Women are leading more startups than ever before in history — but women-led startups only receive 7% of investor money. Women Who Tech wants to change that. The Women Startup Challenge, launched this June at a national event in D.C., is a competition for women-led startups to present their innovative ideas and connect directly with investors.
This evening, the Women Startup Challenge is celebrating their first regional event at Microsoft’s Times Square office, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to host a night that celebrates diversity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Tell us about the Women Startup Challenge’s Beginnings.
The Women Startup Challenge in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects showcases and funds innovative women-led startups that are solving problems for people, businesses, and the planet. Currently, only seven percent of investor money goes to women. If we truly want to innovate and create the best products for people in this world, we need to radically change how we invest. And that is what we are hoping to ignite through the Women Startup Challenge.
What brings the WSC to New York?
We received an overwhelming amount of support and positive feedback from the first national Women Startup Challenge in June at General Assembly and 1776 in Washington, DC. Following the national challenge, Craig and I discussed different ways to scale it. We also talked with the community to get their feedback. There was a lot of support for a regional Women Startup Challenge so we launched our first one in NYC.
You chose your 10 New York finalists from almost 200 submissions. What is the narrowing down process like? How tough is it to pick only 10?
It was a very competitive process. It was challenging to select ten startups when there were so many game-changing ventures who entered the Women Startup Challenge and who had great traction. I wish we could have included a lot more in the Women Startup Challenge Pitch Competition at Microsoft. However, we will be hosting a national Women Startup Challenge in the spring of 2016 where we will showcase and fund more women-led startups.
What are some of the most innovative projects you’ve seen in past challenges?
On Second Thought, cofounded by Maci Peterson, and was the grand prize winner of the national Women Startup Challenge, is a messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they are received on another person’s phone.
Kicker, cofounded by Holly Epstein, a former NYT Editor, is a news site aimed at millennials and gets them up to speed, really easily and quickly, on what’s happening in the world and helps them discover ways to take action.
What does diversity mean to you? To startup culture?
Diversity (whether it be gender, ethnicity, age, etc.) is incredibly important to the startup world because it leads to better products and innovation. Diversity means products are developed through a different lens and perspective that solves problems we haven’t seen other products solve yet. However, these products will never get to market until more diverse-led startups are funded.
How do you see startup culture in New York growing in the next five years?
New York has an incredibly passionate and supportive startup community, particularly for women entrepreneurs. Over the next five years, we’ll see more and more startups launch and thrive as more incubators, accelerators, and niche funds launch and expand their presence in the region. New York will also see a surge in women investors.