July 18, 2018
Category archive


Apple emoji will soon include people with curly hair, white hair and superpowers

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In honor of World Emoji Day (yes, that’s a thing), Apple is previewing some of its upcoming emoji. Later this year, Apple’s emoji set will feature people with a variety of hairstyles and colors, including curly hair, red hair and white hair. What you’re about to see are simply Apple’s take on emoji that were previously approved by the Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee.

Folks with curly hair, rejoice!

Let’s hear it for the red heads


Like white on rice


No hair? No problem


Other fun emoji include a freezing face, peacock, mango, lobster, nazar amulet, superheroes and kangaroo.

Back in March, Apple proposed new emojis to represent people with disabilities in Unicode’s next batch of emoji. Then in May, Unicode announced some of the draft candidates for its next emoji release in Q1 2019 to include some of Apple’s proposed emoji, which featured a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid and more. If you want to hear more about what goes into emoji approval, be sure to check out this interview with Jeremy Burge, vice-chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee.


News Source = techcrunch.com

These 50 founders and VCs suggest 2018 may be a tipping point for women in tech: Part 2

in alyssa ravasio/Cindy Mi/Delhi/Diversity/India/marcela sapone/Politics/Preethi Kasireddy/ruzwana bashir/Shan-Lyn Ma/Steph Korey/talent/TC/Venture Capital/women founders by

On Friday, we featured 25 founders and VCs who are having a notable 2018 — and who happen to be women. Herewith, 25 more who deserve some kudos for getting it done in the first half of this year. This list, meant to highlight the growing number of women with interesting companies or starting venture firms to watch, could easily be several times longer, we’re gleefully aware. Please feel free to tweet us or nominate in our comments section other women who’ve reached a particular milestone in 2018 and should be included in future profiles of female leaders who are on the rise, along with their organizations.

Shan-Lyn Ma, founder and CEO of Zola

Shan-Lyn Ma has huge ambitions for her wedding registry startup Zola, and her investors clearly trust her instincts. Indeed, Ma — a former executive with the e-commerce companies Gilt Groupe and Chloe + Isabel  — originally started Zola to reinvent the traditional registry process. Now, Ma sees instead an opportunity to eventually address every need a young couple may have, from caterers to Cuisinarts, to eventually, perhaps, even home mortgages.

It’s well on its way, connecting engaged couples to 600 brands and 60,000 products. With the $100 million in Series D funding that Zola closed last month, its technology will presumably only grow more efficient — and ubiquitous. “Right now, we’re investing for growth. But we’re marching toward that goal where we are a huge company, serving companies across the entire wedding-planning journey, and have a business that supports that mission. Absolutely,” she tells us.

Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of Solv

For nine years, Stanford MBA Heather Mirjahangir Fernandez led advertising product, marketing and sales strategy for Trulia, which builds tools and sells subscription services to real estate agents. But after Trulia was acquired by Zillow, Fernandez decided she’d learned enough to become a founder herself, co-founding Solv, a healthcare startup that, in the words of Forbes, “wants to do for urgent care what OpenTable did for restaurants, by bringing transparent pricing and easy-to-book appointments to the industry.”

There’s “something working in healthcare today, and it’s a category called convenient care,” Fernandez, who is CEO, told the outlet. Investors think Solv is particularly adept at booking urgent care visits through its products, providing the company with $21 million, including $16.8 million that Solv closed this past May.

Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller, co-founders, Mented Cosmetics

Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller met as Harvard Business School classmates. Now, they’re the founders of Mented, a cosmetics company for women of color whose message, and products — including nude lipsticks that match deeper skin tones — is resonating. As Miller told Forbes last fall, “Girls have been tagging their friends in their posts . . . Women of color were used to being treated as an afterthought. It’s not every day that you’re a priority.”

The company seems to be at the top of investors’ minds, certainly. After closing $1 million in seed funding last year, the outfit last month closed another $3 million round of funding that Johnson and Miller are using to expand Mented’s product range, which currently includes lip glosses, eyeshadows, nail polishes and accessories aimed at helping spread the word.

Jen Rubio and Steph Korey, co-founders of Away

Jen Rubio and Steph Korey met while working at eyeglass outfit Warby Parker, and they together spied what looked like a gap in the market between junky travel offerings that threatened to fall apart and richly priced luggage that was too expensive for even gainfully employed millennials.

Their solution was Away, which makes “first-class luggage at coach price,” which Rubio and Corey say they can offer by selling directly to consumers, rather than through third parties that would eat into profit margins. The price belies some sophistication: Away’s polycarbonite bags come with 100 parts, including a lithium-ion battery located underneath the handle that travelers can eject to remain compliant with airline policies and which investors seem to like. Indeed, just last week, they provided the company with $50 million in fresh funding led by earlier investors Forerunner Ventures, Global Founders Capital and Comcast Ventures. Away has now raised $81 million altogether.

Lea von Bidder, co-founder and CEO of Ava

Lea von Bidder knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. She trained for it, nabbing degrees in entrepreneurship at Zhejiang University, Purdue University and Ecode de Management de Lyon while also burnishing her operating skills via a marketing stint at Proctor & Gamble, and strategy consulting at Estrin & Co. in Paris.

All would lead to Ava, a med-tech startup that has been called the Fitbit for fertility because of its popular tracking bracelet that monitors nine physiological parameters to help detect users’ fertility windows, from breathing rate to pulse rate to temperature. Indeed, despite plenty of competition from other ovulation trackers, investors think Ava is on to something, providing the company with $30 million in Series B funding late last month. The majority of Ava’s new funding came from earlier investors, with prominent European VC firms btov and SVC also joining the round.

Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy, co-founders of Modern Fertility

A San Francisco-based startup called Modern Fertility wants to educate women about their reproductive health much earlier in their lives, enabling them to become more “proactive” instead of reactive, says co-founder and CEO Afton Vechery, a former product manager at the genetic testing company 23andMe and, before that, an analyst at a healthcare-focused private equity firm. In both jobs, Vechery learned of the growing number of companies that are empowering customers with information about their own bodies. At 23andMe in particular, she also came to appreciate the importance of making that information affordable. Indeed, after shelling out $1,500 for tests run by a reproductive endocrinologist to get a better picture of her own reproductive health, Vechery and her friend and co-founder Carly Leahy, a creative strategist, set out to create similar tests that one needn’t be a Rockefeller to order.

The product they built — an at-home finger-prick hormone test that sells for $199 — is something investors are betting will take off. The day that the tests were made available to customers for the first time, in late May, Modern Fertility also announced $6 million in funding, co-led by Maveron and Union Square Ventures.

Sarah Smith, partner at Bain Capital Ventures

Sarah Smith spent roughly five years at Facebook in a variety of roles before logging another roughly five years at the question-and-answers site Quora, where she served as the company’s vice president of advertising sales and operations. While Smith was gaining operating expertise, the one-time music education major knew she wanted to break into the world of venture capital. Part of that effort included helping out Village Global, a young venture firm that relies on a network of entrepreneurs and angel investors as deal scouts, and is backed by big wheels like Reid Hoffman and Bill Gates. Smith also worked three years as a partner with Graph Ventures, a seven-year-old, early-stage investment group, where she sourced 20 deals, including Winnie, whose founders we featured here. As Smith recently told Forbes, “When I thought about the next steps in my career, [venture capital] seemed the best way to work with multiple companies.”

Ultimately, Smith decided that the best place to do that is with Bain Capital Ventures, which recruited Smith as its first female investing partner in late May — a big deal, considering the firm has been up and running for 17 years. For Smith, the opportunity isn’t merely to help BCV reshape its thinking and (likely) attract more female founders, it’s also a chance for her to write bigger checks to startups, given that BCV is currently investing out of a $600 million fund (and is likely to close another big fund in the not-too-distant future).

Preethi Kasireddy, founder and CEO of TruStory

Investing in initial coin offerings, or ICOs, is a minefield. This isn’t just true for people with absolutely no technical background but also for many investors who may be well-versed in tech but still struggle to understand many projects’ white papers. Enter L.A.-based TruStory, a platform for users to research and validate claims that people make online, whether in a blog post, white paper, website or social media post. The young company’s aim is to “bring authenticity back into the digital and decentralized world.”

At least it will be when it gets built. Right now, investors are betting entirely on the talents of TruStory’s founder, Preethi Kasireddy, a USC grad who studied industrial and systems engineering before taking a job as a banking analyst with Goldman Sachs after graduating and, later, a role with Andreessen Horowitz’s deals group. A third job, with the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, would lead her to teach herself software engineering, enabling her to architect and implement the front-end interfaces and APIs required for the integration of Ethereum onto Coinbase’s brokerage platform, among other things. Maybe it’s no wonder that investors, including Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, gave TruStory $3 million in funding this year, given Kasireddy’s penchant for getting things done.

Nicky Goulimis, co-founder and CEO of Nova Credit

There are more than 50 million immigrants in the U.S. and Canada, and more than 240 million immigrants around the world. In fact, immigrants account for one of the fastest-growing demographics in the world and are expected to drive more than 80 percent of population growth in developed economies. Yet when they arrive in the U.S. as students or for work, they’re basically credit invisible. Nova Credit, a three-year-old, San Francisco-based startup, is trying to address the issue by providing lenders, property managers and other businesses with real-time international credit reports in order for them to acquire immigrant consumers from around the world.

The company’s founder, Nicky Goulimis, a native of Greece who grew up in the U.K., came up with the idea while attending Stanford’s grad school, where she quickly discovered the problems she faced — including difficulty in getting an apartment without a U.S. credit report (no choice but to pay several months’ rent up front), getting a credit card (which involved having to use small amounts on a very limited card, pay it off, then ask for a progressively larger credit line) — have been the case for all internationals relocating to the U.S. for years. In fact, her two co-founders — Misha Esipov, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Russia, and Loek Janssen, who arrived at Stanford from the Netherlands — experienced the same things.

The good news: investors see opportunity in addressing the issue. Earlier this year, General Catalyst and Index Ventures led a $16 million Series A round in Nova Credit. First Round Capital, Nyca and Y Combinator also joined the financing.

Casey Lynch, co-founder and CEO of Cortexyme

Cortexyme, a five-year-old, South San Francisco-based developer of Alzheimer’s disease therapeutics, raised $76 million in Series B funding at the end of last month, including from Sequoia Capital, Vulcan Capital and Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences subsidiary.

The company’s CEO? Casey Lynch, a serial entrepreneur with a background in Alzheimer’s research at both UCSF and Stanford, whose biggest fear is that our bodies are living ever longer, while our brains have the same short half-life. She’s trying to do something about it, too. Specifically, Cortexyme believes that toxic bacterial proteins secrete enzymes that digest our brain cells, causing our neurons to fall apart. Toward that end, Lynch’s company has looked at dozens of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains to confirm that the proteins are causing the problem, not merely correlated with it. Whether the narrow antibiotic that Cortexyme is developing to take on these proteins will work remains an open question, but clearly investors — including early backer Breakout Ventures, a venture firm that counts Peter Thiel as its anchor investor — think it has a shot.

Stephanie Alsbrooks and Georgine Muntz, co-founders, defi SOLUTIONS

People in Silicon Valley circles don’t know Stephanie Alsbrooks or Georgine Muntz, but their five-year-old, Texas-based company, defi SOLUTIONS, certainly caught the attention of the folks at Bain Capital Ventures, which provided it with $55 million in the company in January.

