The discussion about gender equality in the workplace is not new. Anyone working in tech knows that women are not well represented in technical or founder roles. In fact, according to the United States Department of Labor, women make up roughly half of the total U.S. workforce, yet less than a third of tech employees. Additionally, only 17 percent of companies have at least one female founder.
"The research showed that women engineering undergraduates paired with a female mentor were less anxious and less likely to drop out of their courses," said Melinda Gates in CNET. "As a woman in tech, I've seen the difference mentors have made in my own life. And as someone who cares a lot about changing tech's male-dominated culture, I want to know: How can we encourage mentoring for the next generation of industry leaders?"
Empowering young women through valuable mentorship opportunities is just one way we can help to close the gender gap in the technology industry. With the right mentors in place, women will continue to inspire the next generation of technology experts. With that mind, let's take a look at some of the most successful female-founded tech startups in San Francisco:
San Francisco's Top Female Tech Founders
Early in her career, Kamakshi Sirvaramakrishnan turned down several job opportunities from investment banks to pursue a less predictable path at AdMob. The decision to pursue her true interest — mining data to decrypt consumer purchasing behavior — proved to be a worthwhile endeavor. Sivaramakrishnan would later move on to found one of the fastest-growing tech companies.
Drawbridge is a San Mateo-based tech startup that uses a proprietary algorithm to better understand how users interact with online advertisements across various interfaces including smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The platform provides marketing agencies with a 360-degree view of their target audiences. They were named one of CB Insights' 100 Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Companies in 2017 and Fortune's 50 Leading Startups in AI. In total, the tech startup has raised $53.7 million in funding from leading investors including Sequoia Capital, Northgate Capital, and others.
Sirvaramakrishnan's advice for other women in tech? Do your research.
"Logic and sound reasoning and a sense of conviction has played to my strengths," said Sirvaramakrishnan in an interview with Business Insider. "Notice I'm not saying 'be confident,' 'sound convincing,' 'have a positive attitude,' 'do your thing,' 'be charming,' 'believe in yourself,' 'have swagger' — no. Do your research."
Denise Thomas created ApplePie Capital after noticing a huge problem in the franchise sector. Most franchisees simply aren't equipped with the expertise to properly value or leverage their personal and business equity. The result? Franchisees often pledge far too much to secure their first or second location. ApplePie solves this problem by providing franchisees with customized financial roadmaps that maximize liquidity so units open on schedule, and with multi-unit funding commitments that provide certainty of funding throughout their roll-out. Franchisees are connected with ideal investors via ApplePie's easy-to-use online platform.
In addition to ApplePie, Thomas has founded three companies and held executive and management positions with OffRoad Capital, Onyx Microcomputer, and National Semiconductor. ApplePie has raised $54.2 million in funding to date from investors including Fifth Third Capital, Signia Venture Partners, and QED Investors.
"I am in financial services, which is predominantly male and I am one of very few women in my role as a CEO of a FinTech company, said Thomas in an interview with Forbes. "I meet with a lot of Wall Street firms and I have only sat across the table from two female decision makers in my industry." If nothing else, I stand out and am remembered. What my colleagues tell me is that I am refreshing, trusted, and take people a bit by surprise. There are times when I am underestimated and that usually works in my favor in negotiations."
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After graduating from Cornell University and Harvard Business School, Goldstein held a number of jobs on Wall Street, including portfolio trader, industry analyst, and chief financial officer. After reducing her work hours as an outsourced CFO to start a family, Goldstein noticed a huge gap in the accounting software market.
While tools like Quickbooks were useful, none of them provided workflow automation. This realization led to the creation of Scalus. The digital platform provides a fully-configured technology stack that can handle everything from a company's HR, fund administration, and operations. Scalus has raised more than $10 million in funding.
Raking the leaves, installing a bookcase, or doing some light repair work has never been easier. TaskRabbit's digital platform connects users with qualified laborers who are ready to complete those simple tasks in exchange for an hourly rate.
Leah Busque founded the tech startup in 2008 with the goal of "helping people connect and get more done, everyday." Since that time, Task Rabbit has raised a whopping $37.6 million in funding and was acquired by Ikea last September.
Her advice to other startup founders? "Don’t be afraid someone will steal your idea; the reward is exponential versus the risk. Gather a good group of mentors and advisers early on. And if you have an idea you are really passionate about, see how far you can take it," said Busque in an interview with American Express.
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Scollar is the world's first hardware-enabled and multi-functional wearable for pets. With their simple and easy-to-use smart collars, mobile app, and cloud offerings, Scollar allows pet owners to manage all animal care issues within one convenient system. Scollar products are also built in an open platform environment, allowing veterinarians, product manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, pet care service providers, and suppliers to develop additional functionality as needed.
"Because we created Scollar as a hardware enabled, open platform, we can easily move into other animal industries to create the same value. We are in discussions with ranchers to create Scollar Ranch to bring efficiencies and increased profits to the $61 billion cattle industry in the U.S. We have also been approached by other companies to white label our smart collars to work with other animal industry initiatives," said CEO + Founder, Lisa Tamayo.
This year, among these and other partnership discussions, Scollar will unveil Scollar Mini, Scollar Trek, and launch their web store on Amazon Exclusives. Scollar is committed to helping consumers improve the health and wellbeing of their animals, whether it is a companion animal, working canine, or vital member of a rancher's herd.
Tamayo's advice for other startup founders? Become an expert.
"Become an absolute expert in your industry. Read everything you can get your hands on about trends, research, competitors, exits, and more. Be prepared to defend your assumptions about why you will succeed, explain your rationale for your solution and ability to grow your market with it, and create a company culture that people will want to be a part of. Be prepared to answer the question you dread most. Investors bet on the people more than the technology," said Tamayo.
San Francisco Female Tech Founders
Building a tech company is difficult. Each of these talented women spent countless hours building something they believed in and were fiercely passionate about. The result? Their hard work, skill, and determination has helped them launch products and services that continue to disrupt entire industries.
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