Breaking the Mold: How Family and Fairness Fuel Maria Colacurcio

By Bryant Barr


Maria Colacurcio is a passionate entrepreneur with a strong background in both founding and leading innovative companies. Raised in an environment that encouraged pushing boundaries and embracing challenges, Maria’s journey in the tech industry began with her role as co-founder at Smartsheet, which successfully went public in 2018. Her experiences there, combined with her desire to address critical workplace issues, led her to become the CEO of Syndio. Syndio is at the forefront of workplace equity, developing technology solutions that ensure fair pay and transparency across demographics.

Syndio was the first Penny Jar Capital investment in 2021, drawn by their compelling mission to reform pay equity and their impressive adoption by leading global companies. Recently, we asked Maria a few questions to delve into her experiences and insights as a leader.

What’s your most proud moment as a founder? 

Maria: My proudest moment as an early-stage entrepreneur has always been related to our customers. At Syndio, we have a real ability to change the way the world values work, and that’s important to me. We are putting real money back in the pockets of people who aren’t getting it because of gender, race, or ethnicity. On the flip side, we are helping organizations ensure they pay for the right skills and experiences that drive the business forward.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned in building Syndio?

Maria: The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that preparation + luck = opportunity. Timing is so important. Speed is critical. You have to always think of your business as an evolving thing. What worked at the beginning will not work in the middle. The strategies and tactics that got you to $10M will not necessarily get you to $50M. You must constantly check and adjust and be open to being wrong.

What keeps you up at night?

Maria: It’s always speed. How do we move faster without sacrificing employee and customer experience quality? The landscape is changing quickly, and it takes effort and intention to keep up. 

I carve out time to get out in the field, meet with customers in person, and work to really understand the needs of those we serve (HR practitioners). There’s no substitute for spending quality time listening to your customers and prospects – and my employees, analysts, investors, and peer CEOs. All of these are critical relationships. Then it’s about stepping back to synthesize and communicate those learnings broadly, as best I can, remembering that the title “CEO” gives me more access than anyone else.

Being a growth-stage CEO requires a moderate to high level of paranoia that you’re getting behind.

What was your motivation for leading Syndio?

Maria: I love to innovate and build. I think the early stages of the company, where you’ve clearly identified a problem that needs to be solved, are invigorating. The idea of applying technology and creating a new category that solves very clear business problems is the work that fuels me. We’re in the throes of this right now. Companies face massive challenges as they deal with the growing, shifting, and highly complex requirements around pay transparency. HR leaders need a better way to explain pay and advancement, guide pay decisions, and connect a slew of disparate reports, communications, and disclosures across jurisdictions and teams. Syndio’s workplace equity platform solves that pain. And that fires me up on a daily basis.

Why Syndio?

Maria: I have seven kids. I’ve experienced firsthand the motherhood penalty—the fact that the moment a woman has children, she is viewed as less devoted to her work by both men and women. The reality is that companies are still paying people less, promoting them less, and giving them lower scores on performance reviews because of something like gender or race, which is a solvable problem, and we can solve it with technology.

What’s the most important trait you look for when hiring someone to the Syndio team?

Maria: Adaptability is #1. Things at startups are always changing. If you’re doing it right, it’s a constant game of checking and adjusting to meet and stay ahead of customer and market needs. Also, the ideal employee profile depends on the stage of the company. In the early days, you want athletes–people who have the skills and capacity to do many different things and do them well. As I recently shared on LinkedIn, I believe that experience isn’t always the path to success. As you scale, finding folks with experience who are a more direct match is important.

What are the top 3 apps used on your phone today?


  1. Opal – It’s a screen-time app that significantly reduces time spent (wasted) on certain apps, and you can’t override it. 
  2. Strava – This is where I track all of my workouts and training. It’s my daily digest of fitness trends and whether I’m on track to achieve my goals. 
  3. Spotify – I’m big on podcasts, and there’s so much content and people to learn from today.

Learn more about Syndio at and follow Maria on LinkedIn.