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You Will Not Believe What J Kelly Hoey Is Up To Now


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Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw once said that in New York, you’re always looking for a job, a boyfriend or an apartment, which are your basic ABCs (Apartment, Boyfriend, Career). For the record, it’s never a good idea to take on all three at once. Well, that was pretty much Kelly Hoey’s life last year.

She changed apartments (from the east to the west side of Manhattan); she changed her marital status (it happens); she changed careers (from Managing Director of Women Innovate Mobile to CMO at Cuurio and Lead Mentor at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator).

And if you’re wondering what the J in J. Kelly stand for, well, getting the story does help to explain her predilection for changing things up from time to time. It’s actually the story of her life.

“Julia,” she says, but oh, if it were only that simple.

Born Catharine Jane in Victoria, British Columbia, and named for a cousin who had died, at age three, Hoey was renamed Julia Kelly after a relative who was getting on in years.

Look, it’s Canada. We can’t explain it, either.

She changed countries, moving to the US not long after graduating from law school, then changed careers to enter the wonderful world of startups, eventually joining forces with Deborah Jackson and Veronika Sonsev to co-found Women Innovate Mobile, the first startup accelerator to focus its investment strategy on mobile-first, female-led startup ventures – and built an influential global community of founders, investors and women in tech in the process.

Which brings us to Cuurio, an index of startups and an ideation platform that connects brands and agencies with emerging technology to create breakthrough partnerships. Lexie Kier, who left Gary Vaynerchuk’s Vaynermedia last year with an investment from Vaynerchuk to build the platform, founded Cuurio and invited Hoey to come on as CMO after what was supposed to have been a 30-minute meeting between the two turned into a three-hour discussion on how they needed to conquer the world together. “Kelly brings a fresh perspective on how brands can partner with startups, a wealth of knowledge, and a great network,” said Kier.

“Now I have to put all the stuff I’ve been telling startups, to work,” said Hoey.

That’s a lot of pressure.  Which is, again, nothing new to Hoey.

“My jump into the unknown of entrepreneurship was in 2009, when the economy was pulling a Titanic.” As a bankruptcy lawyer, the downturn didn’t surprise her, but it did surprise some of her fellow attorneys that she chose that moment to jump ship to become president of the newly-launched 85Broads.

“Not all entrepreneurs are males in their early 20s,” Hoey said dryly. “It hits people at different times in their lives. Entrepreneurship isn’t a phase – it’s something that you are or you’re not. Some people, like me, awaken to it at a different point in life. My father was an entrepreneur. He was a veterinarian who had three or four clinics and a share in a medical hospital in Victoria.”

Despite all of her years as a citizen of New York City, she still pronounces ‘about,’ ‘aboat.’ Which is a good thing, considering that the Canadian consulate recently sent her back to British Columbia “to kick some startup butt in Vancouver.” She was excited to see her beloved Pacific Ocean once again, from the Canadian side. (“No offence to the East Coast, but nothing beats Pacific Ocean sushi”).

And despite all of the upheaval in her life as of late, some things are not changing. She’ll still be mentoring at StraightShot, Nebraska’s premier accelerator.  She’ll now be a lead mentor at ER Accelerator in New York (where Yours Truly is also a mentor). And she’ll continue to curate the Meet the Innovators series for Apple in New York, London, Chicago and starting in May, San Francisco.

“Oh, I’m not changing cities,” the hard-core neo New Yorker insisted.

She has been and still is an investor: in WIM startups Appguppy (acquired by Flow Corporation), SQL Vision and Loudly: Philantech (through Pipeline Fellowship), as well as Levo League, Hullabalu and Glimpse (stock options granted and exercised as their independent board member). She also sits on the boards of Rchery and BFF (Best Fashion Friend).

Which may well be one of the few times that she actually does sit. A compulsive tea drinker who rarely stops for lunch, it seems she’s always in motion, sprinting around town or the globe in her Jimmy Choos. Oh, she also does still have a shoe fetish and is a shoe tester for startup Ja-vie. So all things considered and despite all the changes, some things never change and Hoey still follows the first tenet of entrepreneurship:

Always stick with what you know.

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About the author: Bonnie Halper

Bonnie Halper is Editor-in-Chief of AlleyWatch and also writes and curates the StartupOneStop.com newsletter, which focuses on startups and entrepreneurs, and is currently being read in 50+ countries around the world.

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