What’s the attraction? For starters, Alsbrooks and Muntz have spent the last 14 years, collectively, in the world of auto finance; the experience makes them as well-positioned as any to run a software-as-a-service business aimed at the auto-lending industry. It’s also a huge industry. In 2016, the total balance of auto loans outstanding in the U.S. hit a record $1.2 trillion.

Bain also insists that defi gives lenders far more control and configurability so they can manage a loan’s entire life cycle without expensive and oft-delayed professional services. That’s a big deal in a world not known for being especially insightful about customers’ pain points.

Alexandra Zatarain, co-founder and CMO of Eight

Alexandra Zatarain was born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, where most of her family lived, before she set out for New York and a job in public relations. Zatarain might have stayed in PR, too, if not for her father, who was struck with terminal cancer and suffered the loss of strength and body heat that afflicts so many cancer sufferers. It made Zatarain — missing him from 4,400 miles away — wonder what a product might look that could have monitored him remotely, as well as made him more comfortable.

Enter Eight, an online mattress company Zatarain created four years ago with three co-founders, whose beds also track users’ sleep, allows them to set the ideal temperature for both sides of their bed and sets “smart alarms.” The startup, which already sells three models of mattresses, ranging in price from $699 to $1,299, is certainly a soothing proposition to investors. Earlier this year, Eight raised $14 million in Series B funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from Y Combinator and Yunqi Partners. The company has now raised $27 million altogether.

Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck, co-founders of Hello Alfred

Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck didn’t set out to create a startup that handles people chores, one to-do item at a time. The friends, who met while at Harvard Business School, decided to explore the idea after they hired help from Craigslist to help with their own laundry and grocery shopping, splitting the cost and attracting the attention of acquaintances in the process. “It was a little bit of an accident,” Sapone once told Business Insider. “We built the product for ourselves, and over time people in our apartment building said ‘Hey, can I get in on that?’”

Fast-forward and their four-year-old, New York-based company, Hello Alfred, now relies on a growing flock of trained home helpers who help customers of their company with all kinds of chores on a once-a-week basis, enabling the company to charge the kind of monthly subscription fee that investors like to see. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, Hello Alfred closed on $40 million in fresh funding led by real estate developers Divco West and Invesco, with participation from Spark Capital and New Enterprise Associates. The company has now raised more than $52 million altogether.

Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier, co-founders of LOLA

Launched in 2015, LOLA’s founders Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier formed a company around an idea that they thought stood a chance of challenging industry giants Tampax and Playtex: 100 percent organic feminine products. As Kier told TechCrunch a couple of weeks ago, “We founded LOLA with a simple and seemingly obvious idea — as women, we shouldn’t have to compromise when it comes to our reproductive health.” Indeed, Kier said, “Like most women, we’d been using the same feminine care products since we were teenagers. But when we found out that brands — including the same ones we were loyal to all those years — aren’t required to disclose exactly what’s in their products, it made us wonder: what’s in our tampon?”

Smart question — and clearly one that Kier and Friedman were alone in asking, given the company appears to be growing at a healthy clip. It’s direct-to-consumer subscription approach — it ships out tampons, pads and liners that are made only with organic cotton and don’t contain fragrances or dyes — appeals to investors, too. Earlier this month, the company closed on $24 million in Series B funding led by Alliance Consumer Growth, with participation from Spark Capital, Lerer Hippeau and Brand Foundry Ventures. The company has now raised just north of $35 million altogether.

Alyssa Ravasio, founder and CEO of Hipcamp

Alyssa Ravasio always loved the outdoors and according to a recent Forbes profile, headed to a developer boot camp after striking on the idea of creating a site filled with everything a camper needs to know about state and national campgrounds, including, say, a nearby surf break they might want to check out. An even bigger insight would come later: that there was an opportunity to partner with private land owners to give camper’s the kind of experience they can’t enjoy at a crowded campground.

Enter Hipcamp, a now five-year-old, San Francisco-based operator of a site for travelers to discover and book camping experiences, and which raised $9.5 million in Series A funding last month led by Benchmark. It’s a big deal for the company, and gives it more ammunition to compete against a newer, New York-based competitor called Tentrr that raised $8 million in Series A funding earlier this year and is making its way West this summer.

Ruzwana Bashir, founder and CEO of Peek

Ruzwana Bashir, a native of England born to Pakistanti immigrant parents, has said that she was always an explorer, including while studying at Oxford, working in investment banking and private equity at Goldman Sachs and Blackstone and dabbling in the startup world — at Gilt Groupe and Art.sy — before jumping into entrepreneurship.

Why make the leap? Because of 20 hours spent trying to plan a friend’s birthday in Istanbul, after which it occurred to Bashir that it’d be awfully nice if there were simply a one-stop that helped users discover what to do on their trips and which vendors to use to do it.

So began Peek, a now six-year-old, San Francisco-based “OpenTable for the $100 billion activities market,” as Bashir has described it, that now claims to offer 10,000 experiences in the U.S., Mexico and numerous European cities. The vision has struck a chord with investors, too. Just two weeks ago, the company closed on $23 million in Series B funding led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from numerous individual investors. The company has now raised $40 million altogether.

Lisa Shields, founder of Hyperwallet

In mid-June, PayPal announced that it’s paying $400 million in cash for Hyperwallet, an 18-year-old, Bay Area-based company that helps people and small businesses receive payments for products and services that they sell, including through the vacation rental platform HomeAway and the skin care marketing company Rodan & Fields. What was the allure? Well, Hyperwallet interlinks cash networks, card schemes and mobile money services with domestic ACH networks around the world to enable what it characterizes as “disruptively priced” and, as crucially, compliant mass payments.

