Meet the Women Founders Competing to Be TechCo’s Startup of the Year

Being an entrepreneur is hard enough as it is. Long hours, constant rejection, and scouring the planet for capital can take a toll on anyone. Unfortunately, one group of entrepreneurs has it even harder: women founders. In addition to all this entrepreneurial stress, they have to deal with a gender gap that refuses to close despite research being on their side. Fortunately, TechCo knows that these women are doing more for business than anyone else.

The Startup of the Year competition is rooted in innovation, inclusivity, and diversity. With 100 startups competing for cash, business resources, and bragging rights, the eclectic mix of founders, employees, and innovators is nothing short of inspiring. People from literally all over the world will travel to San Francisco to attend Innovate Celebrate 2017 to pitch their great idea to a panel of esteemed judges. And that’s just the beginning.

If you’re interested in learning more about the women founders competing in the Startup of the Year competition, get to know them below:

Abigail Barnes, cofounder of Allergy Amulet (Madison, WI)

Abi is a lifelong food allergy sufferer. She completed a dual-degree program through Vermont Law School and Yale University and has a background in law and business. She has been published in Forbes, The Atlantic, and her work has been cited in The Economist.

The Allergy Amulet is a rapid, portable, point-of-consumption food allergen and ingredient detection device that connects to a patent-pending disposable test strip.

Melanie Lamar, cofounder of Appocalypse (Miami Beach, FL) 

Melanie Lamar opened the office of Right at Home in October 2005. Lamar earned a Bachelor of Science Degree, Nursing in 2000 from Old Dominion University before embarking on her career in health care. Lamar founded the company after recognizing the need for an alternative for seniors who preferred to stay in the comfort of their own homes. Melanie is a silent partner with BOTY.  

BOTY, made by Appocalypse, uses technology to enhance the bar experience. They believe the bar is the center of connectivity and encourages face-to-face interactions.

Barbara Parshall, founder of Baarb (Los Angeles, CA) 

Barbara is a Boston native, attended Boston University and UMass Boston prior to beginning a career in technology. She has been featured recently in Entrepreneur, TNW, Startup Nation, Creator, and Social Media Today. In March 2017, Parshall was showcased by the Silicon Valley Forum’s Women in Tech Festival.

Baarb is a revolutionary new way to book hotels on your desktop or mobile app. They’ve combined vast human experience with cutting-edge artificial intelligence and natural language search capability to deliver the highest level of personalized hotel search results that meet your individual preferences.

Aviva Rosman, founder of BallotReady (Chicago, IL) 

Aviva Rosman grew up working on campaigns and has worked for candidates at all levels, including her own successful election to Chicago Local School Council. Aviva began her career teaching math and leading the special education department as a corps members with Teach for America. Aviva has a BA and masters’ degree from the University of Chicago, both in public policy.

BallotReady is the nonpartisan online voter guide to every race and referendum. From the top of the ticket to the very bottom, BallotReady helps voters compare candidates based on stances on issues, biography, and endorsements.

Sravya Sarvareddy, cofounder of BeyondTag (Chicago, IL) 

Sravya Sarvareddy is an experienced product manager with a knack for customer experience, leading cross functional teams and defining strategy & innovation in the mobile, ecommerce, internet of thigns, and retail industry.

She’s the cofounder of BeyondTag, a platform where users wish a price on every product and instantly know whether they got the deal! Never pay full price again and always have a say.

Yuliya Tarasava and Catherine Berman, cofounders of Cnote (San Francisco, CA)

Yuliya hosts a decade of experience on Wall Street and has developed financial products and services on 3 continents, and Catherine is a third-time entrepreneur with experience launching and building scalable businesses.

CNote Savings helps celebrate good savers by earning them 2.5 percent, that’s 40x more than a traditional savings account. CNote does this by working with a government-backed program, CDFI, to create what the public rarely hears about in finance.

Kristina Jones, cofounder of Court Buddy (San Francisco, CA)

Kristina Jones is a Los Angeles native and a Florida International graduate. As an art director, Kristina went on to work for advertising agencies in both California and Florida and had the honor of creating campaigns for San Diego Tourism, Disney, Greater Fort Lauderdale Tourism, SeaWorld, Walmart, Silver Airways, and Kaplan University to name a few.

Court Buddy is a legal tech platform that instantly matches people with vetted solo attorneys based on the client’s budget.

Kaili Kleemeier, founder of Deekit (Tallinn, Estonia)

Kaili Kleemeier is a former Operations Lead at Skype. She is one of the best when it comes to networking, building payment systems, managing incidents, and constant change. All of which have served her well as Deekit CEO. She definitely steers the ship well.

Her company, Deekit, developed the world’s most collaborative online whiteboard for remote teams.

