If women ran the world, this group of entrepreneurs offers a glimpse into what that could look like. This group of emerging female founders featured in Inc.'s Most Innovative Women package are working to pioneer businesses that tackle everything from building a better vitamin to stripping unconscious bias out of hiring.
Whitney Wolfe, Bumble
Austin | Social Technology
After co-founding Tinder, departing acrimoniously, and filing a gender discrimination lawsuit against it, the last thing Wolfe was expected to do was another dating app. "But I realized I could take all the negativity and use it as a force to inspire something good," says Wolfe, who's building a mini-empire of feminist tech businesses: Bumble, a women-centric dating app, has some 20 million users; this fall, Wolfe debuted BumbleBizz, a networking platform for women.
Amy Jain & Daniella Yacobovsky, BaubleBar
New York City | Fashion
In 2011, after meeting as analysts at UBS and then getting their MBAs, the best friends hatched BaubleBar, a shrewdly built, direct-to-consumer e-commerce company specializing in fashion accessories. In a lucrative category with 85 percent margins, roughly half of BaubleBar's revenue now comes through its website, while the other half comes through retailers like Bloomingdale's, which sells its products, and Target, for which it produces private-label jewelry. "Unlike Warby Parker, we don't want to disrupt Luxottica," says CEO Jain. "We want to become the next Luxottica."
Jean Brownhill, Sweeten
New York City | Design
Somewhere between Angie's List and Houzz is Sweeten, which takes direct aim at the universally infuriating process of finding a great contractor. "I'm in this industry and I realized if it's hard for me to find someone, it must be hard for people not in the industry," says Brownhill, who, as an architecture fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Design, launched the company six years ago. The web-based service--currently in New York City and Philadelphia, with plans to expand to eight more cities over the next two years--pairs home renovators with vetted general contractors, and then tracks each project's progress.
Katerina Schneider, Ritual
Los Angeles | Health Care
Schneider didn't plan on starting her company while she was pregnant--but it was taking vitamins during pregnancy that got her investigating how outdated they were. "Most multivitamins are based on men's diets 60 years ago, not today," says Schneider, who previously led innovation at Universal Music and raised venture capital for Troy Carter's investment fund. With Ritual, she's reconstructed the components of a vitamin from the ground up: omega-3 distilled from algae instead of fish, with its own oil encapsulation system to maximize nutrient absorption, and no more folic acid--which, it turns out, roughly a third of women can't process.
Christina Bellman, Levo Oil
Denver | Cannabis
Levo Oil's sleek countertop appliance looks like a fancy cappuccino machine, but it's actually designed to infuse butter and cooking oils with herbs like basil, rosemary--and marijuana. "Discerning cannabis users actually look a lot like a Whole Foods shopper," says Bellman, a former IBM consultant who set out to elevate the messy art of making THC butter for homemade edibles--an innovation ripe for the booming upscale cannabis market. Since making the $200 product available last summer, Levo Oil has been logging six figures in sales monthly, also wooing amateur chefs.
Carol Reiley, Drive.ai
Mountain View, California | Artificial Intelligence
"For most people in artificial intelligence and deep learning, it's still relatively novel," says Reiley, who worked in robotics for 17 years before dropping out of Johns Hopkins while getting her PhD. Now, she and her team are armed with more than $62 million in venture capital to build the brain for the autonomous vehicle--an attachment that could be retrofitted to almost any car--putting her in position to face off against the world's most powerful companies, including Uber, Tesla, and GM.
Stephanie Lampkin, Blendoor
San Francisco | Recruiting
Lampkin was in the final round of interviews at a major tech company when she was told she wouldn't get the job because she lacked "technical experience," despite having Stanford, MIT, and Microsoft on her résumé. So she channeled that frustration into a business: Blendoor, which works to remove biases from the hiring process. Candidates use the platform to see what positions a company is hiring for, and Blendoor removes the names, photos, and ages of applicants. "We want to be the behind-the-scenes engine where all different types of decisions are driven in a more meritocratic way," says Lampkin, whose three-year-old upstart is now used by dozens of tech companies.
Stephanie Tilenius, Vida Health
San Francisco | Health Care
"It's a work-hard, play-hard life. I like it that way," says Tilenius, who, after a career helping pioneer e-commerce at PayPal and Google, has launched her virtual care mobile platform, which, for $70 a month, connects users with health experts who can help them with chronic conditions like diabetes, as well as wellness issues like diet and exercise.
Nadia Boujarwah, Dia&Co
New York City | Retail
"We've heard almost every excuse in the book," says Boujarwah, co-founder and CEO of Dia&Co, of major fashion brands that don't design clothing for women over size 14. So the former Wall Street analyst turned that personal disappointment into a plus-size subscription fashion company that is now backed by $25 million in venture capital and primed to seize on a long-ignored market worth an estimated $21.4 billion.