If you think the company was flying low, its founder, and former CEO Lisa Shields, seems to fly even lower, despite her bona fides as an entrepreneur. Indeed, the MIT-trained engineer, who originally launched Hyperwallet in Vancouver, last year founded a second company called FI.SPAN, which is an API management platform that aims to allow banks to quickly deploy new business banking products. Before switching gears, however, she was presented with an Entrepreneur of the Year award by EY in 2015, where she’d said she was “honored and humbled, not to mention surprised.”

Cindy Mi, founder and CEO of VIPKid

Cindy Mi started building a global education marketplace from day one with her online education company, VIPKid, which matches Chinese students with North American teachers. The reason, she says: She’d start teaching younger children English at age 15, and she felt, even then, that she was helping to empower these children for a future where the world is increasingly connected.

Following her dream of scaling that effort is certainly paying off, for Mi, for teachers and for students. According to VIPKid, the online company now matches more than 30,000 North American teachers with more than 200,000 primarily Chinese students for one-on-one sessions in English that give teachers extra money and the flexibility to teach when they can. The platform also enables parents to provide the kind of education for their children that might not be available in their own backyards. As for VIPKid, it reportedly brought in $760 million in revenue last year, more than double what it garnered in 2016. Perhaps it’s no wonder that in June, Mi’s company announced a fresh $500 million, at a whopping $3 billion valuation.

Carmen Chang, general partner and head of Asia at New Enterprise Associates

Carmen Chang knows the ins and outs of startups in China as well as anyone, having headed up Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s corporate and securities practice in China before getting plucked out of the global law firm by venture heavyweight New Enterprise Associates, whose China practice she has led for the last five years.
Indeed, if there was any surprise in NEA’s late May announcement that Chang had been promoted to general partner at the firm — the very first woman to hold that most senior role in NEA’s 39 years of operation — it was that Chang, who received her law degree from Stanford and represents the venture firm on 10 different companies’ boards, didn’t hold the title already.

News Source = techcrunch.com

These 50 founders and VCs suggest 2018 may be a tipping point for women: Part 1

in ankiti bose/Anne Halsall/Daniela Perdomo/Delhi/Diversity/emily weiss/Falon Fatemi/gwyneth paltrow/India/Katie Haun/Laura Deming/Politics/Sara Mauskopf/Sarah Guo/Shruti Merchant/TC/women VC's by

For the last several years, we’ve compiled profiles of women founders and investors at the end of each year because they’ve either raised substantial amounts of money or otherwise achieved notable milestones.

This year, we don’t want to wait until December. We’re too excited about the progress we’re witnessing, with women-led startups getting seed, Series A or later-stage funding each week — all while top venture firms grow more serious about pulling women into their most senior ranks, female VCs band together to fund female founders and other women go about launching their own funds.

Some of you will note that this list is far from comprehensive, and we’ll readily agree with you. But we think it’s better to celebrate the accomplishments of some of the women who deserve attention than try to capture every last person we’d include if only there were more hours in the day.

Herewith, a list of 25 founders and investors who’ve had a pretty good 2018 so far, with a second list of women in the industry coming shortly, so stay tuned.

Brynn Putnam, founder and CEO of Mirror

Harvard grad Brynn Putnam was once a professional ballet dancer, but she may eventually find more fame as a serial founder. Two years after her last performance in 2008 with a ballet company in Montreal, Putnam started a New York-boutique fitness studio, Refine Method, around a high-intensity, interval workout. It would later sprout into three studios in New York and attract the likes of Kelly Ripa and Ivana Trump.

Now, Putnam is using its founding principal — that gym users can wring more from their workout hours — to build yet another business called Mirror. Centered around an at-home device, it looks like a mirror but enables users to see an instructor and classmates for fitness routines like Pilates, all while tracking their performance on screen. Mirror isn’t available to buy yet, but investors are already sold, providing the company with $13 million in funding earlier this year so it can bring its product to fitness buffs everywhere.

Ritu Narayan, co-founder and CEO of Zūm

Ritu Narayan led product management at stalwart tech companies, including Yahoo and eBay, but her biggest challenge eventually became how to ensure that her kids got to where they needed to go during her working hours. She knew she wasn’t alone; there are roughly 73 million children under age 18 in the U.S., many of whom are driven around by frenzied parents who are trying to make it through each day.

Enter Zūm, a now 3.5-year-old company that promises reliable transportation and care for children ages five and older. Zūm isn’t the first kind of Uber for kids. In fact, another competitor, Shuddle, shuttered in 2016 after burning through more than $12 million in funding. But Narayan’s company appears to be doing something right. Earlier this year, Zūm raised $19 million in Series B funding, including from earlier backer Sequoia Capital, which is famously metric driven.

The company has now raised $26.8 million altogether.

Daniela Perdomo, co-founder and CEO, goTenna

When Hurricane Sandy cut off power in and around New York City in the fall of 2012, Daniela Perdomo and her brother, Jorge, were struck by the need for a network that would enable people to call or text even when there’s no Wi-Fi or cell signal. Today, that company, goTenna, is taking off, powered by an early device it created that pairs with a cell phone via Bluetooth to transmit messages using radio frequencies, along with a newer version of the device that allows them to create a kind of mesh network.

To date, the company has sold more than 100,000 units of its devices. It has raised roughly $17 million from VCs. In May, the company also partnered with an outfit called Samourai Wallet to launch an Android app that, beginning this summer, will enable users to send bitcoin payments without an internet connection. The move could prove crucial for some of its customers, particularly in disaster areas.

Chloe Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Medinas Health

Hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of surplus medical supplies are discarded every year, according to Chloe Alpert, the founder of Medinas Health, a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup that uses inventory data and matching software to help big hospitals sell excess equipment to small clinics and nursing homes.

