Tech Savvy Females Reign

March 14, 2018

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Though half of all new businesses fail, the
allure of creating one is so strong that females
are leaving lecture halls for hackathons

Working hard at becoming entrepreneurs. Photo: Courtesy of Marie Claire

I first read about this trend months ago when I came across an article about PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel’s project, “The Thiel Fellowship” that pays students, age 23 or younger, $100,000 to skip or stop college to work on launching a new business.

AN IMPRESSIVE LIST OF NAMES comes up when this topic is discussed.

  • Bill Gates: left Harvard after two years to found Microsoft
  • Paul Allen: dropped out of Washington State University to join Gates
  • Travis Kalanick: left UCLA to launch two companies and Uber
  • Mark Zuckerberg: started Facebook at Harvard and left for Palo Alto
  • Steve Jobs (Apple), Jack Dorsey (Twitter) and Michael Dell (Dell)

WHAT’S MISSING IN THIS LIST?

It takes two seconds to figure this out: they’re all men! This elusive club has males that have garnered lots of publicity. So it’s high time we took a close look at female-led startups with national brand recognition that are founded with females having MBAs from Harvard or Stanford. Take a look.

  • Rent the Runway: rent outfits and dresses for black tie events, parties and proms – founded by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss
  • Minted: stationery, cards, gifts, fine art, special parties and events – founded 2007 by Mariam Naficy, now has 125 employees
  • Stitch Fix: a style service for both sexes that evolves with one’s life – founded by Katrina Lake, it is now a gigantic $1.6 billion entity
  • Birchbox: Offers samples of makeup, hair, fragrances and skincare – founded by Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, has 300 employees
  • LearnVest: Helps with daily budgeting, saving, investing and more – founded by Alexa von Tobel who raised $75 million in seed money

Birchbox features health and beauty products – to receive a curated box of samples costs $10 per month

BUT TIMES ARE CHANGING FOR FEMALE FOUNDERS

An article in Marie Claire, February 2018 titled Code > College by Diana Kapp, discusses the bad press the tech industry has received recently and the dearth of female-founded companies with venture capital backing. This has encouraged corporations and funders to respond with a slew of women-friendly offerings. “If you are a strong woman with a strong business idea, you won’t have a problem,” says Jenny Lefcourt of Freestyle Capital.

FEMALES TRADING IN ACADEMIA FOR STARTUP LIFE

Case Study #1

Lucy Guo, now 23, never intended to drop out of Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. But a paid summer internship at a startup after her freshman year sparked a revelation. “Maybe I’d rather just make money than pay money.”

Post-internship she had product-design roles at Quora and Snapchat where she was making six figures. She met a former colleague who dropped out of MIT and, together they pitched an idea that evolved into Scale, a site that enables companies to outsource low-skill tasks. They pitched this to a venture capitalist, Paige Craig, who came through with $100,000.

Case Study #2

Stacey Ferreira is a 25-year-old who runs Forge – an app that allows hourly workers to set their schedules. This is her second company. She launched her first in 2011, and shortly after, received an email from Richard Branson that said, “Enjoy intimate cocktails with me in Miami for $2,000 to charity.”

She went with her brother, borrowed money from her parents and joined the group at Virgin’s swank 25th anniversary party. Within a week Branson gave their creation, MySocialCloud $1.2 million. They sold it to Reputation in 2013 and pitched a third concept, which raised $2.6 million in seed funding in January 2016.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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