Squashing the gender stereotype, there are women who are not only owning the tech industry but they are also touching lives and bringing a mini-revolution of sorts in the traditionally male dominated industry.
Here, we talk about 15 of them.
1. Nina Tandon
Nina is the CEO and co-founder of Epibone, world’s first company growing living human bones and hearts! She’s also a certified yoga expert, TED Senior Fellow, professor of electrical engineering and tissue engineer and was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Even as a kid she used to take apart and reassemble TV sets, through which she gained interest in engineering. With Epibone, the need for 900,000 surgeries would be eliminated yearly! Tandon hopes Epibone will be conducting its first pilot tests on humans this year.
She’s talked about super cells in her book Super Cells: Building with Biology, wherein cells can be used to build bridges which can repair themselves, batteries which are alive and a world wherein energy is converted 10,000 times more efficiently than the sun! She’s excited about the fact that if machines brought about the first industrial revolution, information technology the second, then life could form the third. She’s surely the future of medical science.
2. Kieran Snyder
CEO and co-founder of Textio, a machine learning text analytics software which sniffs out gender bias in wording on job listings, performance reviews and other documents, Kieran is a writer, blogger, and holder of a PhD in Linguistics. She’s also studied and researched about how and how often men and women interrupt each other in meetings, how they write resumes differently and about the prevalent gender bias in performance reviews. She has earlier worked at Amazon and Microsoft.
Kieran had said that almost every major tech company has talked about using Textio to attract a diverse workforce. In fact, Twitter, Microsoft, Starbucks and Square have already been using it. Keep in mind that Textio, which started in 2014, has had its software been made commercially available only since July 2015. Interesting stuff!
3. Tan Hooi Ling
GrabTaxi, Uber’s major competitor in South-East Asia, is a typical example of a startup idea germinating from everyday experiences. Working with McKinsey in Malaysia, having late nights and no transport, Tan Hooi Ling was an unwilling user of taxis which were notorious for their ill-mannered drivers and lack of safety and security. A gadget freak in her younger days, she met Anthony Tan, co-founder of GrabTaxi at Harvard Business School, where they were classmates. She never faced gender discrimination personally while admitting that 90% of the engineers in GrabTaxi are male because many women don’t take up computer skills as their major in university. GrabTaxi is now a major player in the South East Asian market, valued at 1.5 billion USD.
4. Shivani Siroya
Shivani is the CEO and founder of InVenture, which gives real time credit scores to small borrowers which helps lenders estimate their credit worthiness and provide them with loans. Shivani worked with UBS, then with a company focused on sex workers in India, and then with the UN, where she learnt about microfinance programs in different countries. She grasped a problem and undertook a test initiative with 12 micro businesses to grant them loans using her savings. After 18 months, she found that there was complete repayment and better recording of transactions on the part of the borrowers. This confirmed her thinking that micro borrowers in traditionally ignored economies lacked financial literacy, and if they used a tool like InVenture, lenders would be willing to lend to these small businesses, enabling them to build their companies.
Inventure is currently in India, Kenya, Tanzania, East and South Africa, and will be expanding to two more countries this year.
Interesting Note: Shivani has always wanted to be in the CIA, and is a huge Alias fan.
5. Valerie Wagoner
The self described ‘only foreign woman in tech in India’ is the co-founder and CEO of ZipDial, a ‘missed call’ based marketing and online content platform. Valerie had earlier done her thesis on microfinance in Chennai, India and wanted to go back. Having worked with Ebay, SayNow (acquired by Google) and Ning (acquired by Glam), Valerie was introduced to Sanjay Swamy, the founder of mCheck, a mobile payments platform and decided to work for him. She came to India in 2008 to lead expansion projects for mCheck and then two years later, cofounded ZipDial with Swamy which saw huge success during the Indian Premier League, a cricket tournament. It was acquired by Twitter in January 2015, to enable it to expand its reach to billions of potential customers without smartphones.
Valerie’s vision is to bridge the gap between the connected and disconnected population, and is changing ZipDial’s fundamentals to be the ‘Google analytics of the offline world’.
6. Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin
Co-founders of theSkimm, this duo has an interesting anecdote to share. They were roommates in New York, but actually met studying abroad in Rome! Both being ‘news nerds’, reading the papers daily and watching news shows with their families growing up, they came across each other many times, but became friends and roommates during their stint at NBC. They got the idea for theSkimm when they realized that their incredibly smart friends were always asking them about the daily events and occurrences as they led busy lives, leaving no time to go through the papers or watch the news. TheSkimm, founded in 2012, sends a daily email to its 1.5 million+ subscribers with the latest news and headlines in a short, easy-to-read manner. Their mission is to keep women informed and empower them to ‘strike up a conversation with anyone.’
With the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Jessica Parker declaring themselves to be ‘Skimm’ers’, Danielle and Carly are grateful for the advice they’ve received, with the best one (which led them to start TheSkimm) being – ‘The only way you’ll fail is if you don’t try.’
7. Adi Tatarko
CEO and co-founder of Houzz with her husband Alon Cohen, Adi is a powerhouse. The couple got the idea for Houzz when they were redecorating their home and were frustrated with the contractors and designers as it was turning out to be a very expensive activity. It started out as a side project for them, which they handled along with their jobs, but when word of mouth publicity began attracting millions of unique monthly visits to the website, they decided to take it up full time. This is the couple’s second start up together, with the first being in Israel, where they grew up. Houzz is now valued at 2.3 billion USD and is in the top 200 Web properties in the US. It started out as a bootstrapped venture, with Adi focusing on a smooth virtual experience for both architects and customers, uncluttered with ads.
It’s a rare example of a start-up growing organically and gaining worldwide customers through word of mouth. Houzz is the preferred choice for realistic design ideas for people’s homes, and it’s planning on expanding globally.
8. Payal Kadakia
A ‘dancentrepreneur’, if you will, Payal is a world class Indian classical dancer, and the CEO of ClassPass, a membership platform for gyms and wellness studios, valued at 400 million USD. She had earlier failed with her start-up, Classtivity, which was a search engine for fitness classes, as people didn’t want to continue going back to the classes they had signed up for. As for most of us, motivation was the problem. ClassPass, cofounded by Payal and Mary Biggins, is Classtivity’s renamed version, one wherein people can try out unlimited classes and gyms in their city by paying a monthly fee of $99. Classtivity, Passport and now ClassPass – third time’s definitely the charm for Payal, as ClassPass is now already in 4 countries and has global ambitions. She has also founded The Sa Dance Company, a dance academy where she regularly performs.
ClassPass raised $30 million in series C From Google Ventures in november last year.
9. Robin Chase
After co-founding the largest car-sharing company in the world – Zipcar, Robin is back with Veniam, a vehicle network communications company. Veniam turn vehicles into WiFi hotspots and builds city scale network of connected vehicles. She also founded Buzzcar and GoLoco. She has been featured in Time’s 100 Most Influential People (2009) and has authored Peers Inc. She also lectures widely on entrepreneurship and environmentalism. Zipcar was sold to Avis for 491 million USD in January 2013. Robin’s on the boards of Veniam Works, World Resources Institute and Tucows Inc. She has also been a member of the World Economic Forum’s Transportation Council, besides being on other positions of the US Government.
10. Richa Kar
Richa’s experience in retail with Spencer’s and SAP Retail Consulting helped her found Zivame (meaning Radiant Me) in August 2011 – India’s first online lingerie store for women. With no knowledge of e-commerce or fashion or even the different styles of lingerie available, Richa had nothing but a vision of making lingerie purchase a delight for women. She succeeded and how! 85% buyers on Zivame are women buying lingerie online for the first time and Zivame is experiencing 300% year on year growth, while the market in India is growing only at 15%. Noticing the lack of privacy and availability of different styles and sizes, awkwardness with male sales representatives, lack of consultation and lingerie generally being a taboo topic in India, Richa decided to take it upon herself to provide the Indian woman with an unforgettable lingerie-buying experience. Zivame also has a dedicated physical fitting lounge and plans to open up many more in the country to help women know their exact bust size.
Zivame, which also has blogs and size calculators to create awareness, is on a mission to empower women to wisely choose the garment that is closest to them.
