After graduating with a double major in writing and in math with computer science, Nancy Hua landed a lucrative job at the pioneering algorithmic trading firm GETCO, where she worked for three years in Chicago and two in New York. “Everyone hated us,” she says. “We were the only ones doing well in 2008.”
But in 2011 Hua’s parents, who had immigrated from China, both became seriously ill, her father with stage 3 colon cancer and her mom with stage 4 lung cancer. Before her mother died (her father recovered), she visited them in Pittsburgh every weekend. “It made me feel like I really needed to make sure they were proud of me,” she says.
Meanwhile, GETCO had grown from 130 employees to 500 and no longer felt like a startup. So she decided to move on, and GETCO paid her not to work for any competitors in 2012—standard industry practice. While she was caring for her parents, Hua and her friends began building apps. They tested many versions but found the process clunky. In 2013, she and a friend created Apptimize, a company that enables app developers to design, test, and update apps and then push them to users within minutes—cutting out the weeks of waiting that app stores often require. Google Ventures and eight MIT alumni were among the initial investors. Hua, who captained the MIT varsity fencing team, then hired former teammates Jason Chen ’07, Gemma Medel ’06, Lynn Wang ’06, and Roberto Carli ’07. “It’s a really strong team,” she says.
Apptimize’s testing platform is only the beginning. Hua says the company will transform the way apps are made and used. “They are nowhere near how good they can be,” she says. “We’re betting that people want to make their apps better and iterate faster.”
Hua now lives in Mountain View, California. She channels her creative writing talents, honed at MIT under Junot Díaz and others, into her blog, nancyhua.com.
Hua’s MIT influences also include the spirit embodied by her East Campus dorm. “Kids installed fingerprint scanners in their doors and monkey bars in their rooms,” she says. “You could just innovate. If you have an idea, MIT helps you achieve your goal.”