The success of prominent female leaders such as Facebook‘s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo‘s Marissa Mayer are bringing more attention to women in the tech sphere. But beyond the Sandbergs and the Mayers, there’s a crop of women who are not only leading, but also launching tech startups. Below, we highlight 44 accomplished female founders; with businesses ranging from fashion and ecommerce to careers and social networks, these movers and shakers are changing the face of tech.
Von Tobel dropped out of Harvard Business School to launch LearnVest after winning an Astia business plan competition. With the confidence to get her plan off the ground, she raised a $1.1 million seed round in June 2009 and launched the business in December 2009. To date, the Drop.io and Morgan Stanley alum has raised nearly $25 million to fund the growth of LearnVest, a personal finance platform that offers tools, content and financial planning for women, covering everything from consolidating your debt to saving for your future. She describes her business model as “Weight Watchers meets personal finance.”
Singh Cassidy founded Joyus, a video-based ecommerce site that helps customers discover their new favorite things in apparel, beauty and lifestyle. Singh Cassidy was previously the CEO at Polyvore, (founded by another woman on this list), spent 18 years as an Internet and media executive at companies including Google, Amazon, Yodlee and News Corporation, and was the CEO-in-Residence with Accel Partners.
Laura Fitton was one of the first to realize that Twitter could be leveraged for marketing. She started Pistachio Consulting (hence her Twitter handle @Pistachio) and later wrote the book Twitter for Dummies, giving everyday people a chance to recognize the power of Twitter. Her next venture was oneforty, an app store for Twitter. Using her keen eye for spotting tech-trends, she created a hub for the best extensions and apps for Twitter based on a community of rating and sharing tools. Even though Fitton claims she was “thoroughly unqualified for the idea” when she came upon the plan, oneforty has become a huge success and was acquired by HubSpot last year; Fitton is the company’s inbound marketing evangelist.
A Y-Combinator and Harvard Business School alum, Vidisheva launched Shoptiques as a new way to shop online. While boutiques offer fashion to locals and tourists, many don’t have an ecommerce presence, making it hard to nab threads from local designers. Vidisheva raised her initial seed round from Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Benchmark Capital, General Catalyst and SV Angel. The site is currently U.S. only, but Vidisheva is working to bring the Shoptiques experience to international consumers.
Kass is a serial entrepreneur, managing ventures alongside her husband, Mike Lazerow. The two started GOLF.com, which they sold to Time Inc. in 2006, then they launched the social media management software Buddy Media, which raised four rounds of funding and was recently acquired by Salesforce for $689 million. Kass brings extensive experience in marketing, consulting and business operations to the table, and describes herself as the most competitive person she knows.
In fall 2010, Yeoh participated in LaunchBox Digital’s incubator program, where she honed her business skills and launched her first startup, CityPockets, for which she raised $750,000 from Great Oaks Venture Capital and other angels. In March 2012, Yeoh launched Reclip.it as an innovative way to save money, share deals with friends and keep up with the latest deals offered by your favorite brands. As co-founder and chief executive officer, Yeoh drives the user experience and spends her free time as a mentor at The Founder Institute.
Magnusdottir, a veteran of the fashion world, co-founded Moda Operandi — which lets customers pre-order high-end apparel and accessories “straight off the runway” during seven-day trunk shows — with fashionista Lauren Santo Domingo in 2010. To date, the company has raised $46 million, a testament to the power of fashion ecommerce and to the business savvy of its co-founder. The Icelandic Magnusdottir has an MBA from Harvard Business School, an LLM from Duke University and an undergraduate law degree from the University of Iceland and was previously a VP at Gilt Groupe and co-founder of an investment group that works with luxury fashion brands.
Mountanos launched Manicube in June of this year. The mobile manicure service contributes $1 of each manicure to microloans abroad. So far it has proven successful in Manhattan and is on it’s way to other cities nationally and hopefully internationally. As of this time, Manicube is currently unfunded, however they plan to begin looking for investors this Fall.
