Co-founder and CEO
Mariel is founder and CEO of CoProcure, a venture-backed startup on a mission to bring the ease and efficiency of the free market to public purchasing. Previously, Mariel served as a public servant with the San Francisco Mayor's Office, where she helped scale Startup in Residence to a national program connecting technology startups and dozens of local U.S. governments. She was an early employee at Coursera, a venture-backed education technology startup. She graduated top of her class from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
What is your professional background and how did you become involved in the world of commerce and contracting?
After four years in mainland China, I moved to the Bay Area to join a mission-driven tech startup. Moving back to the U.S. was a shock. The America I encountered every day on the streets of San Francisco fell far short of the one I had been evangelizing to friends abroad. Why, in a City with over $10B annual budget, were so many members of our community living without shelter, access to sanitation, dependable transit, or quality education? I joined the San Francisco Mayor's Office to learn more. Working on technology purchasing projects, I came to understand: the buying decisions that public servants make have an outsized impact on our local communities and businesses. But most of the time, public servants don’t have the information they need to make informed, expedient procurement decisions. What if it was as easy to find information for our public buying decisions as it is for our personal ones?
I started CoProcure because it shouldn’t take hours of phone calls, emails, and internet searches for public servants to find relevant suppliers, compare available purchasing methods, or learn from peer public agencies. Today, CoProcure serves U.S. buyers from over 400 local governments.
What are two personal achievements and contributions through your career.
I didn’t dream of starting a company. I fell in love with a problem: how might we maximize the positive impact of public procurement for our communities and businesses? I believe solving this problem is not only a huge business challenge; it’s an urgent matter of social justice. When governments fail to work well, the pain of that failure is not felt evenly across our communities.
In the beginning, my conviction for solving this problem was all I had. The first year was terrifying; I tried many things that didn’t work, all while watching my personal savings quickly evaporate. As a first time female founder working in the government space, I faced a steep learning curve pitching venture capitalists. But alongside the countless rejections, there were important yeses. I recruited an amazing technical cofounder: she’s an experienced engineering leader, a passionate advocate for social justice and inclusion, and a mom. Together, we’ve raised $4M in venture capital and built a team of 8 full-time employees (majority female engineering team). We’re still early in our journey, working towards our shared mission of bringing the ease and efficiency of the free market to public purchasing.
Covid-19 has illustrated the critical importance of helping women to realise their professional aspirations - what role have you played or are you currently playing within your organization to support women in their roles?
I think about supporting women in three ways. First, I seek to help the women I’ve hired and work with directly at CoProcure grow. Our company is proudly female-founded, I recruited a female co-founder and head of engineering, and the majority of the engineering team members we’ve hired are women. My cofounder and I strive to create an environment that is welcoming and empowering and that allows our team members to safely take risks and stretch their skills.
I also aim to support women indirectly by encouraging more women to start businesses and working on products that benefit women. As a female founder, I seek to encourage and assist other women to start businesses, especially venture-funded technology companies. I provide informal mentorship and coaching to at least 2-3 other female founders on an ongoing basis. Finally, I see working on products that enable a more equitable society as inherently positive for women. Women make decisions for most of our country’s most vulnerable families and children; when government services work better, women and their families benefit.