December 8, 2011
At a time when the STEM gap is seriously impacting students, it’s hard to keep in mind that there are actually quite a few women not just working in, but leading, the technology industry. Women are founding startups that help change the world, or at least how you find your next restaurant or pair of earrings. Whatever the case, it’s important to remember that while tech may still be a male-dominated industry, women are starting successful tech companies and pioneering new ideas, too. We’ll profile a few of them here.
- The personal genomics and biotechnology company, 23andMe is set to print genetic testing to everyday people. Founded by Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey, the company has become increasingly easier to access, with an initial cost of $999, which has now dropped to an incredibly accessible $99 with a subscription. Using the service, subscribers can study their own genetic information, and get updates on discoveries made over time. 23andMe has attracted plenty of investors, most notably Google, with $3.9M and $2.6M. Co-founder Anne Wojcicki may have something to do with the group’s financial success: she is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The company’s unique service has been featured on Oprah, The New York Times, and several other high profile media outlets. Additionally, Time magazine named 23andMe’s testing service “Invention of the Year” for 2008.
- Some people have more money than time, while others have more time than money. TaskRabbit brings the two together, allowing people who need help with small jobs to get connected with others who are happy to do them for a little cash. IKEA furniture assembly, grocery shopping, and even laundry tasks can be found among the offerings on this site. Featured in Forbes, the site has grown quickly, going beyond founder Leah Busque’s hometown of Boston to include New York City, Chicago, LA, and the San Francisco Bay Area with more coming soon. TaskRabbit has attracted $6.85M in funding since early 2009, and even boasts the famous 4-day work weeker Timothy Ferriss as a board member. Former Hotwire CEO Eric Grosse has also come on as CEO.
- Another Massachusetts-born startup founded by women, Affectiva does things most people only see in the movies. Using electrodermal testing and face expression recognition tools, Affectiva can actually recognize and measure emotions. Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard won a $650,000 National Science Foundation grant in early 2011, and have since taken their total funding to $7.7M. The company has gone on to do amazing things, and CEO Dave Berman tells GigaOm that the future may include a “social network that knew you liked something based on your face or physiological signals without you having to push a “like” button.”
- What do people on the Internet like? Hunch knows, and they’re building a “taste graph” of the Internet. With this web application, co-founder Caterina Fake and her team are able to map the affinities of online users, creating taste profiles based on a series of questions, and then suggesting a “hunch” of what the user might like. Hunch has found more than $19 million in funding, and boasts Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales as a board member. Founder Caterina herself has been a star in the startup world, co-founding Flickr and serving as a board member of Etsy. Hunch is well-loved by the press, with mentions from Fast Company, The Huffington Post, Time, Forbes, and more.
- Following the success of so many other flash-sale websites, Daniella Yacobovsky and Amy Jain created BaubleBar, which focuses its efforts exclusively on fashion jewelry with deep discounts. It’s certainly not a new idea, but the company has found its niche, selling items that typically sell between $50 to $80, capitalizing on impulse buys while at the same time benefiting from return customers. In their first round, BaubleBar has received just over $1 million in funding.
- Soraya Darabi and Alexa Andrzejerski, along with appropriately-named Ted Grubb, founded Foodspotting, a website and mobile app that allows users to find and share food recommendations. This is certainly not a new idea, but Foodspotting has done it in a new way, sharing photos of specific foods, helping users find what’s good around them, and more. Foodspotting is doing well, with $3.75 million in total funding and over a million app downloads.
- With so many websites out there that allow you to track your fitness, nutrition, even goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the things you need to update to stay on top of it all. TrackIgnite, co-founded by Bridget Thornton and Scott Cleveland, allows users to sync all of their self-tracking efforts online into one dashboard. Not only that, it offers a way to turn the data into charts and graphs for interesting observations on progress. The service has just launched, but has already been recognized as being on the cutting edge of not only personal health and fitness data aggregation, but also health care 2.0. And, as Thornton proudly shares, they’re “blowing away some well-funded competitors who are run by men.”
- Most of us spend at least a few moments each morning wrestling with an alarm clock. It’s a jarring experience to be woken up by a blaring alarm, especially if you’re trying to sleep in while your partner hits the snooze several times. Founded by Julia Hu, Lark allows you to use your iPhone to wake up silently and naturally, without alarms, and without waking up your partner. Based in Palo Alto, the company has been around since 2009, and has created its newly released monitoring system on $1 million in funding.
- This company is all about helping to launch technology startups with at least one female co-founder. Not at all surprisingly, Women 2.0 itself was co-founded by two women, Shaherose Charania and Annie Chang. Through Women 2.0, Charania and Chang help other women launch successful and innovative ventures. They’ve done quite well, and were even named the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in April 2010.
- Saygent, a voice analysis company founded by Mariya Genzel, allows companies to get high quality customer insights without a whole lot of overhead. Without call centers or IVR systems, this program that takes just a few minutes to set up can automatically interview thousands of customers. Not only that, Saygent can analyze their responses for meaning and sentiment to give companies an overall feel of client response. The company promises to deliver a rich dashboard of actionable results within just a few hours. Saygent’s amazing program has earned them mentions and praise in publications including The New York Times, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal, to name a few. And with $1 million in seed funding this year, we think they’ll keep going and earn even more attention and growth.
- Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election left a lot of violence and social unrest in its wake. During this time, Ushahidi was created to collect eyewitness reports of violence and danger, crowdsourcing this information and placing them on a Google map to warn others of the situation. Since then, the site has continued the use of crowdsourcing for social activism and public accountability, enabling local observers to share reports, and creating an archive of events. Co-founder Juliana Rotich is originally from Kenya, and now works as Program Director for Ushahidi. The company has attracted over $2 million in funding and the attention of major news outlets, including PBS, Guardian, The Independent, and The Economist.
- Mightyverse opens up all of the world’s languages. The company offers a place for people who are interested in languages to contribute words, phrases, and sentences translated from one language to another, and others who need help with translation can use the crowdsourced resources to better understand other languages. The company was co-founded by Sarah Allen, who has also co-founded Railsbridge, an inclusive and friendly Ruby on Rails community connecting mentoring matchups, projects, pro bono work, and more.
- In this online community for food lovers, users can discover offers for meals shipped to your door at special prices, while at the same time giving a meal to those in need: Love With Food donates a meal for every offer purchased. Love With Food was founded by Aihui Ong, a Rails hacker who says that the company has married her two passions: tech and food. The company recently announced that they’ve joined 500 Startups, an incubator that provides investment and guidance for growing startups, a move that Love With Food believes will allow them to hire more people, give better deals, and offer a wider selection of choices.
- There are millions of apps out there, both for the iPhone and Android. Even if you know what you’re looking for, finding the right one can be challenging and often overwhelming. Using Chomp, a search engine for apps, you can find exactly what you want, with an algorithm that learns the functions and topics of apps that understand what they do rather than what their names are. Chomp was co-founded by Cathy Edwards and Ben Keighran, and even boasts Kevin Rose and Ashton Kutcher as advisors. The company has plenty of financial backing as well, with several venture capital firms and angel investors behind them for a total of $2.57 million in funding.
- Games are better in 3D. Animeeple sells 3D characters and animations that can be used in games, as well as tools for editing character animations. The tools created by Animeeple make 3D character animation easier, and the company, co-founded by Okan Arikan and Leslie Ikemoto, is doing well. In 2010, Animeeple won a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, but it seems the company has been a dream for some time now: Ikemoto’s Ph.D thesis was about methods for making 3D computer animation accessible to novice users.