10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2014
Kelsey Falter, CEO, PoptipMelody McCloskey, Co-founder and CEO, StyleSeatDaneille Fong, Co-founder and Chief Scientist, LightSail EnergyCarly Gloge, Co-founder and CEO, UboolyElizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO, TheranosJessica Greenwalt, Co-founder and Lead Designer, CrowdMedDr. Piraye Yurttas Beim, Founder and CEO, CelmatixDr. Anita Goel, CEO and Chair, NanobiosymAnastasia Leng, Co-founder, Hatch.coDonna Novitsky, CEO and Founder, Yiftee
Tech may be still a predominantly male scene but you'd be remiss to overlook the impressive--and in some cases, world-changing--innovations coming to life thanks to talented female startup founders. Read on to see who I'm keeping my eye on in the months to come, and why what they're doing is so remarkable.
Think someone else should have made the list? Let me know @salubriousdish
Precocious is one word for 24-year-old Falter. She purchased her first domain name when she was only eight. Her first job involved creating MySpace pages. She left Notre Dame to attend a lightning pitch round in New York, where she tracked down and introduced herself to media mogul and VC Kenneth Lerer. (Lerer now describes Falter as a smart "superstar." Less than two years after coming out of Techstars New York, Falter has inked deals with a slew of big name brands that use Poptip's technology to gauge consumer sentiment and let people vote on topics socially. For example, E! Entertainment used Poptip during the Academy Awards last month to let Twitter users vote on nominees.
How does a startup get more than 200,000 beauty pros--people not sitting in front of a computer all day--onboard a tech platform that has booked more than $400 million in beauty services since launching in 2011? For one thing, StyleSeat claims to grow a stylist's revenue by an average of 68 percent during the first year. "To recruit the best people, partners, investors, and build the strongest community, you have to show them the business that you will be, not the business you are today," says McCloskey, who had the idea for StyleSeat after enduring a number of bad salon experiences and realizing an opportunity in the space.
The question of how to store renewable energy for use when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining has befuddled scientists for years. Fong, who at 17 began her PhD at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, has helped devise a solution: a highly efficient process in which a fine, dense spray of water absorbs heat generated by compression and later reconverts it to useful energy when the system is reversed. LightSail, which has raised $57.8 million in funding, including backing from Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, expects to ship the first pilot units to industrial customers early next year. In her spare time, Fong blogs about lofty scientific and philosophical subjects at DanielleFong.com.
Thanks to plummeting hardware costs, embedding an iPod or iPhone into a stuffed animal is actually doable. Why is Gloge's idea a smart one? Kids love apps, especially when they're presented in a soft toy that can be hugged like a friend. In fact, she says kids play with Ubooly for six times as many days compared with regular toys (20 times greater by the end of the year, she predicts). The startup is currently selling nearly all the major toy and children's entertainment brands on bringing their characters to life within the Ubooly app engine, which uses voice recognition to understand what kids say. "Essentially, we have the ability to let kids have conversations with their favorite character," she says.
A hemoglobin test for only $1.63? Knowing your cholesterol level for only $2.99? Theranos needs only a few drops of blood to perform a number of tests at a fraction of what it would cost at the doctor's office and in only a few hours, on average. The company is able to do all this via its proprietary infrastructure that processes blood sans human intervention. Holmes first funded Theranos at age 19 with money her parents had saved for her to attend Stanford. After a decade in the making, she took Theranos out of stealth last fall, opened the company's first collection center at a Walgreens store in Palo Alto, California, and has since expanded into Arizona with plans to roll its service out nationwide.
As the creative backbone of CrowdMed, Greenwalt says people compare her startup with the TV show House all the time. It's a crowdsourced platform through which anyone can help solve difficult medical cases online. Traditional diagnoses can take years and dozens of doctors when it comes to rare diseases. CrowdMed lets sick people offer a bounty--typically a few hundred dollars--which is split between those who correctly solve the mystery, minus CrowdMed's 10 percent fee. The San Francisco-based Y Combinator company uses patented technology that distills group intelligence and is working to develop a pilot in which medical students would get school credit for using the platform.
Anyone interested in fertility should keep an eye on this genetics expert. Dr. Beim has created Polaris, a web-based platform that gives doctors a highly accurate window into a couple's chances of getting pregnant with or without treatments, now or in the future. Unlike age-based models, Polaris looks at all of a couple's clinical metrics identified as most predictive for infertility and is powered by data from more than 100,000 actual treatment cycles. The New York-based company will launch a clinical trial of Polaris at several top fertility centers this spring. Next year, the company will begin clinical trials for Polaris X, a predictive tool that incorporates genetic biomarkers that help explain why some people may have trouble conceiving, even with in vitro fertilization.
This Harvard and MIT-trained nanobiophysicist has devised Gene-RADAR, an iPad-sized medical device that in under an hour can diagnose any disease with a known genetic fingerprint--everything from HIV/AIDS, E. Coli, tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes and even certain types of cancer--without the need for trained lab technicians, electricity, or running water. The device can also look within cells at DNA and RNA to identify the properties of mutating viruses and bacteria in real time to better stave off pandemics. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup and research incubator came out of stealth mode in late 2013 and is currently designing field tests in Rwanda.
An ambitious risk-taker who has traveled to more than 50 countries and speaks Russian, French, and English, Leng left her job with Google 18 months ago because she saw a problem with e-commerce. "For artisans and makers, retail forces them to predict consumer demand and take all the risk upon themselves to produce certain goods that they hope will sell," she says. Her solution: Hatch, an online marketplace wherein consumers can redesign any product on the site--things like jewelry, home decor, and accessories--and have it custom made and shipped in a week to 10 days. This works because Hatch's nearly 1,000 makers provide options for how certain parts can be customized and assemble a product after buyers specify the components they want.
It's easy--albeit impersonal--to send someone an Amazon or department store gift card. This marketing veteran figured out a better way: a social gifting platform that lets people send to someone else's smartphone an e-gift that can be redeemed at thousands of local businesses around the country (think your sister's favorite café or the hardware store your dad is always stopping by). In January the Menlo Park, California, company secured $2.1 million in Series A funding and announced YifteePro, a web service used by the likes of Zendesk that lets a user send gifts to groups of people, such as employees, customers, or prospects.