11 p.m. or midnight, just because finally our investors in California would go home 11:30 our time. We grew that ecosystem from people thinking we were selling janitorial supplies to three years later, having it as an actual investment category at Price Waterhouse Cooper money tree.”

With Lauren’s help, Clean Tech eventually got over a billion dollars of funding for the clean energy startups they were working with.

“I think it was like 1.4 billion for the startups that we were working with. So they would come to our conferences, meet investors, we would have five or 600 investors and 20 companies, so it was a really great ratio. A lot of student interns that showed up there, got jobs and venture funds. So it was really difficult, but it was a lot of fun.”

She also helped put on a tech competition in Michigan called the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

“It was globally the first million-dollar business competition. We gave a half-million-dollar check out and my lesson learned from that is it is really darn fun to give out a million bucks. You leave the auditorium and even if you haven’t had more than two hours of sleep a night from the prior week, it’s just euphoric.”

She’s continued her career predominantly in tech and nonprofit and is excited to bring further success to 20Fathoms in her new role. A lot has changed in the years from her first tech incubator job to being at 20Fathoms, she’s come full circle and she’s hit the ground running.

“Now I have all my lessons learned and my best practices that I can do. But it’s a very different world now. Andy [Cole] got it up and running, put a lot of structure into it and had some great success. He handed me his baby to take to the next level of development. Right now it’s about meeting our members, our sponsors, trying to look for resources and different sources of capital and programs we can bring here. People we can bring here whether it’s the chief information officer of a major coastal software company, people who can mentor our companies, people who can talk about Traverse City in a positive way and help make people want to come back.”

Lauren has big plans to move 20Fathoms forward and she’s happy to be in Traverse City to do it. She looks forward to hiking, kayaking and sailing when she’s not working.

Categories: GTPulse