11. Michelle Crosby
Michelle is the co-founder and CEO of Wevorce – which is described as ‘a high-tech and high-touch approach to divorce that keeps families out of court’. She started Wevorce because of a personal incident that happened when she was 9. She was asked in court which of her parents she would choose to live with if she got stranded on a deserted island. She then decided she would go to a law school and become a compassionate divorce attorney. Then in December 2012, she founded Wevorce. Wevorce helps to make the divorcing family have an easier time with divorce experts, mediators and co-parenting counselors, all the while being a less expensive option than going to court.
Michelle spent 5 years as a lawyer, making 100 couples undergo the Wevorce experience, and got the confidence to startup when only one of them ended up going to court. Wevorce used psychology, behavioural science and pattern recognition to enhance its experience.
Interesting Note: Michelle is a former marathon runner, triathlete and an equestrian.
12. Ida Tin
Co-founder and CEO of Clue – a reproductive health app, Ida’s vision is to create an alternative for birth control measures and be the future of family planning using technology and connecting it with the mobile phone. Launched in 2012, Clue came about when Ida herself wanted an alternative to birth control pills and could not find any viable options. She wanted Clue to be a user-friendly and data-based way for a woman to manage and understand her body cycles and changes. Clue is ‘confident, scientific and NOT pink’.
This Berlin-based company differs from its competitors by offering a range of personalized solutions to women problems and using complex algorithms to deliver them accurately. Saying that being a female in a male dominated industry as tech has never been an issue with her as she has worked in such industries earlier and her advice to women looking to break the gender stereotype is to make their voices heard and not to look back, thus paving the way for other women to follow suit.
Interesting note: Ida went on motorcycle tours around the world before Clue and wrote about her travel tails in a book called Direktos which became a Danish bestseller and received rave reviews.
13. Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck
These two met inside the hallowed hallways of Harvard Business School, and understandably never had time to do things like laundry and getting groceries for their apartments. They then decided to hire somebody to do these things for them, and when their neighbours started asking them for a similar service, the idea of Alfred was born. Hello Alfred’s employees called Alfreds do such weekly services for their customers for 99 USD a month. Beck and Sapone built Hello Alfred while still in school, and even when they were thinking of pausing for a while to focus on school, their customers wouldn’t let them, paying even upto 400 USD!
Hello Alfred made Marcela and Jessica the first women to have won the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield competition in 2014, and there was no looking back from there. Investors loved it for being profitable from the get-go, without any venture capital. Customers love it for its convenience and making time an ‘affordable luxury’.
14. Jessica Scorpio
When Larry Page asked a class of 40 students in Singularity University (which hosted an intensive 10-week graduate program) to come up with an idea that could affect 1 billion people, Getaround was born. Jessica came up with a car-sharing idea between people which would be a smarter, more sustainable and efficient transportation system. She describes it as ‘Airbnb for cars.’ She feels there is no need for two billion cars. She wants to make Getaround a global company to remove the one billion she feels are extra as cars sit idle for 92% of the time. Getaround was launched in May 2011. Jessica doesn’t believe in work-life balance, but tries to live a healthy life. Jessica has previously also founded IDEAL – a not-for-profit network for entrepreneurs and worked for the Canadian Prime Minister’s office as a writer.
15. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy
Founder and Chairman of Joyus, the video shopping platform for women and Boardlist, the ‘LinkedIn for female board candidates’, serial entrepreneur Sukhinder is spearheading the revolution of women advancement in all spheres of life. Having worked with Amazon, Google and News Corp, Sukhinder founded Yodlee, a financial services platform in 1999. In 2014, it became a publicly traded company. Cassidy was the President of Asia-Pacific and Latin America at Google, before leaving it in 2009 to become the CEO of global venture capital firm Accel Partners. She was also the CEO of Polyvore in 2010, before coming up with the idea of Joyus in 2011. Joyus has since then claimed many awards, one of them being Apple’s ‘one of the best lifestyle shopping apps for the 2014 holiday season’. In May of last year, she published an article on women in tech which was signed by 59 women entrepreneurs. Then she founded Boardlist in July same year. It matches women who have been peer-reviewed and endorsed by colleagues with companies looking for such women on their boards. She herself has been on the boards of TripAdvisor, J. Hilburn, Ericsson and J. Crew Group and has also been an advisor to Twitter.