Editor’s note: New in KC is an ongoing profile series that highlights newly relocated members of the Kansas City startup community, their reasons for a change of scenery, and what they’ve found so far in KC. Click here to read more New in KC profiles.
Growing up in Nebraska, Nicole Beals felt like she needed to move to California or New York to successfully plug into the tech startup scene, she said. Today, Beals sees the Kansas City area in a new light.
“I ended up going back home to the Midwest to quarantine with my family,” said Beals, who moved in 2017 to New York City where she co-founded Techmate — an on-demand tech support business for remote and satellite workers that recently completed its pre-seed round, raising $1.4 million — largely through Midwest funds and investors.
“My family moved to Kansas City 10 years ago, so I’ve been back to visit several times,” Beals said, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic led her to a more indefinite stay. “Being back made me start to realize there was this whole other opportunity in the Midwest that I’d never seen before.”
Before her big move to the Big Apple, Beals started out in Omaha at a small advertising firm. Although the company had only six employees, Beals worked with such international brands as General Mills, American Red Cross and Colgate-Palmolive, she noted.
From that experience, Beals realized the corporate world was not for her; she had an entrepreneurial spirit, she said.
“I learned pretty early on that I’m not so much of a corporate girl,” Beals said. “I’m really passionate about building things from the ground up. So from there — I started my own marketing agency.”
One Story Media, the marketing firm that Beals founded and ran until 2013, was primarily focused on helping startups with customer acquisition and connection, she said.
Wanting to make the leap into the tech startup scene, Beals moved to New York where she met David Brock.
“David [Brock] has about 20 years of experience in IT and recruiting,” Beals explained. “He had been seeing this trend of companies that were no longer taking floors through building up, rather they were spreading out across the U.S, acquiring different locations, and employees were going remote.”
The two recognized a gap in solutions for companies needing tech support within their distributed workplaces. Brock also knew of talented technicians across the nation who were looking for more entrepreneurial opportunities.
“It was this a-ha moment of there’s this big need for technicians in more remote locations, and then there is a whole group of qualified people looking for these opportunities,” Beals said.
Materializing their revelations, Brock and Beals co-founded Techmate in November 2017. As they hit their three-year mark, Techmate has built a network of more than 7,000 technicians across the country, Beals said.
Click here to learn more about Techmate.
Techmate in the age of COVID
Although the pandemic has created obstacles, it has also demonstrated and validated Techmate’s business model, Beals said.
“Before COVID-19, it was about 50 percent of employees who were working remotely, and then obviously when COVID hit, that number grew exponentially,” Beals stated. “All of a sudden, people are remote everywhere, and the need for technicians is just that much more pronounced.”
That need has accelerated so quickly either because more of Techmate’s clients are furloughing their IT staff and need extra support, or because the businesses are more spread out than they have ever been and are unsure how to provide that tech support in new areas, she said.
COVID-related obstacles require a creative approach, Beals added.
“For instance, with work-from-home users, we’re doing drive-by tech support where the employee will leave their tech sanitized outside on their porch,” she explained, “and our technician will pick it up — sometimes fix it in the car or take it somewhere else — and then re-sanitize it and drop it back off on the porch.”
The Techmate staff itself is completely remote.
Beals moved to Kansas City; Brock stayed in New York; they have staff in Florida and are currently hiring in the Midwest, Beals said.
“So we’re practicing what we preach for sure,” she said with a smile. “Even though I’m in the tech industry, I am really feeling that I am more dependent than ever on technology. So I am understanding our customer’s perspective in needing to feel secure [in their tech.]
Catching a breath
Impressed by the resources and connections, Beals was happy to add Kansas City to Techmate’s list of office locations in New York and San Francisco, she said.
“We needed to have a presence in the Midwest,” Beals noted. “It makes it so much easier to support all of our clients who are going through that similar mass exodus from the cities.”
When she’s not working, Beals has been exploring Kansas City’s wide open spaces and enjoying the variety of food the city has to offer. In her big-foodie family, that means frequenting Minsky’s Pizza and a lot of barbecue, she shared.
Returning to the Midwest required a mental shift, Beals said, but she is embracing her new normal.
“I realized by being back in Kansas City, I could finally take this huge, deep breath,” Beals said. “It just felt like everything came down 10 notches, and I’m learning how to fully embrace that.”
Click here to connect with Nicole Beals on LinkedIn.