Isa Watson, founder of Envested (New York, New York)

Isa Watson is an Inc 30 under 30 winner, former worked with JPMorgan Chase and Pfizer. She graduated MIT and Cornell, and is a trained classic pianist in addition to being the founder of Envested.

Envested is an enterprise software company that created a next generation workplace and employee engagement software.

Heather Hochrein, founder of EVmatch (Santa Barbara, CA) 

Heather is driven to create an inclusive clean energy economy both as an electric vehicle driver and the CEO of EVmatch. She’s well versed in climate policy and electric utilities from her time working at and contracting with Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

EVmatch brings electric vehicles mainstream with a peer-to-peer network of reservable charging stations available anywhere.

Karin Kloosterman, cofounder of flux (Dallas, TX) 

Karin Kloosterman is a biologist and an award-winning journalist who founded the Middle East’s most popular eco-news site.

Flux created Eddy, an AI based robot that grows hyper-sustainable plants and cannabis.

Natalie Kaminski, founder of GoBaby (Brooklyn, NY) 

Natalie is a ball of energy and a leader of our team. She has nearly 15 years of experience in product development and project management. Founder of Nika Consulting Group, she loves web and mobile application development. She lives in NYC.

GoBaby is the Airbnb for baby gear on the go. They’re trying to change stressful travel by providing baby equipment rental marketplace (and app). The app offers mothers and fathers, as well as grandparents and caregivers, an easy way to rent strollers, car seats, and other items they need for their children during trips.

Sanja Zepan, cofounder of Homey (Memphis, TN) 

Sanja Zepan has a degree in communication, with a focus on family communication, and experience in marketing.

Homey is a mobile app that teaches kids financial literacy, the value of work through chores and enables parents to transfer money directly to the kids bank account.

Rajia Abdelaziz, cofounder of invisaWear Technologies (Nashua, MA)

Rajia has a dual degree in electrical engineering and computer science. She previously worked at Amazon Robotics and declined multiple prestigious job opportunities to start invisaWear.

invisaWear creates smart jewelry that allow users to instantly contact friends, family and police in the event of an emergency.

Emily Kentris, Annie Kentris-Arthur Amber Lear Nolan, & Ashlee Lear-Giannetti Juggle (Columbus, OH) 

These sisters and best friends took their entrepreneurial upbringing and turned it into entrepreneurship for themselves.

Juggle helps families by connecting them with mom-approved college students for on-demand childcare, pet sitting, and party assistance via a mobile app that allows them to look, book and pay sitters their friends have used and reviewed.

Gena Lazar, cofounder of JuniorTube (Lafayette, IN)

Along with her husband, who is also a cofounder, Gena Lazar has become a women entrepreneur and a coupleprenuer in one move!

JuniorTube is a collection of curated educational videos for kids and students in K-12 schools.

Arieann DeFazio, founder of Kitables (Boulder, CO)

Arieann is the former Executive Director of Spark Boulder, a non-profit that helps people in their first steps as entrepreneurs through coworking and entrepreneurial development programs. She was recently named one of the top 5 Female CEOs in the nation by SheEO. Arieann has been founding, managing, or working for startups for a decade, and also spent 8 years as a Biochemist.

Kitables gives people the confidence to build by selling approachable, project-based DIY kits in the fields of science, engineering, and beyond through a multi-channel direct to consumer ecommerce platform.

Lisa Nation, cofounder of The LISA App (Chicago, IL) 

Lisa Nation has dedicated nearly 30 years to the beauty industry. At 19-years old, Lisa earned a cosmetology license and started performing hair and makeup services for photo shoots. Working with Lawrence Da Luz as his protege was life changing. When he moved his practice from California to NYC, he chose Lisa to assist him. There, Lisa met her husband, Robert Richmond, CEO of the LISA App. As Founding Artist of The LISA App, she maintains a book of 150 metro-Chicago clients while raising three boys.

The LISA App brings together thousands of service providers (i.e., artists) through technology. LISA’s independent artists determine the services that they will provide, where they want to provide those services, and the price that they want to charge. LISA is an artist’s storefront, and that artist can manage his or her entire clientele from our platform.

Erin Pederson, cofounder of Markett (Venice, CA)

Erin Pederson was at Uber from 2013-2016 working with the HQ Supply Growth team to increase the number of new Driver Partners available to meet explosive Rider demand. She hired, trained and managed over 400 Uber Reps in 20+ US markets, leading the most aggressively run competitive growth campaign in company history. Erin holds an MBA and brings almost a decade of sales and managerial experience to the Markett Team.

Markett is a performance based platform that systematizes word of mouth marketing by providing ambassadors with all the tools they need to acquire new customers for their favorite brands.

Hallie Dumont, cofounder of Module (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hallie Dumont is an interdisciplinary designer, who has worked for years in residential contracting. If you ask her, she’s just as comfortable with a hammer as she is with a felt-tip pen.

