February 18, 2015
“One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to.” — President Barack Obama, February 2013
We can all agree: it’s crucial to foster a culture that drives diversity, and an open mind towards different viewpoints, perspectives, and life experiences. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that we owe the innovations of our local, national, and international tech startup ecosystems to a pro-diversity mentality.
Consider what an array of diverse viewpoints does in terms of the collaborative process, idea generation, and company culture. It spawns success.
We here at Tech.Co enjoy celebrating diversity just as much as we enjoy providing our community with entrepreneurial resources. In that light, we’ve scoured Silicon Valley for 50 women in tech who are empowering all of us to never stop chasing our dreams.
- Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code: When Bryant was first introduced to computer programming during college the Apple Macintosh was the new kid on the block. However, as she worked in her coding studies, Bryant felt culturally isolated: only a few of her classmates looked like her. Although a lot has changed since she was an undergraduate, there’s still a lack of African-American women in STEM fields. That’s why she launched Black Girls Code, to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills at a time when they’re naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.
- Jody Vandergriff, CEO of WebDAM: Vandergriff began her career in Silicon Valley as a data scientist in bioinformatics at Applied Biosystems and Genentech. However, in 2005 she pivoted away from hard sciences to enterprise technology and cofounded WebDAM, a cloud digital asset management solution for marketing and creative teams. The company has been entirely bootstrapped to profitability and was recently acquired by Shutterstock Inc.
- Hermione Way, founder of WayMedia: A tech journalist and entrepreneur, Way is in charge of her own media company and does side work as a video correspondent for The Next Web. After spending time as one of the cast members of Bravo’s Startups: Silicon Valley, she launched StartupWorld, a global startup competition. Way is currently heralded as one of Business Insider’s 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter.
- Stephanie Tilenius, founder of Vida: Tilenius has spent a large portion of her career in the payments and commerce business at Google, eBay, and PayPal, but these days she’s getting back to her roots. Vida is her latest venture, a mobile, personal health coach that she began working on during her tenure as the EIR at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. To date Tilenius has led Vida to raise $5 million in their first funding round.
- Sheri Atwood, founder of SupportPay: Atwood left her corporate job to chase an entrepreneurial dream when she realized there was no easy way for her ex to communicate effectively about their daughter’s shared expenses. There are nearly 300 million parents that find themselves in the same situation, and they exchange near $900 billion in child support payments worldwide. Atwood taught herself how to code and launched the entire project in 2013; she successfully closed a $1.1 million seed round soon after.
- Jessie Becker, cofounder and CEO of InPress Technologies: After being featured as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 candidates and spending time in residence at the Fogarty Institute for Innovation, Becker cofounded InPress. Her company is developing a simple device that’s intended to quickly and effectively stop postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), the leading cause of maternal death, globally. The early results of the company’s clinical trial have been 100 percent successful and they’ve closed $1.5 million in seed funding.
- Surbhi Sarna, founder and CEO of nVision Medical: A 30 Under 30 candidate and Fogarty Institute for Innovation resident like Becker, Sarna’s nVision is operating as an early-stage, venture-backed medical device dedicated to filling the void in female health-related innovation. They’re developing catheter-based diagnostic devices for non-invasive cell retrieval, as well as for detection of fallopian tube blockage, the leading cause of infertility in women. In May 2013 Sarna raised $4.5 million in her Series A and will engage with the FDA in 2015.
- Alicia Jenish, Executive Chef of Kitchit Tonight: This online platform connects diners to personal chefs for an in-home restaurant experience at an affordable price. The mission is to use technology and food to bring a community together and focus on what’s important: each other. Hosting a dinner party can be stressful, but Jenish creates all of the menus for Kitchit Tonight so chefs can execute her ideas and eliminate the stress of hosting a dinner party.
- Elisa Steele, CEO of Jive Software: Only a few days prior to the writing of this article Steele was appointed CEO of Jive Software after serving as EVP of products and marketing and CMO of Jive. She has more than 20 years of leadership experience in tech, with consumer and b2b credentials, including executive management roles at Microsoft, Skype, Yahoo, and NetApp. Steele sits among several females on the Jive management team; five of the ten VP and C-level executives are female. Together they help brands connect, communicate, and collaborate to enable people to work better using smart products.
