Bubble’s Director of Founder Inclusion Nichole Bestman joined in the summer of 2021, shortly after completing the Immerse program herself. A lifelong learner, Nichole was motivated to build her own app after encountering real-world problems thousands of miles away from home. She’s been hooked on no-code ever since.

We sat down with Nichole to chat about all things Immerse, championing underrepresented communities, and singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini. (Hope you have your earbuds nearby.)

Don’t miss Nichole moderating this year’s Immerse Demo Day on October 24 at #BubbleCon2023. Register to attend (and vote for Fan Favorite!) here.

Can you share insights into your career journey and how you arrived at your current role as Director of Founder Inclusion at Bubble?

There’s a saying that the dots only connect looking backward. Reflecting on my trajectory, I find that I’ve always had a history of finding my own opportunities with ratios that were roughly 50% the right fit for my skill set, with 35% space to grow, and 15% fueling my own curiosity. 

In the summer of 2009, I arrived in New York City as a new-business development and marketing research intern at a company I found on Craigslist after turning down an opportunity to work at Goldman Sachs. I wanted to prove that the individual makes the role, not the other way around. That summer at Vida Shoes International, I got to work on the business plans for three major brands: country artist Carrie Underwood’s first clothing line, hip-hop artist Lil Mama’s “Voice of the Young People,” and the footwear line recently launched by Russell Simmons’ daughters, Pastry. I even convinced leadership to invest in a social media strategy — a tough sell at the time for a legacy company that had been launching celebrity brands with the same playbook since 1973.

The role gave me confidence that I could lead something from concept to execution, which served me well beyond academia. After this stint, I co-founded a non-profit organization that set me on the trajectory of moving to Liberia after undergrad and convincing the managing director of the National Port Authority of Liberia (NPA) that she needed a person on her team who could help with marketing strategy and corporate social responsibility efforts. 

While I was working with the NPA,  got a bird’s eye view of the formal shipping economy in a developing country: one that Liberian small businesses were struggling to operate within. This observation kicked off an obsession with solving a broken shipping industry for textile and apparel companies. My world collided with Bubble when I was looking for a way to bring this solution to life by building the first MVP for my peer-to-peer company, Shipfair

I joined the inaugural cohort of Immerse in 2020 as an entrepreneur before joining Bubble full-time to lead founder inclusion efforts in 2021.

What motivated you to pursue a career involving diversity and inclusion within the tech industry?

My motivation was driven by curiosity — first by ‌problems I observed through my non-profit, like maternal and infant mortality, and later by an insatiable desire to help support the people best suited to solve those problems.

I didn’t set out to build a career in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Instead, I went out into the world and discovered that talent exists everywhere and that when given the access, smart people are willing and able to build the solutions needed for their own communities — and that maybe those ideas could translate to other areas of the world. 

Do you have a memory or story that stands out from your experience directing Immerse?

I find myself humbled by the necessity of even the most niche ideas. It reminds me of how niche Shipfair seemed until you realize how common it is for business owners to transport through traveling friends of friends to avoid prohibitive shipping costs. 

Last cohort, I bonded with a Founder in Residence who was building a shipping solution for his community, too. He had observed the same issue — expensive shipping costs — by talking to barbers and corner store owners in Spanish-speaking communities in Brooklyn and Queens. Moments like this reinforce my belief that a founder’s personal experience is vital to the success of a business. 

How do you see Bubble’s values shaping the Immerse program?

There’s no better embodiment of our empowerment value than the Immerse program. Immerse empowers founders by equipping them with skills that unlock ownership, agency, speed, and economic opportunity. 

Many of our Founders in Residence have been able to quit their full-time jobs and build apps for clients as they work on their startups. If this isn’t a manifestation of our mission to move more individuals from being consumers of tech to creators, I don’t know what is.

Where’s your favorite place to travel?

Any city that's nestled between a mid-range mountain and the sea. Top picks are Cape Town,  South Africa; Villefranche-sur-Mer, France; and Cape Mount, Liberia.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of my favorite songs by Paolo Nutini includes a clip from the 1940 Charlie Chaplin movie The Great Dictator.

It’s advice that every teacher or mentor that's cared about me has said in one way or another, with the hope that my ambition would be boundless and not limited by low or high expectations of others. Though the context of this quote is about rebelling against a dictatorship (and the deference to “men” is very ‘40s), life can feel this way sometimes, particularly for young people that feel like they are charting an unknown path:

“...And so long as men die, liberty will never perish

Don’t give yourself to these unnatural men

Machine men, with machine minds, and machine hearts!

You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men

You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful

To make this life a wonderful adventure…”

Paulo’s song Iron Sky sings like a love letter to humanity and conveys the message better than these words do.