At Module they reimagine what a home is for the 21st century. With their modular design and patent-pending structural system, it’s easy to convert a one bedroom starter unit into a three bedroom house without the headache associated with traditional renovations.

Kathy Romanovskaya, cofounder of Nimb (Los Altos, CA)

Kathy had 1.5M twitter account followers, but there’s a lot more about her that makes her a very skilled and talented head of communications. Kathy has twenty years of experience in public and investor relations. She developed communications strategies for major IPOs and M&As on emerging markets, contributed to GQ and Forbes as an interviewer and a columnist, casted in TV projects in Europe.

Nimb is security platform and a stylish ring to send an alert signal to any chosen and available response team member in case of an emergency.

Barika Edwards & Marie Roker-Jones, cofounders of OweYaa (New York, NY)

Barika is a social entrepreneur and over 10 years management experience.  Her work has always been rooted in promoting industry diversity and inclusion practices which are essential to igniting groundbreaking innovation and creativity. Marie is experienced in workforce development, community building, sales, and marketing, and has facilitated workshops for military families on reconnecting post deployment. Marie’s husband is an Army Military Police Officer who has been deployed five times in the last 10 years.

OweYaa tailor-matches employers to high-caliber military talent that complete outsource internship projects.

Emily Dong, founder of Pawprint (San Francisco, CA)

Emily is a full-stack engineer and YC fellow, and was formerly the first product manager at LearnSprout, which was acquired by Apple.

Pawprint is the official medical record for pets. Their platform handles all the paperwork needed to connect pet parents with veterinarians and service providers (groomers, daycares, boarders).

Chelsea White, cofounder of ProxBox (Memphis, TN)

Other than being the incredible founder of ProxBox, Chelsea is a serial entrepreneur that eats right and exercises daily. She values research and is very excited to be competing in Startup of the Year.

ProxBox is a communication and collaboration app for real estate agents with integrated beacon technology to give your property for sale its own voice.

Amrita Saigal, Kristin Kagetsu & Grace Kane, cofounders of Saathi Eco Innovations (Ahmedabad, India)

These three social entrepreneurs are passionate about improving the lives of young girls all around the world with their impressive innovations. Kristin previously worked for Oracle and a NGO in India to design all-natural crayons. Amrita previously worked with Google, McKinsey, and P&G, to distribute pads in rural India. And Grace was named a Shmidt-MacArthur Fellow for her research in product design engineering.

Saathi makes biodegradable pads from banana fibre. Saathi pads degrade in six months and eliminates 60 kg of waste. Proudly based and made in India.

Anya Babbitt, founder of SPLT (Detroit, MI)

Anya started multiple businesses and exited one. Her experience spans working in enterprise sales, strategic partnerships, corporate communications, marketing, sustainability and product design. Anya is passionate about social responsibility and environmental impact, having started SLPT to create a more livable and breathable world with mobility access for all.

SPLT is a proven carpooling platform for enterprise reinventing the commute, partnered with Lyft for on-demand non-emergency medical transport.

Polly Rodriguez, cofounder of Unbound (New York, NY) 

After surviving cancer, Polly was particularly driven to succeed. Her true belief in her company is inspiring and her story of going from her NY apartment to revolutionizing sex lives around the country is nothing if not a good one.

Unbound is the empowering sexual wellness brand for women by women. The company focuses on product curation, engaging content, and an exceptional customer experience, all delivered in the guise of a contemporary beauty brand driven by feminist ethos.

Julie Rose, founder of VaGenie (Los Angeles, CA)

Julia is a women’s health advocate and a mother. She was formerly a marketing consultant for Oscar & Mae, a high end event company. She’s also an actress and studied at the University of Pennsylvania.

VaGenie is a combination device and app Kegel trainer that helps women strengthen their pelvic floor. It’s a FitBit for lady bits!

Paris Petgrave & Becca Brighty, cofounders of We Love Work (London, UK) 

Prior to founding We Love Work, Paris ran her own small head hunting firm for 7 years working with a number large multi-national organizations including Barclays, PWC, Virgin, Deloitte, Walmart and the NHS. Becca is an occupational psychologist with 3 years experience running her own consultancy firm. Specialising in values based recruitment Becca is an experienced assessment specialist and wrote her thesis on Values for culture fit.

We Love Work is a hiring app that predicts culture fit and values alignment between individuals and teams making the world of work a better place.

Register Now to Attend Innovate Celebrate 2017

Come join us at the Innovate Celebrate conference in San Francisco, CA. The event will take place October 9-11, and is held in partnership with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Read more about Innovate Celebrate 2017 on TechCo

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Written by:
Conor is the Lead Writer for For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at
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