2020 Female Founders 100
The Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs of 2020
Inc.'s third annual Female Founders 100 celebrates the success stories and best business advice of the game-changing women of 2020.
Brings a rent-to-own model to homeownership.
For taking sleep -- not just mattresses -- seriously
Alexandra Zatarain grew up far from the clubby world of Silicon Valley, in Tijuana, Mexico. Today, as co-founder of Eight Sleep, maker of sensor-equipped smart mattresses that provide sleep data to slumber geeks, she’s very much a part of the Bay Area’s venture-backed tech scene. Watching her co-founders, which include her husband, the company’s CTO, reach out to their existing networks of largely white, male investors taught her a lesson about how racial and gender-based inequality is perpetuated in liberal enclaves such as the Bay Area.
As Zatarain sees it, the tech scene didn’t become unwelcoming to women on purpose, exactly. “Almost no one in this boy’s club is trying to keep us out in a premeditated way,” she says. “It just happened and keeps happening because that was natural” and convenient for the existing participants: They sought investment from successful entrepreneurs they already knew, all of whom just happened to be white and male.
Now, her mission is to bring underrepresented groups into Eight Sleep’s pool of talent and investors, saying that the only way to solve systemic inequality is to swim against the current status quo. “My feeling is I have been given an opportunity to get inside,” she says. “Now it's my chance to bring other people into these circles—to do that job of diversifying. Because it won't happen on its own.” She recommends that other founders start by networking outside their usual social groups early—“make diversity in investing a priority from the early days,” so that when crunch time comes, they can move fast when it counts. – Burt Helm
The Mom Project
A networking platform connecting companies with talented professional mothers.
For hiring, and hiring some more, through the pandemic
“The whole world changed in March,” says Camp Gladiator co-founder and co-CEO Ally Davidson, who started the Austin-based workout-bootcamp company with her husband, Jeff, 12 years ago. CG has long differentiated its classes from the competition by emphasizing the community that builds among members who work out together. With classes moving online, virtually overnight, at the onset of the pandemic, Ally and her team had to scramble not only to build satisfying digital workouts but also to maintain that sense of community.
Not only did the team build a successful new virtual product, but CG recruited 20,000 new members while retaining 97 percent of its existing customers. As the company’s head of product, Ally led the reinvention sprint internally as well as with customers: While in the third trimester of her pregnancy, she led 20 live online workouts. The most popular one had 315,000 views. With two other young children at home in addition to the newborn, Ally says her year “has involved a lot of juggling—making sure you’re prioritizing the right things.”
She didn’t develop that balancing act naturally—it’s been a process over years that’s involved myriad executive coaching sessions and frequently seeking counsel from other CEOs and founders. The latter has been especially important. “It can get lonely at the top,” Ally says, “but other CEOs understand that and can give you really great feedback, even if they’re in totally different industries.” – Tom Foster