Hartz studied at Pepperdine, geared up to be a TV executive with gigs at MTV Networks and FX Networks, and once interned on the set of Friends. In 2006, she jumped into the startup scene with her husband as co-founder. Their company, Eventbrite, has since raised $80 million. Eventbrite merges ecommerce with the social graph to democratize event ticket sales, and it’s likely you’ve used the platform to purchase tickets — the platform has helped event organizers sell more than $1 billion in ticket sales. Hartz is a proponent of fostering happiness in the workplace, and Eventbrite has been named one of the best places to work in the Bay Area.
Gina Bianchini is a serial entrepreneur whose custom social network creator Ning had an impressive 2.3 million user-created networks and more than 45 million registered users when she resigned in March 2010. She moved on to start Mightybell, which helps users break a big idea — anything from a recipe to a cross-country trip — into small, doable steps that can be shared to social networks. She’s also spent time as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz and has invested in and advises Levo League, the female-helmed career-oriented startup.
After getting her MBA at Dartmouth College, Sun spent two years working as the Vice President of Merchandising and Inventory Planning at the female-founded Brooklyn Industries. In 2007, she co-founded Est. Today, a site that allowed young girls to design their own fashions and share their creations with their friends. In 2010, Sun teamed up with Kaboodle co-founders Manish Chandra and Chetan Pungaliya to launch Poshmark, an iPhone app that lets you browse, buy and sell clothing and accessories.
Earlier this year, Wallace and fellow Harvard Business School graduate Alex Nelson co-founded Quincy, an apparel company designed to flatter any woman’s body type. Instead of general sizing, Quincy focuses on specific measurements to make sure that blazer/dress/blouse fits you perfectly, making shopping a much more gratifying and efficient process for women. Wallace is a practiced public speaker and a guest blogger for The Daily Muse and Women 2.0.
Tryon co-founded art rental company Artsicle in 2010. The site lets users rent art by emerging artists, enabling customers to dabble and discover their taste and preferences. The Penn alum was a would-be collector who was frustrated with the stuffy New York gallery scene and curators who didn’t take her seriously as a buyer, and she kept running into up-and-coming artists who had trouble distributing their work. She went to work on the “try before you buy” concept and works out of Dogpatch Labs with her boyfriend and co-founder Scott Carleton.
Moreland has made the shopping and dressing room environment social with Fashism, which she launched in 2010. The site lets users post a photo and get instant, crowdsourced feedback from a community of shoppers and fashionistas, helping women make better purchases and discover new trends. The idea stemmed out of one of Moreland’s own experiences, when she walked out of the dressing room seeking her husband’s opinion, and all she found was an empty couch. She previously worked in broadcast media at Departure Films and JWT.
After completing a PhD in Cognitive Neuropsychology at Brown University, Rashmi Sinha moved to San Francisco to conduct her postdoc research. She soon became bored with lab work, instead falling in love with the burgeoning field of web technology. Sinha co-founded Uzanto, a user experience consulting company, working with companies including eBay and Blue Shield. In 2005, she launched her first product, MindCanvas, and co-founded SlideShare a year later. Today SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations, with 60 million monthly visitors, and it was acquired by LinkedIn in May.
Before launching Foodspotting in January 2010, Andrzejewski was a User Experience Designer at Adaptive Path. The time she spent helping startups create user-centered platforms spurred her desire to build her own UX-driven company. During a trip to Japan with her husband, Andrzejewski noticed that everyone around her was snapping photos of food. Andrzejewski was curious about the destination of these photos, and she was also inspired — frequently trying new dishes, she needed a way to identify them when she returned to San Francisco. From this experience, Foodspotting was born.
After integrating digital into the marketing efforts of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, Amy Jo Martin founded DigitalRoyalty in 2009 to help companies, celebrities, professional sports leagues and athletes strategize, build and monetize their digital universe. With 1.3 million Twitter followers, Martin is known as a social media expert who consults with people on how to create a better personal brand for themselves on social media, and she’s helped to develop brands such as Shaquille O’Neal, The X-Factor and Nike. Martin is currently working on her first book, Renegades Write the Rules, due out later this year.
