10 Women-Run Startup Founders You Should Know

Over the past few years, both the total number and overall percentage of female founders at GAN Startups have increased drastically. One data point that proves it: In 2014, only 17% of GAN Startups had a female member of the founding team. In 2017, that number increased to 46%. Meaning, 46% out of all the 1,700 founders who were in a GAN Accelerator in 2017 identified as female.

There are a handfull of reasons I think this is happening:

  • We’ve made an intentional effort to invite more accelerators into the GAN Community who are focused specifically on female- and minority-run startups (RowadHillman, and VVM, for instance).
  • Accelerators already in GAN for years are increasingly focused on female- and minority-run startups. We’ve seen a lot of strategic partnerships that are providing more opportunities, like the ones between Tampa Bay Wave and Nielsen or Start Co. and The Jump Fund.
  • Though still a disproportionately small chunk of the pie, more women and minority founders are getting access and opportunity to run companies overall, thanks to funding from groups like Backstage and Kapor. And, more women and minorities are at the table to make funding decisions, like the inaugural class of VCs in the First Round Angel Track.
  • The stories of women entrepreneurs are being shared, not only centering the voices of women running companies but building greater community between them. Like in this new magazine, Good Company, from the well-known blogger and entrepreneur who started Design*Sponge, Grace Bonney. It features stories of women and non-binary entrepreneurs at every stage of life.

And, back in 2016, GAN made a five-year commitment, along with Obama’s White House Startup America Initiative, to see parity reached among women holding executive roles at accelerators and startups in the GAN Community. Based on the numbers we’re seeing, we’re getting close to hitting that goal. And we expect continued improvements in the years to come. For now, it’s encouraging to know that so many female founders are not only finding more of the support they need, but they’re thriving because of it (often requiring less funding to make even more revenue).

Just to Name a Few

So I wanted to hear some stories of GAN Startups who are building amazing companies, have a unique product, or have accomplished something that’s worth sharing—who all happen to be run by women. To do so, I reached out to a bunch of Managing Directors at GAN Accelerators and our startup engagement contacts at GAN Partners to hear some of their favorites. And I didn’t want to keep those stories to myself. Here’s what they said:

Melanie Igwe
Founder and COO of Ilerasoft
Accelerator: Hillman Accelerator
llerasoft is the brainchild of two passionate co-founders who both saw waste and inefficiency in one of the most cost-intensive areas of healthcare, capital planning, and budgeting. The founders of Ilerasoft agreed that—for true financial discipline to be actualized—there needed to be a standard. The Efficiency Score is that standard. The Efficiency Score, which is like a credit score for medical equipment, harnesses IoT/RTLS, along with 15 other unique data points, to provide financial metrics and recommendations for enhanced operations and to improve future purchasing decisions.

Shuchi Vyas
Founder of GuestBox
Accelerator: Tampa Bay WaVE
GuestBox is a tool to help hotels, vacation rental managers, and Airbnb hosts boost guest loyalty. They provide immense value to a host’s listing with curated amenities for them to welcome their guests. Each box comes with luxury items, a combination of toiletries, skincare items, and snacks. Products are natural, organic, healthy and welcoming. Many are by female-founded and female-led companies. Going forward, they plan to showcase more products from up-and-coming female and minority entrepreneurs from across the US.

Lindsey Tropf
Founder and CEO of Immersed Games
Accelerator: Tampa Bay WaVE
Immersed Games is an EdTech company with an audacious vision for how games can be used to empower student learning. They’re building an inspiration platform where students can spark their love of learning and be empowered to reach their full potential. One day, while playing World of Warcraft, Lindsey turned to her husband Ryan and asked where to find something. When he rattled off the right character, in the right city, on the right continent in the game, she realized how much we all learn, simply through the act of play. But, while she knew so much, that information didn’t really matter outside of the game world. So, enamored with the concept, she Lindsey went through a doctoral program to study learning theory, where she increasingly realized that online game could prove to be an incredible platform for learning and eventually created Immersed Games.

Yasmine Mustafa
Founder at ROAR for Good
Program: Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs
Every day, women face the threat of harassment, assault, and violence. So Yasmine and her team set off to do something about it. What started off as a solo journey of a lifetime turned into a global mission to impact generations. After a trip to South America, Yasmine returned to Philadelphia and developed a wearable product that pairs with users’ phones, allowing them to share their location with trusted networks via mobile text alerts.

Kristian Kimbro Rickard
CEO of doyenne360
Accelerator: Start Co.
Kristian’s company, doyenne360, is working to increase access and understanding of STEM by deploying IoT, analysts, and workforce training solutions. Beginning in the education space, doyenne360 is striving to close the technology gap in Tennessee (USA).

Stephanie Cummings
CEO of Please Assist Me
Accelerator: Start Co.
Stephanie started Please Assist Me with the vision to create a work-life balance for the working professional. Her vision is that personal assistants are not something just for the power brokers of the world, but a resource for working single parents, injured veterans, the elderly, and anyone else who you might not traditionally associate with having a personal assistant.

Felicity Conrad
CEO and Founder of Paladin
Programs: Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs & Techstars Chicago
Paladin takes the busy work out of pro bono so that your team can focus on making an impact in your community. Their platform eliminates the need for hand-crafted emails to track down individuals who want to get involved.

Najma Ghuloom
Co-Founder of Majra
Accelerator: SeedFuel Rowad
Majra is a recruitment platform with a focus on matching based on culture and personality fit. What separates Majra from various other employment channels is its emphasis on the personal aspect of recruitment processes—often overlooked by other services. Be it enabling job seekers to highlight their personalities beyond their professional work or encouraging companies to share their culture and environment, their objective is to connect young people with purposeful careers.

Akshaya Shanmugam
Founder of Lumme
Accelerator: Valley Venture Mentors
Akshaya developed a platform combining wearable technology, machine learning, and behavioral psychology for smokers who want to quit with broader applications for addiction treatment. Wearable devices sense the smoker’s movements and predict a likely relapse. A notification tells them not to light up and suggests helpful interventions and alternatives to smoking—about six minutes before cravings hit with 90%+ accuracy in recent trials. Akshaya and Lumme have raised $1.7 million in non-dilutive SBIR funding and she was recently named a Forbes 30 under 30.

Laurel Wider
Founder of Wonder Crew
Accelerator: Valley Venture Mentors
Laurel shared her outlook on the VVM process: “I pitched a crazy idea, dolls for boys, and this community met me with sheer support. VVM helped me actualize my concept into a successful business. The grant that I won was instrumental in bridging a funding gap until I found the right partner. Prior to Wonder Crew, I didn’t know a thing about business. One of the coolest things about VVM is that no experience is required.” Now, her dolls are on the shelves of every Walmart and Target store in the country. She recently won Doll of the Year at the TOTY Awards. And is now a sought-after thought leader on gender, toys, and early education. Check out this recent NYTimes article for more on Laurel and Wonder Crew.


Photo Credit: CreateHER Stock