- Bonnie Crater, CEO of Full Circle CRM: Providing marketing performance management solutions inside Salesforce, Full Circle CRM recently announced that they secured a Series A funding round led by Aligned Ventures. Prior to leading Full Circle CRM, Crater was the VP of Marketing for VoiceObjects and Realization. She also held VP and SVP roles at Genesys, Netscape, Network Computer, Salesforce, and Stratify.
- Michele Anderson, COO and Managing Director of Activate: Anderson is in the business of building new things, which some say makes her emblematic of the next generation of women in tech. At Activate, she develops and builds business growth programs for media, entertainment, and tech companies like Playboy Enterprises, Conde Nast, and Dr. Oz. Her career to date has helped illustrate the impact talented women can have when leading companies and initiatives.
- Stina Ehrensvard, CEO and Founder of Yubico Inc: Ehrensvard created the YubiKey, a two-factor authentication device which is currently used at seven of the top ten internet companies in Silicon Valley including Google and Facebook. She’s an advocate for identity protection and speaks often about data, personal, and online security. She was recently asked to participate on a panel at the White House Security Summit on February 13, 2015 held at Stanford.
- Gina Bianchini, CEO of Mightybell: Before Bianchini worked with Mightybell, she and Marc Andreessen cofounded Ning together. Since then she’s been featured as one of TechCrunch’s 40 Over 40, Upstart Business Journal’s Upstart10, NPR’s 5 Nerds to Watch in 2013, and one of Huffington Post’s ten technology Ultimate Game Chanergs. Working with Mightybell, Bianchini has helped the company grow 600 percent since last year alone. Ten months since publicly launching, Mightybell today hosts over 33,000 specialized professional networks that see ten times the engagement over community or forum alternatives.
- Micheline Nijmeh, CMO of LiveHive: In her years of experience as a senior marketing executive in Silicon Valley, Nijmeh has been involved in multiple major product launches and marketing campaigns. That includes both the Chatter and Force platforms that work with Salesforce. As the CMO for LiveHive she oversees all marketing efforts for the software startup in the emerging sales accelerator market, which is projected to reach $30 billion by 2017.
- Sarah Leary, cofounder and VP of Marketing and Operations at Nextdoor: Leary began her career at Microsoft, where she worked for nearly five years as a product manager. She helped launch the first three versions of MS Office before departing in 1997 to attend Harvard Business School. Leary was also an EIR at Benchmark before cofounding Nextdoor, a private social network of neighborhoods. Under Leary’s watch, Nextdoor has grown from a single neighborhood in California to more than 49,000 neighborhoods, representing 1 in 3US neighborhoods, in all 50 states.
- Alice Brooks and –
- –Bettina Chen, cofounders of Roominate: Chen and Brooks have achieved a lot of success in a very short period of time since launching their tech toy brand Roominate. Their customizable, STEM inspired building toys were launched in 2012 after the pair realized that there was a serious lack of female interest in the engineering program at Stanford. Their Kickstarter campaign eventually led to ABC’s Shark Tank where they got a deal with Mark Cuban. Their company has since expanded internationally into 4,000 retailer locations in the US and Canada. This past holiday season Roominate landed the number one spot on TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Toys of 2014 while Brooks and Chen landed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.
- Jen Helms, cofounder of Playmation Studios: Helms has a background in education and a strong belief in the power of games for learning. As cofounder of Playmation Studios, alongside her brother, she works to bring a more accessible and effective way to learn foreign languages to the market. Helms is driven by a deep love for language, and the approach she has helped build allows players to experience how words, pictures, sounds, and grammar fit together. She received her MBA from Nortwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
- Cynthia Kellogg, cofounder of Gift Gather: Sporting a background in customer service and management at high-end resorts, Kellogg decided to go back to school in 2008. That’s when she realized that there’s more to life than corporate jobs. Post-graduation she worked around Montana as a consultant before starting Gift Gather and pursuing her passion full time. As a bootstrapper, strategist, small business marketer, and solution focused startup founder, Kellogg is always moving forward.
- Penny Herscher, president and CEO of FirstRain: Herscher serves on the boards of many leading Silicon Valley companies like FirstRain, JDSU, and Rambus along with the nonprofit Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology. She’s even taught at the Haas Business School at Berkeley, Stanford, Boston University, and Santa Clara. Her first startup, Simplex, was built up from nothing to $50 million in revenue, and Herscher sold it to Cadence for $300 million in 2002. Throughout her 20 years of experience, on passion has guided her management style: empowering women in Silicon Valley.