Alpert thinks Medinas can create cost savings for both sides by creating something that’s fast and trustworthy and working with third parties who can disassemble, ship and re-assemble medical equipment.

Investors believe her surplus marketplace has a shot. Her 10-month-old company raised $1 million in funding earlier this year, including from Sound Ventures, Rough Draft Ventures, Precursor Ventures and Trammell Ventures.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, co-founder of Promise

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins was raised by a single mom who occasionally fed her two daughters with food stamps before a union job enabled the three to escape welfare. But that formative experience made a lasting impact. In fact, after graduating from college, Ellis-Lamkins worked for a union that helped organize low-wage home care. By the time she was 26, she was head of the San Jose-based South Bay Labor Council.

Ellis-Lamkins is far from done in her work to ensure that the disadvantaged can prosper. Her newest project: working in partnership with governments that release people from jail on condition that they work with her company, Promise. The big idea: Promise provides support to people caught in the criminal justice system to ensure they can return to their jobs and families until their case in resolved, rather than remain incarcerated because they can’t afford bail. The latter scenario happens all too often, agree VCs. Toward that end, earlier this year a handful of investors — including First Round Capital, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, 8VC and Kapor Capital — provided Promise with $3 million to help put an end to it.

Jesse Genet, founder and CEO of Lumi

In 2014, Jesse Genet was trying to convince a panel of investors on “Shark Tank” to write her a $250,000 check for five percent of her company, which, at the time, sold photo printing kits online. Genet left empty-handed, but she didn’t give up, instead turning her company, Lumi, into a business that designs and supplies beautiful packaging for many top e-commerce companies that sell directly to consumers. It also landed $9 million in funding earlier this year led by Spark Capital, with participation from Forerunner Ventures and earlier investor Homebrew.

It’s been a process, but Genet seems to have anticipated it would be, telling Business Insider back in 2015, “One key thing is not to rush your own business . . . Even if you’re not making a ton of money, that experience of just living the company day-in and day-out, getting that feedback and experience, is something you can never replace.”

Sarah Guo, general partner, Greylock Partners

Sarah Guo didn’t necessarily set out to become a venture capitalist. She certainly didn’t imagine she would become one of the most senior investors at one of the oldest venture firms in the country. Yet Guo is both of these things, having been promoted last month to general partner at 53-year-old Greylock Partners five years after joining the firm as a principal.

For Guo, the appointment caps a lifetime spent in the world of startups. Before joining Greylock, she worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, where she led much of the bank’s coverage of business-to-business tech companies and advised public clients, including Twitter, Netflix, Zynga and Nvidia.

A graduate (for both her undergraduate degree and MBA) of the University of Pennsylvania, Guo also worked previously at Casa Systems, a 15-year-old tech company that develops a software-centric networking platform for cable and mobile service providers and that — in a twist that we think is pretty neat — was founded by her parents.

Charlotte Fudge, founder and CEO of CentralReach

CentralReach builds practice management software for the developmental disabilities sector, with a focus on both research and practice. It isn’t the kind of company to make headlines, but the five-year-old, Pompano Beach, Fla., company managed to attract the attention of powerhouse firm Insight Venture Partners. Insight invested an undisclosed amount of funding in the company earlier this year, some of which CentralReach has already used to acquire Chartlytics, a behavioral change analytics software startup.

For Charlotte Fudge — a registered nurse who founded CentralReach and continues to lead it as its CEO — the developments have to be exciting. She has spent her career focused on people with autism and related disabilities; having the deep-pocketed support of an investor will presumably help her company reach more people than ever.

Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Glossier

Emily Weiss has been called the “millennials’ Estée Lauder.” It didn’t take long for her to get there, either. Indeed, a little more than three years ago, Weiss was still overseeing highly popular blog Into the Gloss when an early meeting with Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures helped move Weiss in a new direction: that of selling beauty products that cost a fraction of what some traditional brands charge and are pared back in every other way, too.

Customers are fanatical about the company, whose Instagram counts 1.2 million followers and counting. Investors love the company’s look, too. In February, Glossier closed on $52 million in Series C funding in a round that it characterized as oversubscribed. The company has now raised $86 million altogether.

Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank

There are powerful women in banking; there are powerful women in tech. Anne Boden is among a small but growing number of powerful women who are straddling both worlds, and her influence seems to grow by the month. The former COO of Allied Irish Banks and a former top executive at RBS and ABN AMRO before that, Boden is now founder and CEO of Starling Bank, a digital-only outfit that does its lending via smartphones, gained its U.K. banking license in 2016 and has big ambitions to expand across much of Europe.

Indeed, as rival challenger bank Revolut eyes the U.S., Starling — which has already raised a reported £48 million by hedge fund manager Harald McPike — is currently looking to raise another £80 million in fresh capital in an investor search that could potentially extend beyond the U.K. The company also quietly blew up a partnership with the fintech unicorn TransferWise, which it had partnered with last year to provide international payments capabilities. As Boden told TechCrunch last month of the move, Starling figured it “could provide a better user experience by doing it ourselves.”

Shruti Merchant, co-founder and CEO of HubHaus

Shruti Merchant (HubHaus) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

When Shruti Merchant dropped out of a med school program in Concord, Calif., to move 40 miles away to San Francisco, she didn’t know anyone, so she and six other people who discovered each other on Craigslist rented a big house together and . . . they became great friends in the process. Merchant was already trying her hand at entrepreneurship, but the experience made her think a bigger idea might center on managing such co-living situations, so she co-founded HubHaus to do exactly that.

So far, so good, it seems. HubHaus, which rents out large houses and subleases out bedrooms, creating housing communities in the process, now oversees dozens of properties in L.A. and San Francisco. It also raised $10 million in Series A funding earlier this year, led by Social Capital.

