"When it comes to the number of female founders of startups, it appears that quality trumps quantity.;" summarizes Mary Ann Azevedo, award-winning journalist based in Austin, Texas.
The number of startups with a female founder more than quadrupled from 117 in 2009 to 555 in 2014, according to data compiled by CrunchBase. In 2009, 9.5 percent of startups had at least one woman founder, but by 2014 that rate had almost doubled to 18 percent, the same data found.
While that growth is positive, the number of female founders remains relatively low. But what they lack in number, they make up for in innovation and grit.
The Network talked with three female founders about what drove them to start their own company and what it’s taken to be successful.
Sheri Atwood, Founder of SupportPay
Atwood grew up the child of divorced parents, describing the experience as “horrific” and “as bad as bad could get” with her mom and dad arguing constantly over money.
Atwood herself married at age 19 and found herself going through her own divorce after her daughter was born. She and her ex-husband swore the experience would be amicable but inevitably found themselves arguing about who would pay for expenses such as medical, dance lessons and things like gymnastics.
“It became this constant back and forth,” Atwood recalls, “with one of us asking the other, ‘Where’s my check?’”
A weary Atwood started to research the problem but was unable to find a solution. She did discover that 55 million parents live apart in the U.S. alone, exchanging over $200 billion a year in child support. Globally, those numbers jumped to 450 million parents and $900 million exchanged every year. The conundrum spelled opportunity to Atwood, whose breaking point was when her daughter needed emergency brain surgery.
She began to explore how to use technology to eliminate financial conflicts between divorced parents...
Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, Co-Founders of Roominate
Roominate co-founders Brooks and Chen were friends in graduate school at Stanford, both studying engineering.
The pair noticed they were two of the few women in their classes and tried to understand why.
They realized they had both found inspiration in things they played with as young girls, and began researching just how kids these days were playing.
“We found that most of the toys targeted toward girls didn’t include spatial skills,” Brooks says.
So they created a toy that was already familiar, such as a dollhouse, that could be built with a modular system and Santa Clara-based Roominate was born.
A Kickstarter campaign launched in 2012 hit its $25,000 goal on its fifth day. In the end, the two friends raised about $86,000.
Things were a whirlwind after that. The pair’s award-winning building sets aimed at girls were being sold by major retailers such as Walmart and on Amazon...
Sabari Raja, Co-Founder of Nepris
In 2013, Texan Sabari Raja and friend Binu Thayamkery co-founded Nepris, a startup aimed at engaging more students – especially girls – in STEM.
While working in the education division of Texas Instruments, Raja realized there was a gap between industry and schools.
“I began to examine what is the role of industry in helping to bridge this gap and increase exposure to students,” she said. “It seemed we had a platform for everything such as Match.com and Facebook but no single scalable platform connecting industry and education with the purpose of bringing relevance to students...”