Tomorrow is International Women’s Day,
and this year’s theme is #PressforProgress:
"Now, more than ever, there's a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. There's a strong call to #PressforProgress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive."
One industry that has been notoriously slow to move towards gender parity is the technology industry. According to Catalyst, just 20% of U.S. software developers and less than 10% of computer network architects are women. And women in computer, engineering, and science were paid 79.2% of men’s annual median earnings in 2016.
But despite these dismal figures, there are plenty of women working hard to buck the trend. So, here’s a roundup of 10 women in tech entrepreneurs to watch out for in 2018. We’re focusing on up-and-coming names rather than the well-known ones like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
If you're ready to learn about some innovative women in tech and get inspired by their tales of entrepreneurship, let's get started!
1. Edith Harbaugh
The best startup ideas often come from an entrepreneur’s own experience of a problem that no existing business can solve.
Harbaugh had worked in the tech industry
for years, from a couple of failed dot-coms in the 1990s to some large
enterprise companies more recently. According to this Medium
profile, she and her business partner John Kodumal made the leap into
entrepreneurship because of the problems they kept encountering at work:
"We eventually started LaunchDarkly together because we wanted to fix everything about the problems that we saw in software development — from concept to launch and beyond."
The company has grown rapidly and acquired high-profile customers like Microsoft, Trustpilot, and GoPro. With companies striving to release new software features more quickly all the time—while still maintaining quality—Harbaugh’s business model at LaunchDarkly seems set to drive further growth in 2018.
2. Kelechi Anyadiegwu
The road to success is not always smooth. A couple of years ago, Anyadiegwu was profiled by CNN for turning $500 into a million-dollar business in just two years with her online African fashion business Zuvaa.
Last year, by Anyadiegwu’s own admission, Zuvaa was a victim of its own success. In trying to grow too fast, the business was not able to scale properly and ended up having issues with its website and with paying its sellers.
"We made over projections and our business model completely failed. As the Founder and CEO of Zuvaa, I take full responsibility for this failure. My over projections and eagerness to scale Zuvaa without the proper support led to many of our issues."
Humility and the ability to embrace mistakes are good qualities for an entrepreneur, and this admission of failure is not the end of the road. In the same post, Anyadiegwu reiterates her ambitious vision for the company and her commitment to improving its operations. She recently appeared on the TV show Shark Tank and walked away from a $460,000 offer, so clearly she still has plenty of confidence in the business. The smart money is on Anyadiegwu and Zuvaa to bounce back in 2018.
3. Leslie Feinzaig
According to TechCrunch, just 17% of startups have a female founder, and that number has remained more or less unchanged for the last five years.
Leslie Feinzaig is determined to change that with her Female Founders Alliance, a group aimed at accelerating the success of female-founded, female-led companies.
Feinzaig also runs Venture Kits, a company aimed at teaching children to be entrepreneurs through activity kits and, soon, a line of digital games.
As she wrote on Twitter recently:
You can be ambitious without being competitive. You can be competitive without being ruthless. You can achieve huge things without ever compromising your morals or throwing someone under the bus.— Leslie Feinzaig (@LeslieFeinzaig) November 27, 2017
We can do better. Let's do better.#startups #FemaleFounders #VentureCapital
4. Lauren Washington
Hey, wasn’t social media supposed to be fun? It doesn’t always feel that way when you’re struggling to keep updating your profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more, while also staying up-to-date with important updates from your friends.
The idea behind KeepUp is to help with all of that by letting you manage multiple social media accounts across different platforms, all in one place. Founder Lauren Washington won $250,000 in the 43North competition to kickstart the company in 2014 and, now that it’s growing nicely, she is encouraging other black women to follow her and become tech entrepreneurs through her site Black Women Talk Tech.
When asked about her biggest mistake, Washington said:
“We have overcome so many mistakes from technical to hiring to strategy, so it’s hard to choose one! I think that’s part of being an entrepreneur. You’re never going to be perfect at something you’ve never done before. To me, the only true failure is not learning from your mistakes.”
5. Silvina Moschini
This Argentine entrepreneur has been involved in several ventures from the days of the dot-com boom and bust onwards. Her latest, SheWorks, is a social impact startup aimed at helping women to find remote-based, flexible work and helping businesses to diversify their teams.