Kathy Hannun, co-founder and CEO of Dandelion

Nearly straight out of college, Kathy Hannun was brought onto the evaluation team of Alphabet’s X group, which is responsible for coming up with the next “moonshots” for the company. Eventually, she and several colleagues spied an opportunity too good not to pursue independently. The end result: Dandelion Energy, which says it makes “geothermal heating and air conditioning so efficient, it pays for itself.”

Investors certainly don’t mind relying on Dandelion. New Enterprise Associates, BoxGroup and others provided the year-old, Brooklyn-based company with $4.5 million in fresh funding earlier this year, bringing its total funding to $6.5 million to date. The day after the new round closed, Hannun had a baby.

Ran Ma, co-founder and CEO of Siren

Ran Ma spent years as a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University and, before that, as research assistant at Johns Hopkins Hospital, working in nephrology, including as it relates to kidney disease. In those roles, Ma learned plenty, including that kidney disease impacts up to 40 percent of diabetics, and that diabetes afflicts roughly 400 million people — a giant percentage of whom are unable to feel pain from ulcers and gangrene, which can lead to amputations.

It’s those kinds of stats that compelled her to start Siren, a three-year-old, Copenhagen- and San Francisco-based company that’s making textile products that empower their wearers, starting with machine-washable and dryer-proof socks that can measure a wearer’s foot temperature to show him or her what’s going on through a connected app. (A heat spot, for example, can signal a burgeoning infection.) Investors certainly like Ma’s approach to helping diabetics detect potential injuries before they become debilitating. They provided the company with $3.4 million in funding earlier this year. Among those footing the bill: DCM, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.

Nicki Ramsay, founder and CEO of CardUp

After spending roughly eight years with American Express in a variety of roles, Nicki Ramsay spied an unmet need. Specifically, AmEx customers couldn’t use their credit cards to pay for rent or taxes, among other things. Her solution: CardUp, a company that enables users to set up recurring payments to use their credit cards, from Citi, Visa, MasterCard and elsewhere, to pay for everything from rent to car loans to insurance to — in the case of small business owners — employees’ salaries, all while earning rewards. (Why just pay your rent, when you can pay your rent and get 70,000 air miles in the process?)

Investors clearly like the idea of providing incentives to users willing to use their credit cards as a financing tool. In March, Sequoia India and the seed-stage venture firm SeedPlus gave Singapore-based CardUp $1.7 million in seed funding, money it is using to grow its staff, as well as market itself to a growing number of small- and medium-size businesses.

Gwyneth Paltrow, founder and CEO of Goop

Goop, the wellness newsletter-turned-media and e-commerce company founded a decade ago by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, gets plenty of grief for its highly unscientific advice around vaginal steaming and the dangers of bras. Perhaps most famously, it has marketed jade eggs to its followers, suggesting that they put them in their vaginas to cultivate their sexual energy.

While funny to a great many people, Paltrow may get the last laugh. In March, her 150-person company raised $50 million in Series C funding from new and earlier backers, including New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Fidelity, money that Goop intends to use to expand internationally, including through experiential retail, “image events” and through good-old-fashioned marketing.

Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, co-founders of Shine

While Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey worked together at a nonprofit in New York, they formed their own personal support system with each other and close friends; they wanted to create something like it for others, too. There were already plenty of self-care apps, but none reflected their experience as women of color. As Hirabayashi told TechCrunch earlier this year, “We saw there was something missing in the market because well-being companies didn’t really reach us — they didn’t speak to us. We didn’t see people that looked like us. We didn’t feel like the way they shared content sounded like how we spoke about the different well-being issues in our lives.”

The product they settled on would become Shine, a startup that sends users a daily text with actionable tips around confidence, daily happiness, mental health and productivity to help them get through the day. Investors are feeling good about Shine, too, seemingly. Two years after raising seed capital, the company nabbed $5 million in Series A funding in April led by earlier backer Comcast Ventures, with participation from numerous other outfits, including The New York Times.

Ankiti Bose, co-founder and CEO of Zilingo

Ankiti Bose is the rare female founder in Asia’s startup scene, but that fact doesn’t seem to be slowing down her company in any way. Rather, Zilingo, an e-commerce startup that recreates online the experience of visiting Southeast Asia’s bazaars, raised $54 million in fresh funding in an April round that brings the company’s total funding to $82 million.

Why are investors so enthusiastic? Bose’s background — she worked both as a McKinsey analyst in Mumbai and later an as investment analyst for Sequoia Capital in Bangalore — certainly helps. But so does the market she is chasing. By providing a way for independent merchants to operate online storefronts, Zilingo is managing to compete effectively against the likes of Amazon in what’s expected to be an $88 billion market by 2025.

Aditi Avasthi, founder and CEO of Embibe

Five years ago, Aditi Avasthi decided to apply what she’d learned about economics at the University of Chicago and two years at Barclays to help students in her home country of India. The result was Embibe, a Bengarulu, India-based online coaching startup that tries to address not only access but also under-performance by taking a forensic approach to everything a student does online and trying to reach them when and where they most need help. The idea is to deliver far more accurate feedback — while simultaneously having to rely on fewer teachers.

Avasthi must be on to something. Earlier this year, the Indian conglomerate Reliance paid out $180 million to the company in exchange for a 73 percent stake in the business, a part of which came from Embibe’e earlier investors. It was a big win for these backers, Kalaari Capital and Lightbox, which appear to have provided Embibe with just $4 million in backing. Of course, it’s none too shabby a development for first-time founder Avasthi, either.