Ghosn and Pouchot met at their first job out of college in 2008 at McKinsey. In that fast-paced and male-dominated environment, they mentored and consulted each other and commiserated over the fact that they didn’t have older, experienced women they could reach out to for advice. The women left McKinsey to start Levo League, which launched in March. Investors include Sheryl Sandberg, Gilt Groupe Chairman Susan Lyne and Gina Bianchini, who are part of a rotating list of mentors during the site’s weekly “office hours.”
After Jennifer Hyman watched her sister have a “closet-full-of-clothes-and-nothing-to-wear moment” in 2008, she and her Harvard Business School classmate Jenny Fleiss put their heads together. What came out of the brainstorm was Rent the Runway, a high-end dress rental service that offers women a “Cinderella moment” without having to break the bank. Today, Rent the Runway has $30 million in funding, a team of 140, a customer base of 2.5 million and more than 25,000 dresses available for rental, ranging from Tibi to Herve Leger.
Cindy Gallop is a pro when it comes to branding, marketing and advertising; in 2002, she was named Advertising Woman of the Year. In 2010, she launched If We Ran the World, a platform that turns ideas into action, just one year after launching website Make Love Not Porn. In addition, she serves as an adviser to tech startups, such as Behance.
In February 2011, Jackson founded JumpThru, an accelerator for women-owned tech companies; but this isn’t her only foray into the world of tech entrepreneurship. She’s the managing director of the angel investor group Golden Seeds, the co-founder of Women Innovate Mobile (with Kelly Hoey and Veronika Sonsev), and the founder of Plum Alley, an ecommerce company to promote female-founded companies that’s set to launch this fall.
In 2003, Jen Bekman departed from the online world she had spent years in, working at companies including New York Online, AOL, Meetup and Netscape. Her next move would be a big step into the art world. Bekman founded her eponymous art gallery in Manhattan; four years later, she launched 20×200, an online gallery that sold prints starting at $20. Bekman is also the founder of Jen Bekman Projects, which includes the international photo competition “Hey, Hot Shot.” Since its launch, 20×200 has sold more than 180,000 prints, and Bekman has raised $3 million in capital from True Ventures and others.
This Stanford alum and former Google Maps product manager co-founded Polyvore, a fashion trendspotting site currently with 15 million unique visitors, in 2007. Polyvore has partnered with fashion magnates Tory Burch, Bergdorf Goodman and Heidi Klum for ad campaigns, helping the startup catapult to become the biggest fashion site on the web, with $22.1 million in funding. Lee’s mother ran her own Japanese and English translation business, which inspired Lee to become an entrepreneur herself.
Through Change the Ratio, TheLi.st (her new media venture which just received funding from the Knight Foundation) and her advisory duties to companies including Lover.ly, The Daily Muse and Hashable, Sklar helps women — and she’s eager to point out, dudes, too! — navigate the testosterone-filled waters of tech. She founded Change the Ratio in spring 2010 to bring awareness to all the great work women are accomplishing.
Pahlka is a graduate of Yale University and began her career in the non-profit sector. In 2009, she founded Code for America, which connects developers with governments to improve services for citizens; it received a $1.5 million grant from Google in 2011. Pahlka is perhaps known for her TED talk, Coding a Better Government, in which she says “we will not fix government until we fix citizenship.” She lives in Oakland, Calif. with her daughter and several chickens.
Before founding The Daily Muse, Minshew and Cavoulacos both had experience in management consulting, drawing upon those skills to create a career platform and job discovery tool serving hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide. Along with third founder Melissa McCreery, they launched the site in September 2011, helping 250,000 women advance their careers within the first five months alone. In February, they launched company profiles: job boards and listings that are more visual and engaging than typical career sites.
Stone, Camahort Des Jardins founded BlogHer in 2005 after asking the question: Where are the women who blog? The hosted an event that lured hundreds of women together, and from there built BlogHer into a media company and ad network with more than 40 million unique visitors a month and 3,000 blog partners.
When searching for a business idea, Beauchamp and Barna, who met at Harvard Business School, noticed that the beauty product industry needed major improvements as far as online retail went. They created Birchbox, a subscription service that delivers women a box of four or five deluxe beauty samples every month, allowing for a more hands-on sampling and beauty experience. Founded in 2010, the unique idea landed them a seed investment of $1.4 million, followed by a Series A round of $10.5 million. Birchbox hit its third year’s sales target in just seven months and launched Birchbox Man earlier this year after the company racked up 100,000 subscribers.