- Gin Nikoloff, founder of Hire10: In 2009 Nikoloff ran for Belmont City Council, and while she didn’t receive a seat on the council, the experience gave her the idea to found Hire10. Under her guidance Hire10 is fulfilling the mission of bridging local businesses with the most qualified job applicants within a 10 mile or less radius. Being a proponent of women in tech, Nikoloff looks to her own role model – her mother – to help her chase her own goals and ideas.
- Natalia Burina, cofounder of Parable: Burina is currently building Parable, a social startup in Silicon Valley that had some preliminary acquisition interest from Facebook. That’s following on her earlier startup, Flockish, which was sold to StubHub-eBay. Burina also spends time mentoring at 500 Startups, and she’s held product leadership roles at eBay, Samsung, and Microsoft.
- Tessa Lau, cofounder and Chief Robot Whisperer, Savioke: Lau’s passion is building systems that improve people’s lives. Her background in machine learning enables her to understand what roboticists are saying, while her expertise in human-computer interaction drives her to understand people’s needs and build user-focused systems that address those needs. Her goal at Savioke is to guide the development of robots that will revolutionize the service industry. Dr. Lau holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Washington.
- Portia Kersten, CFO of Skout: While she may not be the founder, Kersten has been instrumental in the growth of Skout. She brings over a decade of expertise to the table, an MBA from Colombia, and both BS and BA from The Ohio State University. Skout is an Andreessen-Horowitz backed company, and Kersten has helped align strategic and financial objectives with business requirements to seamlessly advise all financial direction for the company.
- Suzanne So, cofounder of Joy Sprouts: Joy Sprouts has been named one of Silicon Valley’s top startups by TiE50, and it was recently named one of the finest tech startups by Australia’s OzApp competition. So has over ten years of experience helping to grow and manage the licensing and branding of Angry Brids and the Smurfs; she knows what kids like. In that regard, she’s built Joy Sprouts to help parents understand the educational needs of their early-age children.
- Jessica Greenwalt, cofounder of CrowdMed: While in high school Greenwalt started a freelance design company which grew into an international design and web development firm. An award-winning graphic designer, web developer, and illustrator, she’s produced successful projects for clients like LinkedIn, Marvel Comics, Carnegie Mellon University and UC Berkeley. Greenwalt also cofounded CrowdMed, a platform that uses the wisdom of crowds to solve different medical cases online. To date they’ve worked on over 700 cases and have been getting patients closer to a cure at a fraction of the cost and time than the traditional medical industry.
- Neha Sampat, CEO of built.io: Sampat isn’t your typical tech CEO; she leads a team of web developers but has no technical training herself. Rather, her background is in tech PR and she has degrees in French and mass communications. This unusual background is the secret sauce to her success though. Sampat has built teams with diverse and complementary skill sets, and she’s not afraid to expose areas she’s less knowledgeable in. That mentality led her to be named one of San Francisco’s Business Times 40 Under 40.
- Elena Krasnoperova, founder and CEO of SimplyCircle: As a working mother of two, Krasnoperova wanted to be involved in their education but was struggling to stay on top of everything. Alongside the information overload she received was a fear and guilt of being a ‘bad Mom’ who misses important parts of her kids’ lives. Krasnoperova proved beyond a doubt that she was not the only mom struggling with these issues, and she addressed the real need for a solution that made teacher-parent communications easier. That’s when SimplyCircle was born.
- Jessica Mah, founder of inDinero: Since starting inDinero in 2010 Mah has grown her company from zero to multi-million dollar revenues. To date she has over 75 full-time employees and has been featured on Forbes 30 Under 30. Before founding her company though, which has raised $8 million in total funding, Mah left high school at the age of 15 for Simon’s Rock Early College. Outside of her business she enjoys piloting single engine planes, mentoring first-time entrepreneurs, and she’s a member of Young Presidents’ Organization.
- Lara Aldag, founder of Higgle: Aldag came out of Stanford with a BA in Economics and hit the ground running. She founded Higgle to be the first social commerce marketplace that offers dynamic pricing and negotiations built to serve both buyers and merchants. But before starting the company she worked in finance in the Technology M&A group of Credit Suisse, a technology hedge fund, and has led strategy projects for software and internet companies.