The company has already partnered with Cisco, Microsoft and others. In launching it at the United Nations Global Women’s Empowerment Forum last year, Moschini said:
“Today $17 Trillion dollars worldwide is lost as a result of women leaving their jobs for lack of flexible, transparent and viable options. The market needs innovative solutions to transform the world of work—that’s what we’ve created with SheWorks!”
6. Ugwem Eneyo
As a Stanford graduate student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ugwem Eneyo learned how to build systems to operate small electric grids in emerging markets, and she has put this knowledge into practice with Solstice Energy Solutions, a startup that allows users to remotely monitor, manage and control all their power sources.
Eneyo was recently announced as a finalist in the Women Startup Challenge run by Women Who Tech. But despite her innovative work, Eneyo insists that it’s not the idea itself that’s the most important thing:
“As a PhD student and an entrepreneur, I’ve been told more than once that whatever I’m doing, there is someone, somewhere in the world with the same idea and the only difference between the two of us is our ability to execute, so execute swiftly and well.”
7. Louise Leolin
Gender parity is a huge issue in the videogame industry. Although 52% of gamers are women, only 14% of people working in the games industry in the UK are women.
So it’s refreshing to see Louise Leolin running an independent game design firm, DinoByte Labs. The company used crowdfunding to develop its first game and also offers consulting services.
Leolin recently told The Reading Lists:
“Being an indie developer on a small team means you will always be doing a lot outside of your main role, so when I am not working on developing games (which stretches from design and research to making assets and bug testing) I also do things like company admin, marketing, social media management, video production and pretty much anything else which the company needs doing!”
8. Natasia Malaihollo
The startup an entrepreneur is known for is rarely their first. Indonesian-born Natasia Malaihollo started a location-based social network for students called Sooligan back in 2012, but her current venture, Wyzerr, has been much more successful.
The idea of Wyzzer is to provide more engaging company surveys by making them look and feel more like mobile games, so that people are more likely to fill them out and provide better responses. Interestingly, the idea came from the demise of her previous business, Sooligan:
“In the post-mortem phase, I tried to figure out what I could have done differently. I realized that I should have been getting more user feedback. I was discussing it with colleagues one night and someone said, “It would be cool if we could do those surveys like the ones on the back of receipts from Subway,” and I thought, “That’s it. We’re going to do surveys.”
9. Jessi Baker
We all want to know more about where our food comes from, don’t we? Jessi Baker’s London-based startup Provenance supplies businesses with the technology to let consumers know the full details of where a product came from.
Baker recently told The Memo:
“As a tech entrepreneur, I think it’s essential to have a very clear vision for what success looks like, set measurable/tangible goals for that success and then go make it happen. Most importantly, don’t get distracted. (Much easier said than done).”
10. Samantha Snabes
Another finalist from the Women Who Tech Startup Challenge is Samantha Snabe, founder of 3D printing firm re:3D, which aims to provide large-scale industrial 3D printers at affordable prices. Its flagship product can print objects up to 30 times larger than competing desktop models.
For Snabes, it’s been an interesting journey to this point. As a young girl, she dreamed of being an astronaut, but went further than most kids. She actually looked up astronauts in the phone book and called them to ask how she could become an astronaut herself. They told her to study science and go to college, so that’s what she did.
She did end up working for NASA, but then, while travelling to Rwanda and Nicaragua with Engineers Without Borders, she saw how affordable 3D printing could help people there be more innovative and self-reliant.
Snabes advises entrepreneurs to stop worrying and enjoy the ride:
“Our team has accepted my constant paranoia that something will go wrong or we will disappoint our supporters. However my worrying detracts from appreciating the full experience, and developing a nostalgia for moments where I wished I had really been present. Making a prototype, producing a video, writing copy and developing the visuals for your big idea is a special time.”
The company recently won $1 million from WeWork, so that should fuel some more growth and innovation for Snabes and re:3D in the year ahead.
I hope you have found this list of women in tech entrepreneurs inspiring. There are, of course, plenty of other women doing exciting things in the tech space, so please consider these 10 as the starting point, and suggest your own additions in the comments below.
And remember to check out the International Women’s Day website to find some great resources for closing the gender gap and to discover the many ways in which you can #PressforProgress.
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