Katie Haun, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz

Earlier this week, nine-year-old Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) announced its first female general partner: Katie Haun, whose star has quietly been rising in the Bay Area over for the past couple of years. Haun, who is leading Andreessen’s new $300 million crypto fund with general partner Chris Dixon, is kind of a big deal, so it’s no surprise that a16z nabbed her.

Among her other many accomplishments, Haun spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where she focused on fraud, cybercrime and corporate compliance no-nos alongside the SEC, FBI and Treasury. According to Haun’s bio, she also was the DOJ’s first-ever coordinator for digital assets, and she led investigations into the Mt. Gox hack and the task force that investigated and ultimately took down the online drug marketplace Silk Road. Haun is also a lecturer at Stanford Business School and she’s a director on the board of the digital exchange Coinbase, which was backed early on by a16z.

Sara Mauskopf and Anne Halsall, co-founders of Winnie

Sara Mauskopf and Anne Halsall know how to build products. Mauskopf spent most of the last decade working on products at Twitter, Postmates, YouTube and Google, while Halsall was doing much the same at Postmates, Quora and Google. No wonder when the two came together to create Winnie — a mobile app that offers parents information about nearby kid-friendly places, what sort of facilities for families a location may have and, more recently, an online community where parents can ask questions and participate in discussions — investors took notice, investing $2.25 million in the company two years ago.

They haven’t lost interest. Instead, the now two-and-a-half-year-old app, which has reportedly surpassed one million users, just locked down a fresh $4 million in seed funding earlier this week, led by Reach Capital. Winnie has now raised $6.5 million altogether.

Falon Fatemi, founder and CEO of Node

Falon Fatemi used to take pride in becoming Google’s youngest employee at age 19. But after logging four years with the search giant and another two years at YouTube, Fatemi is making her mark by building her four-year-old startup, Node, into an ever-growing operation.

Just in April, the company — which makes an AI-driven search tool that helps people understand who in their professional network can be the most helpful at any one point in time and why — raised $5 million in fresh funding from Recruit Strategic Partners and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s WndrCo. The round brings Node’s total funding to $21 million altogether.

Renee Wang, founder and CEO of Castbox

Renee Wang was born in China and reportedly attended a boarding school in the rural countryside outside Beijing, tutoring the students to fit in — while also teaching herself to code. Indeed, after graduating from Peking University with a double major, Wang found herself at Google, where she worked for the company in Tokyo for more than four years. It was there, from inside the search giant’s operations, that she could see spikes in user searches for podcast content and decided there was room for an app to dominate the space.

Enter Castbox, an app that uses natural language processing and machine learning techniques to power some of its unique features, like personalized recommendations and in-audio search. The app is also capable of suggesting what to listen to next based on users’ prior listening behavior, and its in-audio search feature actually transcribes, indexes and makes searchable the audio content inside podcasts. With so much going on, it’s no wonder investors are listening. In April, they gave Castbox $13.5 million in Series B funding. Altogether, it has raised $29.5 million.

Laura Deming, partner of Longevity Fund

Photo: Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

Twenty-four-year-old Laura Deming is younger than most of her venture capital peers, but she’s taken seriously nonetheless — and it’s no wonder. The New Zealand native was home-schooled, developing along the way a fascination with the biology of aging. In fact, before she was even a teenager, she found herself working in the lab of Cynthia Kenyon, a renowned molecular biologist who specializes in the genetics of aging. By the time she was 14, Deming was a student at MIT, and by age 16, she was a college-drop out, having been accepted into Peter Thiel’s two-year-old Thiel Fellowship program, which gives $100,000 to young people “who want to build new things.”

Build things she is. Last year, Deming closed her second venture capital fund with $22 million. Earlier this year, Deming took the wraps off an accelerator program, too, one with backing from famed investor Marc Andreessen, the early-stage venture firm Felicis Ventures, and other, unnamed investors. The idea is to help startups, especially those focused on late-onset medical conditions get to a significant “value inflection point” within four months, which is how long the program runs.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Grace Hopper computing conference looks to bring more attention to women of color

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The Anita Borg Institute, the organization behind the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, has released its second-ever diversity report.

As of today, ABI employs 59 people — 27 white people, seven black people, seven Latix people, 13 Asian people, 1 Native American person, three people of two or more races and one person with an unspecified race. At the leadership level, ABI appointed Brenda Darden Wilkerson, a black woman, to serve as its CEO and president. The organization has also made some slight improvements in terms of gender balance, growing from just 4.2 percent male to 11 percent male. 

On stage, ABI has a goal of ensuring women of color make up at least 30 percent of the speakers, but did not disclose the exact breakdown for its most recent conference.


Under Wilkerson’s leadership, ABI looks to become more inclusive. The goal, Wilkerson told TechCrunch, is to “become much more representative of the women we support.”

Since her first day, about nine months ago, that has meant “broadening the tent,” she said.

“Making it much bigger and more inclusive, to let women of all backgrounds — socioeconomic, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability and age,” Wilkerson said. “I think ageism is a huge problem.

That broadening of the tent specifically entails focusing on women of color founders, she said, pointing to a recent report that showed black women still receive a ridiculously low amount of venture funding. In total, according to digitalundivided, black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.

“We know that women and people of color create solutions that really solve so many people’s problems,” she said. “Those ideas grow out of the empathy of their experiences.”

Wilkerson expects to see some of these ideas come from the organization’s inaugural PitcHER startup contest this September. The thinking is that many of these types of companies will come from a number of women of color. If you look at categories that are focused on women and families, she said, “many times those fall more to women and people of color.”

Wilkerson also wants to recognize the women in the middle of their careers, who may “hit that ceiling and can’t go further in their organization,” she said.

ABI released its first diversity report in December 2016. At that time, ABI was 59.5 percent white, 17.5 percent Asian, 9 percent black and 9 percent Latinx. The organization did not disclose diversity at the leadership level, which was notable given that both former and current ABI employees earlier that year told me there was a lack of people of color in leadership positions.