- Joanna Weidenmiller, founder of 1-Page: She had dyslexia and little to no athletic ability as a child, but Weidenmiller became a nationally ranked rower with a 4.0 GPA at UVA; if that doesn’t say something great about her character I don’t know what will. Her current venture, 1-Page, was the first ever Silicon Valley company to be listed on the Australian Stock Exchange and is ranked as one of the top 3 HR technologies in the US.
- Aditi Maliwal, VC Crosslink Capital: Maliwal earned her BA from Stanford and joined Crosslink Capital in 2014 to focus on investments in digital media, internet, software, and business services. Prior to Crosslink she spent time at San Francisco’s Deutsche Bank in the technology, media, and telecom investment banking group.
- Gabriella Contro, VC Crosslink Capital: Crosslink Capital welcomed Contro to the team in 2013 where she now evaluates investment opportunities for the firm. She received her BS in Accounting from Lehigh University before pursuing an MS degree at the University of Michigan. Contro used to call the Big Apple home during her tenure as a consultant at Ernst and Young, but Silicon Valley was too exciting to pass up.
- Pascale Diaine, Director of Orange Fab: As the lead for Orange Fab, Diaine oversees all activities related to the identification, growth, and success of the startups in their US portfolio. Previously an evangelist, her extensive networking activity over the past eight years has positioned Orange Fab strategically in the Silicon Valley market. In addition, she’s directly responsible for generating access to several world class thought-leaders, influencers, journalists, and emerging companies.
- Ann Miura-Ko, cofounding partner of Floodgate: Her investment interest at Floodgate include innovations in ecommerce, radical science, and big data. Miura-Ko was a board member at TaskRabbit and Lyft in addition to sitting on the board at Refinery29, Modcloth, and Nirvana Energy Systems. Outside of Floodgate she lectures in the School of Engineering at Stanford, where she got her PhD on mathematical modeling of computer security.
- Janelle Kellman, founder of KitOrder: A proven leader, team builder, and big picture thinker, Kellman got her degrees from Yale, Oxford, and Stanford Law School. She initially pursued a career in environmental law, spending time in private practice at the US EPA. However, she quickly realized that the unorthodox work environment that startups offer was what she wanted and became an early employee at Solmetric. Kellman’s broad range of experience advising startups, government, and nonprofits allows her to apply unique lenses to the projects she leads and nurtures. As the CEO of KitOrder, she has numerous connections in the angel and VC world and is interested in identifying synergies to connect female entrepreneurs with more mentors and advisors.
- Amy Pressman, President and cofounder of Medallia: Amy and her husband Borge Hald founded Medallia in 2001 as a bootstrapped startup that became profitable in less than two years. Since then it has become one of Sequoia Capital’s largest ever investments at $105 million. The thriving software company helps hundreds of the world’s top brands track and gauge their customers’ sentiment and provide feedback in real time for front-line employees to take immediate action. Their solutions have been provided to hundreds of international brands including Mercedes, Nordstrom, LEGO, Sephora, Four Seasons Hotels, Hilton, Marriott, Best Western, GE, and Shell.
- Elizabeth Zaborowska, CEO and founder of Bhava Communications: Zaborowska has accrued 15 years of experience across communications strategy and services, dedicating her career to delivering creative and effective services to startups and corporations alike. At Bhava Communications, she and her team apply an integrated approach to the union of public relations and marketing communications. That ensures the functions work together and everything remains consistent for internal and external audiences. Zaborowska firmly believes that happy people do better work, and this is a positive outcome for their morale, client satisfaction, success, and longevity.
- Amy Chang, CEO and founder of Accompani: Prior to working with Accompani, Chang led Google’s Advertiser Measurement & Reporting efforts. Under her direction, Google Analytics grew from one percent to over 70 percent of Alexa Top 1 Million sites worldwide. In her current role with Accompani she’s building an intelligent relationship manager that will help track our contacts via email, social channels, and ultimately improve our relationships. Just last fall the company secured a $15 million Series B funding round. She’s incredibly passionate about helping others in the tech industry succeed.
- Pooja Sankar, CEO and founder of Piazza: Sankar was one of the only women in her village to ever attend college, and just one of only three female engineering students in her class at the India Institute of Technology – Kanpur. But it didn’t stop her from founding Piazza, a social learning and recruiting platform for students. It was built to change how companies engage with and hire future technical employees. They also announced last summer that they would be starting the Piazza Careers for Women effort tto bring more women into STEM fields while also tackling diversity issues in companies.