Khalil decided to take a piece of the $99 billion wedding pie (cake?) after seeing the industry’s revenue numbers (her sister Leila Lewis runs the wedding public relations agency Be Inspired PR). In January, she launched Lover.ly, a visual search engine and cloud scrapbook for everything wedding-related; content is tagged for color, season, location and brand to make it immensely searchable. Khalil has raised $1 million in seed funding and seeks to be the top destination for wedding planning.
Remember that time an astronaut used Foursquare to check in from space? That’s just one example of the kind of out-of-this-world thinking Leslie Bradshaw implements at JESS3, the agency known for its deep understanding of the digital space, specializing in social media marketing, web design, infographics and data visualization. With clients including Nike, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, Bradshaw and team have increased revenue by more than 4,000%, distinguishing themselves as a top interactive agency. Bradshaw sees herself and her company as the Ginger Rogers to Madison Avenue’s Fred Astaire: doing everything they’re doing, only backwards and in heels.
Assistant Director at Mayor Bloomberg’s Office. Senior Analyst at New York’s Department of Education. Senior Analyst at the Long Beach Public Works Department. These aren’t exactly the credits one associates with a tech entrepreneur. But PublicStuff’s Lily Liu is coupling that experience in the public sector with the power of social media and mobile strategies to better connect the public with their local governments. PublicStuff helps municipalities save $360,000 annually with its comprehensive backend CRM system, revolutionizing 311 for good.
Draper grew up in Silicon Valley (her dad is VC Tim Draper) and started her career as a co-star on Nickelodeon show The Naked Brothers Band, created and produced by her aunt, Polly Draper. Soon afterward, she launched a web series, “The Valley Girl Show” featuring interviews with big-name business and tech personalities, such as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley and more (the show is syndicated on Mashable). In 2010, Draper’s company, Valley Girl Media Network, purchased Lalawag, a tech and culture blog in Los Angeles.
While working on the Hill, Marci Harris noticed that the world is saturated with customer service, with one noteworthy exception: Congress. That is, until she built POPVOX. This nonpartisan delivery mechanism, founded in 2010, allows users to comment publicly under an alias; their feedback, name and address is then privately routed to members of Congress. POPVOX opens a simple channel of communication between members and the public, promoting transparency and action.
Think of One Jackson as Etsy meets Polyvore — it’s an ecommerce platform for original kids clothing that’s created by indie designers, picked by you and manufactured by the people behind Vince, Rag & Bone and Tory Burch. The Stanford alum has had an illustrious marketing and product career at companies including eBay, SurveyMonkey, Zazzle, Gymboree and Blue Nile, where she was a member of the founding team. She’s a mother of three and founded One Jackson to offer an outlet for high-quality kids fashion that lets tots express their individuality and creativity.
An entrepreneur since her early twenties, native New Zealander Victoria Ransom co-founded Wildfire Inc prior to receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School. What started as a small adventure travel company has become a social media marketing firm catering to over 16,000 brands. Ransom has been featured in numerous publications and named one of the “25 Women to Watch in Tech” by Accenture. On July 31, 2012, Ransom and her co-founder Alain Chuard announced Wildfire had been acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum.
Jen, who has a background in engineering and software development, founded Meebo with her friends Seth Sternberg and Elaine Wherry in 2005. They had one goal: to streamline online engagement and connections. The result was a consumer Internet company that organizes the Web around people for faster access to relevant information. As of June, Meebo had raised $62.5 million before it was acquired by Google.
With a background in technology and innovation, Sara Holoubek founded Luminary Labs to help companies in transition develop resilient business models; clients include LexisNexis, BMW and Drop.io. Before founding Luminary Labs, Holoubek served as Chief Strategy Officer for iCrossing and as president of SEMPO, a global trade marketing organization for the search marketing industry. She also serves on the New York Board of Directors of the Step Up Women’s Network. For her contributions to the tech community, Holoubek received the PepsiCo Win Award in 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of this story presented 41 female founders. We’ve since added three women who are co-founders to women on the original list.