Now, ABI seems more willing to do the work. And perhaps it helps that the organization has a black woman at the helm.

“The excuse choir for why the needle is not being moved needs to stop,” Wilkerson said. “I’m going to call bullshit on diversity fatigue. We’re going to take bold steps and say ‘this is not hard, it can get done.’ We’re going to do the hard things technologists do.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Google releases first diversity report since the infamous anti-diversity memo

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Google has released its first diversity report since the infamous James Damore memo and the fallout that resulted from it. Those are both long stories but the TL;DR is that Damore said some sexist things in a memo that went viral. He got fired and then sued Google for firing him. That lawsuit, however, was shot down by the National Labor Relations Board in February. Then, it turned out another employee, Tim Chevalier, alleges he was fired for advocating for diversity, as reported by Gizmodo later that month. Now, Chevalier is suing Google.

“I was retaliated against for pointing out white privilege and sexism as they exist in the workplace at Google and I think that’s wrong,” Chevalier told TechCrunch few months ago about why he decided to sue. “I wanted to be public about it so that the public would know about what’s going on with treatment of minorities at Google.”

In court, Google is trying to move the case into arbitration. Earlier this month, Google’s attorney said Chevalier previously “agreed in writing to arbitrate the claims asserted” in his original complaint, according to court documents filed June 11, 2018.

Now that I’ve briefly laid out the state of diversity and inclusion at Google, here’s the actual report, which is Google’s fifth diversity report to date and by far the most comprehensive. For the first time, Google has provided information around employee retention and intersectionality.

First, here are some high-level numbers:

  • 30.9 percent female globally
  • 2.5 percent black in U.S.
  • 3.6 percent Latinx In U.S.
  • 0.3 percent Native American in U.S.
  • 4.2 percent two or more races in U.S.

Google also recognizes its gender reporting is “not inclusive of our non-binary population” and is looking for the best way to measure gender moving forward. As Google itself notes, representation for women, black and Latinx people has barely increased, and for Latinx representation, it’s actually gotten worse. Last year, Google was 31 percent female, two percent black and four percent Latinx.

At the leadership level, Google has made some progress year over year, but the company’s higher ranks are still 74.5 percent male and 66.9 percent white. So, congrats on the progress but please do better next time because this is not good enough.

Moving forward, Google says its goal is to reach or exceed the available talent pool in terms of underrepresented talent. But what that would actually look like is not clear. In an interview with TechCrunch, Google VP of Diversity and Inclusion Danielle Brown told me Google looks at skills, jobs and census data around underrepresented groups graduating with relevant degrees. Still, she said she’s not sure what the representation numbers would look like if Google achieved that. In response to what a job well done would look like, Brown said:

You know as well as we do that it’s a long game. Do we ever get to good? I don’t know. I’m optimistic we’ll continue to make progress. It’s not a challenge we’ll solve over night. It’s quite systemic. Despite doing it for a long time, my team and I remain really optimistic that this is possible.

As noted above, Google has also provided data around attrition for the first time. It’s no surprise — to me, at least — that attrition rates for black and Latinx employees were the highest in 2017. To be clear, attrition rates are an indicator of how many people leave a company. When one works at a company that has so few black and brown people in leadership positions, and at the company as a whole, the unfortunate opportunity to be the unwelcome recipient of othering, micro-aggressions, discrimination and so forth are plentiful.

“A clear low light, obviously, in the data is the attrition for black and Latinx men and women in the U.S.,” Brown told TechCrunch. “That’s an area where we’re going to be laser-focused.”

She added that some of Google’s internal survey data shows employees are more likely to leave when they report feeling like they’re not included. That’s why Google is doing some work around ally training and “what it means to be a good ally,” Brown told me.

“One thing we’ve all learned is that if you stop with unconscious bias training and don’t get to conscious action, you’re not going to get the type of action you need,” she said.

From an attrition stand point, where Google is doing well is around the retention of women versus men. It turns out women are staying at Google at higher rates than men, across both technical and non-technical areas. Meanwhile, Brown has provided bi-weekly attrition numbers to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and his leadership team since January in an attempt to intervene in potential issues before they become bigger problems, she said.

via Google: Attrition figures have been weighted to account for seniority differences across demographic groups to ensure a consistent baseline for comparison.

As noted above, Google for the first time broke out information around intersectionality. According to the company’s data, women of all races are less represented than men of the same race. That’s, again, not surprising. While Google is 3 percent black, just 1.2 percent of its black population is female. And Latinx women make up just 1.7 percent of Google’s 5.3 percent Latinx employee base. That means, as Google notes, the company’s gains in representation of women has “largely been driven by” white and Asian women.

Since joining Google last June from Intel, Brown has had a full plate. Shortly after the Damore memo went viral in August — just a couple of months after Brown joined — Brown said “part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.”

Brown also said the document is “not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”

Today, Brown told me the whole anti-diversity memo was “an interesting learning opportunity for me to understand the culture and how some Googlers view this work.”

“I hope what this report underscores is our commitment to this work,” Brown told me. “That we know we have a systemic and persistent challenge to solve at Google and in the tech industry.”

Brown said she learned “not every employee is going to agree with Google’s viewpoint.” Still, she does want employees to feel empowered to discuss either positive or negative views. But “just like any workplace, that does not mean anything goes.”

When someone doesn’t follow Google’s code of conduct, she said, “we have to take it very seriously” and “try to make those decisions without regard to political views.”

Megan Rose Dickey’s PGP fingerprint for email is: 2FA7 6E54 4652 781A B365 BE2E FBD7 9C5F 3DAE 56BD

News Source = techcrunch.com

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