Founder Profile

Mariam Naficy

Minted

Forget the big brands. She raised nearly $300 million to license and sell independent art and design.

Mariam Naficy. Courtesy subject

In the years leading up to the recession, well before the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, Mariam Naficy had an idea: Why not build an e-commerce platform that crowdsources designs from independent artisans rather than relying on major (and expensive) labels? She launched Minted in 2007 as a retailer of stationery, ultimately expanding into categories including textiles, art, and home décor. “Our model is fundamentally successful because of meritocracy,” Naficy says, with designers entering Minted competitions and consumers voting for the designs they want to see for sale. “It ensures that irrelevant factors such as education, wealth, and connections do not stand in the way of the best artists finding their way to the market.” Today, more than 12 years later, Minted continues to grow. This summer it launched a licensing arm with partners including Method, which makes soap bottles based on Minted designs, and Samsung, which has a line of TVs that can display a gallery of art and photos. Minted now has more than 400 employees, 15,000 designers, and revenue in the low hundreds of millions. The company is profitable, too. Last year, Naficy raised a mind-bending $208 million in funding—the most in a single round by a female founder, ever. --Zoë Henry

Industry
Retail
Year Founded
2007
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
All Things Consumer
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In the years leading up to the recession, well before the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, Mariam Naficy had an idea: Why not build an e-commerce platform that crowdsources designs from independent artisans rather than relying on major (and expensive) labels? She launched Minted in 2007 as a retailer of stationery, ultimately expanding into categories including textiles, art, and home décor. “Our model is fundamentally successful because of meritocracy,” Naficy says, with designers entering Minted competitions and consumers voting for the designs they want to see for sale. “It ensures that irrelevant factors such as education, wealth, and connections do not stand in the way of the best artists finding their way to the market.” Today, more than 12 years later, Minted continues to grow. This summer it launched a licensing arm with partners including Method, which makes soap bottles based on Minted designs, and Samsung, which has a line of TVs that can display a gallery of art and photos. Minted now has more than 400 employees, 15,000 designers, and revenue in the low hundreds of millions. The company is profitable, too. Last year, Naficy raised a mind-bending $208 million in funding—the most in a single round by a female founder, ever. --Zoë Henry

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Amy Nelson

The Riveter

Motherhood spurred her to create an inclusive co-working company.

Amy Nelson. Courtesy subject

Amy Nelson, founder of the Riveter, turned to entrepreneurship when she realized that her corporate law career and young children just didn’t mix. “I was perceived very differently when I became pregnant,” she says. “I know women with kids are less likely to be promoted. Why was I buying into a system that was not buying into me?” When Nelson started attending startup events, the attendees were overwhelmingly male. She started looking for a community of women who were building startups, but she didn’t find a physical location that was hosting them. So she created one. Now, about 70 percent of the Riveter’s 2,000 members are women. The company has 10 locations, which have hosted events with speakers including Kamala Harris and Jane Fonda. Nelson says her first co-working spaces have already turned a profit, and she’s raised around $20 million in funding. --Kimberly Weisul

Industry
Business Products & Services
Year Founded
2017
Location
Seattle, Washington
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Amy Nelson, founder of the Riveter, turned to entrepreneurship when she realized that her corporate law career and young children just didn’t mix. “I was perceived very differently when I became pregnant,” she says. “I know women with kids are less likely to be promoted. Why was I buying into a system that was not buying into me?” When Nelson started attending startup events, the attendees were overwhelmingly male. She started looking for a community of women who were building startups, but she didn’t find a physical location that was hosting them. So she created one. Now, about 70 percent of the Riveter’s 2,000 members are women. The company has 10 locations, which have hosted events with speakers including Kamala Harris and Jane Fonda. Nelson says her first co-working spaces have already turned a profit, and she’s raised around $20 million in funding. --Kimberly Weisul

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Julia Niiro

MilkRun

Her startup brings fresh, local food to the doorsteps of consumers and high-end restaurants.

