Founder Profile

Lesbians Who Tech

Leanne Pittsford

She started the most diverse networking community in tech—and built a tool to help companies hire from that network.

Leanne Pittsford.
Company Information
Year Founded
2012
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

“The tech industry doesn’t have a pipeline problem--it has an access problem,” says Leanne Pittsford, the founder of Lesbians Who Tech, a community of 40,000 mostly LGBTQ techies with a mission to promote diversity in hiring. Her seven-year-old organization runs an annual tech conference (past speakers include Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, and Laurene Powell Jobs), and this year it has branched out into building a digital recruiting and mentoring service, Include.io, that companies can use to find diverse talent from its network and track their diversity-and-inclusion efforts. Currently in beta, the product is being tested by 100 companies. “We have to shift the white-male-centric culture that Silicon Valley has built,” Pittsford says. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

The Coven

Alex West Steinman

Because co-working members in the middle of the country need diversity and inclusion just as much as those on the coasts.

Alex West Steinman.
Company Information
Year Founded
2017
Location
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Cofounders
Bethany Iverson, Erinn Farrell, Liz Giel
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

In 2017, Alex West Steinman teamed up with three other Minneapolis-area PR and advertising professionals to create a femme-forward co-working space with the mission to “economically empower women by providing safe, accessible space for personal and professional transformation.” After crowdfunding its first location, the Coven grew to 500 members within a year. A second location opens in December. For every five memberships purchased, the Coven gives one to a member of the community who couldn’t afford it, “prioritizing people of color, folks from the LGBTQ community, those who are differently abled, immigrants, and veterans,” it says. The broad goal for West Steinman and her team is to corner the middle of the country (“underdog cities,” as the Coven calls them). It wants to open more than 20 locations in the next five years. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

OpenSponsorship

Ishveen Anand

She carved out a niche in sports marketing, a business few women have broken into.

Ishveen Anand.
Company Information
Year Founded
2014
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The Platform Economy
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

At age 34, Ishveen Anand already has a decade of experience working in the world of professional sports, but investors still doubt her when she pitches her sports marketing startup, OpenSponsorship. “I’m of Indian origin, I’m British, I’m female, I’m young,” she says. “When I walk in and I’m like, ‘Hey, we’re changing how brands work with NFL players,’ they’re like, ‘Really? Are you?’” Five years in, Anand is proving that her concept—a two-way marketplace that lets brands and athletes find each other for endorsement opportunities—can work. She’s also proving that she’s the right woman for the job: OpenSponsorship has been profitable since 2017, with revenue of $1.1 million last year, and recently inked its highest-profile client yet, alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch—all off $1.3 million in seed funding. Anand aimed to show profits as quickly as possible because, as a woman operating in a male-dominated industry, she knew that investors and clients alike wanted to see more from her than the potential for success. “Any room I get into, they’re always going to ask for another data point,” she says. “And I know I’m going to have to give it.” --Cameron Albert-Deitch

BoatSetter

Jaclyn Baumgarten

She’s made boat-sharing safe, legal—and possible.

Jaclyn Baumgarten.
Company Information
Year Founded
2012
Location
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Industry
The Platform Economy
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

In 2012, Jacyln Baumgarten remembered that her happiest childhood memories as a kid involved boating on lakes outside Chicago. Then, within two weeks, her brothers called, each saying he hadn’t used his boat in a year and was going to sell it. Seeing a need--and inspired by the success of platforms like Airbnb--Baumgarten launched peer-to-peer boat-sharing company BoatSetter. (Initially it was called Cruzin; she merged with another company and rebranded in 2015.) The platform allows owners to rent out their boats for a few hours or a few months, thus off-setting the cost of ownership. (Some even come with captains.) Baumgarten’s real innovation was pioneering the first peer-to-peer marine insurance policy, without which boat-sharing would not be possible. The company is speeding forward: this year it has expanded its reach to the Balearic Islands, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Mexico, bringing registered users to over 350,000 in 70 countries. --Hannah Wallace

Sweeten

Jean Brownhill

She’s simplifying the process of finding a contractor, and closing the gender gap in construction.

Jean Brownhill.
Company Information
Year Founded
2011
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The Platform Economy
Data as of Publication on Aug. 11, 2020
Company Description

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