- Misa Chien, Fosubo, CEO of Fosubo: Chen graduated from UCLA, but instead of heading directly into technology related fields she started the popular food truck business Nom Nom. However, Chien decided that the food truck business didn’t compare with the technology world, and she began her own startup. The transition was tough, but she came up with the idea for Fosubo when she couldn’t attribute any Yelp reviews about Nom Nom to any specific interactions or employees. She realizes there are fewer women in tech than men, but at the end of the day Chien feels like the support in the industry can help underrepresented demographics succeed.
- Nancy MacIntyre, CEO and cofounder at Fingerprint: MacIntyre was EVP of Product Innovation and Marketing at LeapFrog, the popular children’s game console, where she led the charge around connecting learning with the launch of the Learning Path Online, Tag Reader, and Leapster Gaming System. She left in 2010 to seek out fortunes in the mobile world, fueled by an obsession with the possibilities presented by touch screen devices. To date MacIntyre has launched over 100 games, 11 number one titles, and has brought in over $2 billion in revenue.
- Grace Garey, cofounder of Watsi: Garey led her company through Y Combinator and nabbed investor Paul Graham for their board of directors along the way. She’s fueled by the idea that connecting people will change the world, and Watsi became the first charitable company to raise over $1 million from angels in Silicon Valley because of it.
- Aarthi Ramamurthy, founder of Lumoid: Ramamurthy’s career has been long and bountiful, taking her from the Xbox LIVE team through Netflix, all the way to an EIR position at Battery Ventures to the foundation of Lumoid. A Y Combinator backed company, Lumoid lets people test drive consumer electronics before they buy them. Not surprisingly, she’s widely heralded as one of the most notable female entrepreneurs alive.
- Monisha Perkash, CEO and cofounder of Lumo BodyTech: Perkash is motivated by a singular, powerful force: do good and do well at the same time. Before she began her career with Lumo BodyTech she was the CEO and cofounder of TuitionCoach, which was acquired by SimpleTuition in 2009. Lumo BodyTech has been able to give people actionable feedback to improve their health, but like any entrepreneur she’s come up against challenges. Her message to help us get through said challenges is simple, but potent: fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.
- Erin Teague, Director of Product Management Yahoo: Teague grew up in Detroit in a predominantly African American, lower socio economic neighborhood, but she didn’t ever let that get in the way of chasing her dreams. Nobody in her family was technical, but she excelled in mathematics and sciences and people began recommending she consider an engineering career. Teague ultimately landed at Yahoo, after working for Path for two years, where she brings new users to Tumblr, Flickr, and the Yahoo services suite.
- Ramona Pierson, CEO of Declara: In 1984 Pierson was launched into an 18 month coma after a drunk driver hit her while she was jogging. Hers was a long road to recovery after she pulled out of the coma. However, she launched her first startup company eventually, SynapticMash, which she sold to Promethean World for $10 million. Since then she’s moved on to Declara, a social learning platform for human capital development, leading the team to raise a considerable amount of funding to date.
- Brit Morin, founder of Brit+Co: Morin’s startup is an online platform that provides tools to teach, inspire, and enable creativity among women and girls. Many have taken to calling her the Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley, and she regularly appears on the TODAY Show as a DIY and lifestyle contributor. To date she’s raised $6.3 million for Brit+Co and partnered with like-minded brands including Target, 3M, Home Depot, and Velcro.
- Rose Broome, cofounder and CEO of HandUp: Broome and her cofounder launched their crowdfunding platform for the homeless to prove that the tech industry can, should, and does in fact care about homeless people. Her direct donation system for homeless people and neighbors in need lets people donate to a specific person via their web profile and SMS messaging. HandUp and Broome have been featured on CNN and Bloomberg News, and they were named Fast Company’s Most Innovative Startup of the Day.
- Anne Wojcicki, CEO 23andMe: In 2006 Wojcicki cofounded 23andMe with Linda Avery, but their journey has been littered with obstacles. The FDA ordered them to stop marketing their health-related genetic tests in 2013, but she didn’t stop. Instead, she stood firmly behind the data she provides to her customers which earned her the nickname “The Most Daring CEO”. She’s adamant about finding common ground with the FDA, despite their haranguing, and has raised $188 million from various investors to help ease the process.
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