Julia Niiro. Courtesy subject

Julia Niiro’s two-year MilkRun harnesses an old-fashioned idea--the milkman--to solve two key problems of the local food movement: distribution and low pay. MilkRun brings all the food groups--dairy, produce, bread, and meat, and even locally produced pet food--to the doorsteps of customers and high-end restaurants in Portland, Oregon. Niiro hires farmers and ranchers to make deliveries themselves; cutting out the middleman allows Niiro to increase their take to 70 percent of each dollar spent on food. (In a traditional supply chain, producers receive only 10 percent.) “I want to make it as easy to buy from local farmers as it is to book a stay in someone’s house or call a ride,” Niiro said in a recent TEDx Talk. “If it was easier to buy better tasting, fresher food directly from your local farmers than it was to go to a local supermarket after a long day, wouldn’t you?” --Hannah Wallace

Industry
Food & Beverage
Year Founded
2017
Location
Portland, Oregon
Industry
Food Revolutionaries
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Julia Niiro’s two-year MilkRun harnesses an old-fashioned idea--the milkman--to solve two key problems of the local food movement: distribution and low pay. MilkRun brings all the food groups--dairy, produce, bread, and meat, and even locally produced pet food--to the doorsteps of customers and high-end restaurants in Portland, Oregon. Niiro hires farmers and ranchers to make deliveries themselves; cutting out the middleman allows Niiro to increase their take to 70 percent of each dollar spent on food. (In a traditional supply chain, producers receive only 10 percent.) “I want to make it as easy to buy from local farmers as it is to book a stay in someone’s house or call a ride,” Niiro said in a recent TEDx Talk. “If it was easier to buy better tasting, fresher food directly from your local farmers than it was to go to a local supermarket after a long day, wouldn’t you?” --Hannah Wallace

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Daniela Perdomo

goTenna

She’s upending telecom infrastructure by allowing devices to connect without a cell network or Internet connection.

Daniela Perdomo. Courtesy subject

Daniela Perdomo was struck with the idea that would lead to goTenna in 2012, when she saw New York City residents struggle with poor mobile connectivity during Hurricane Sandy. She teamed up with her brother, Jorge, to create a small cellphone accessory--essentially an antenna--and a messaging app that together allow users to connect without a cell network or internet connection. While goTenna didn’t invent so-called mesh networking, it was the first to offer a viable commercial application of the technology. After several years of selling a consumer version, in 2018 goTenna launched a more advanced version for first responders, the military, and other professional users. The company, which has raised some $40 million in venture capital, doesn’t aim to replace existing communications networks but rather connect the so-called “last mile”--people who are left out because of their location, their economic status, or circumstances such as natural disasters. --Tom Foster

Industry
Telecommunications
Year Founded
2012
Location
Brooklyn, New York
Industry
Science Pioneers
Co-founder
Jorge Perdomo
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Daniela Perdomo was struck with the idea that would lead to goTenna in 2012, when she saw New York City residents struggle with poor mobile connectivity during Hurricane Sandy. She teamed up with her brother, Jorge, to create a small cellphone accessory--essentially an antenna--and a messaging app that together allow users to connect without a cell network or internet connection. While goTenna didn’t invent so-called mesh networking, it was the first to offer a viable commercial application of the technology. After several years of selling a consumer version, in 2018 goTenna launched a more advanced version for first responders, the military, and other professional users. The company, which has raised some $40 million in venture capital, doesn’t aim to replace existing communications networks but rather connect the so-called “last mile”--people who are left out because of their location, their economic status, or circumstances such as natural disasters. --Tom Foster

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Leanne Pittsford

Lesbians Who Tech

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

Leanne Pittsford. Courtesy subject

“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

Industry
DEI Advocacy
Year Founded
2012
Location
San Francisco, California
Industry
The New Girls' Networks
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

“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

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