She’s simplifying the process of finding a contractor, and closing the gender gap in construction.
Finding a contractor is a nightmare, but Cooper Union-trained architect Jean Brownhill knows that the business isn’t broken only for its customers. “General contractors are almost as in the dark as homeowners when it comes to pricing," says Brownhill. "It is an opaque market for everyone.” That’s why, in 2011, she founded Sweeten, a tightly curated platform that helps renovators find contractors, compare prices, and track their project from start to finish. Sweeten is now in four cities and has raised $20 million. Brownhill's target for Sweeten: to serve the top 35 U.S. cities by the end of 2020. And in June she launched the Sweeten Accelerator for Women, which will, among other things, provide a peer network for female general contractors and help them find more jobs. “Three percent of the construction industry is women,” says Brownhill. "It's not that women general contractors can't get hired in this is crazy industry. It’s that male subcontractors don't want to work for them.” --Brit Morse
Beauty professionals use her app to find empty space in salons across the country.
After an independent stylist asked to rent out a chair in Courtney and Tye Caldwell’s Plano, Texas, salon, the husband-and-wife team knew they had a bead on something valuable. Soon, the Caldwells found themselves helping stylists find empty spaces in salons across the country. For three years, they handled the matchmaking themselves while also meeting the demands of their day jobs--Tye managed the salon and Courtney ran digital marketing strategy for Oracle. In 2015, they automated their side hustle with the ShearShare app. In the four years since, the Caldwells have done a stint at Y-Combinator, raised $1.1 million in funding (with another $2 million anticipated this fall), hired 11 new employees, and expanded bookings to nearly 500 cities across 11 countries. In July, ShearShare debuted a tax assistance feature for self-employed stylists. “We get the ebbs and flows of owning a small business in this industry,” Courtney says. “Our customers stand by us because of that. It’s rare.” --Cameron Albert-Deitch
Her company ensures that stock-photo sites represent all the people in the world.
In 2016, Nicole Carter was spending hours on stock-photo sites, struggling to find images that would resonate with the people her marketing firm was targeting. “I decided, why not contribute to the solution?” she says. She started developing Diversity Photos with her husband, Gerald Carter, and their co-founder, Althea Lawton-Thompson, and launched the following year. The Atlanta-based company works with photographers to provide stock images that represent people of various races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities, sizes, and disabilities. Carter and her co-founders are helping Adobe Stock, Getty Images, and Offset (the premium arm of Shutterstock) make their offerings more diverse. Carter declined to share a revenue figure, but she said that sales have more than doubled in the past year, and Diversity Photos is now profitable. This fall, the company plans to add more photographers to its stable, and is eyeing expansion into video content. --Sophie Downes
Silicon Valley’s favorite next-gen email organizer has moved from buzz to reality.
Front has been a buzzy company for years now. Silicon Valley’s favorite next-generation version of email, the San Francisco-based startup pulls all your favorite messaging systems into a single inbox. The past year has seen co-founder and CEO Mathilde Collin finally turn that buzz into tangible growth. Her startup’s Series B round of $66 million (total funding now: almost $80 million) let Front make its first acquisition last October, a calendar-scheduling platform called Meetingbird. “We raised way more money than we needed,” Collin says. “We were actually not looking to acquire a company. But this company built on top of Front to make it available to our users.” Three months later, Front completely redesigned, repriced, and relaunched its app from scratch, leading to a boost in paying customers: 5,200 companies now, up from 4,500 at the beginning of the year. Front has also opened a new Paris office--a foreshadowing of Collin’s plans for international expansion, and a comfort zone for the native Parisian. --Cameron Albert-Deitch
Builds modern software for child welfare agencies.
Pandemic regulations have made it just about impossible for social workers to conduct child welfare home visits, and conventional reliance on paper files and outdated technology have made remote agency work that much harder. As a mobile, cloud-based solution, Binti has enabled social workers to transition to safe, effective remote work to ensure that more children find caring, permanent homes. Since its launch, Binti has scaled to serve over 120 agencies across 19 states and has enabled over 30,000 families to be approved to adopt or foster. On average, agencies using Binti approve 80 percent more families per year in 16 percent fewer days.