25 Women-Run Startups to Watch

We continue our Women in Tech coverage with a list of startups with female founders and CEOs by Allyson Kapin, one of our Most Influential Women in Technology in 2010.

Think women don't launch startups?

1) You're not alone, and 2) Think again!

Over the last couple of months there has been another round of women in tech and startup debates.

Robert Scoble says in a Facebook Group that he wants to write about women launching world-changing startups but struggles to find them. Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch says "the press is dying to write about [women startups]." Over on Quora, there is a discussion about the hottest companies started by women. Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr and Hunch is one of the most popular answers.

It's easy to complain that it's hard to find women run startups—or to provide excuses. But instead, let's focus on 25 women running kick-ass startups. Will they change the world? I don't use crystal balls, but I sure do think that they have huge potential to make a serious mark.

  1. Pauline Alker, Founder, a la Mobile

    Streamlining the way mobile handsets are developed and deployed. They aim to be the independent, open Linux system platform for the mobile phone industry. They adhere to design and development disciplines of openness, innovation and freedom of choice with configurable and customizable architecture.
    Funding:
    Series A, B

  2. Alexa Andrzejewski, CEO and Co-Founder, Foodspotting

    A visual guide to good food and where to find it. Foodspotting lets consumers find and share the foods they love: Instead of reviewing restaurants, consumers can recommend their favorite dishes and see what others have recommended wherever you go.
    Funding: Series A

  3. Kris Appel, Founder, Encore Path

    Encore Path developed Tailwind, a device that helps improve arm function and range of motion for people with stroke or other brain injury.
    Funding:
    Seed

  4. Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki, Co-Founders, 23andme

    Genetics just got personal. 23andme is a human genome indexing/application. They analyze your genetics through saliva testing and store the results online and help you interpret the data. You can keep it private or you can share it with family and doctors.
    Funding: Series B

  5. Patricia Bright, Founder, BioFuelBox

    Provides modular bio-refineries for converting waste materials into biodiesel.
    Funding: Series A

  6. Annie Chang, Co-Founder, LOLapps

    LOLapps builds quizzes, gifts, and game platforms that provide user-generated, customizable applications. They are a growing social games company with over 300,000 user generated applications and 11 games in their portfolio.
    Funding:
    Series A

  7. Rachna Choudhry and Marci Harries Co-Founders, Popvox

    POPVOX bridges the gap between the input the public wants to provide and the information Members of Congress want and need to receive. The product is based on the founders experience working with Congress and research with Congressional staff.
    Funding:
    Seed

  8. Cathy Edwards, Co-Founder & CTO, Chomp

    Billed as a "a sort-of Yelp for iPhone apps" by TechCrunch, Chomp is an app discovery engine that enables users to search for iPhone apps on the Apple App Store, through a combination of app search and personalized recommendations.
    Funding:
    Series A

  9. Cindy Gallop, Founder, IfWeRantheWorld

    If you ran the world, what would you do? IfWeRanTheWorld is a crowdsourced, collective action-generating platform, that makes things happen in the real world and reports back on the results. "If Facebook is the social graph, and Twitter is the interest graph, then IfWeRanTheWorld is designed to be the action graph," said Gallop.
    Funding: Seed

  10. Kaliya Hamlin, Founder, Personal Data Ecosystem

    A leader and vocal advocate in the user-centric identity movement, Hamlin recently launched a new nonprofit to focus on how people control and access their own data online.
    Funding:
    Seeking funding

  11. Julia Hartz, Co-Founder and President, Eventbrite

    Eventbrite is a social commerce platform for ticketing and event management. They processed $207 million in ticket sales in 2010, more than double from 2009.
    Funding:
    Series A, B, C, D

  12. Tara Hunt, Co-Founder, Shwowp

    Shwowp helps you gather your purchase history in one place. It's a purchase sharing site where you can input product purchases, share items on Twitter or Facebook, follow friends' purchase activity and start conversations around products.
    Funding:
    Seeking funding

  13. Amy Jo Kim, Co-Founder, ShuffleBrain

    Inspired by the explosion of Brain Games, and passionate about creating games that keep you sharp and socially connected, Shufflebrain builds games for a connected world. They've helped design games including Bejewelled 2, The Sims, and Rock Band.
    Funding:
    Unknown

  14. Annalea Krebs, Founder, ethicalDeal

    Similar to the Groupon and LivingSocial model but aimed at green consumers who love local deals on green products, ethicalDeal launched in November 2010 in Vancouver. Krebs expects they'll launch in Toronto and San Francisco in early in 2011 and a new city every three months thereafter.
    Funding: Seeking funding

  15. Kristen Kuhns, Co-Founder and COO, Story of My Life

    A collection of online stories of people's lives. The site helps users build an interactive 360-degree view of who you are: your accomplishments, your feelings and thoughts, your narrative—the essence of who you are and what you will leave behind.
    Funding: Angel

  16. Jen Pahlka, Founder, Code for America

    Code for America recruits savvy web industry folks into public service to use their skills to solve core problems facing communities. They help talented technologists leverage the power of the Internet to make governments more open and efficient, and become civic leaders able to realize transformational change with technology.
    Funding: Grants

  17. April Pedersen, Co-Founder, Salsa Labs

    Salsa Labs has grown into one of the most established online organizing and fundraising platforms for the nonprofit and political sectors. The platform allows over 3K nonprofits to organize and communicate with their supporters, activists, fans, and donors all managed through a single, hosted application.
    Funding:
    Seeking funding

  18. Elisabet de los Pinos, Founder: Aura Biosciences

    Elisabet and her team are pioneering the development of nano-delivered drugs through its proprietary Nanosmart platform. In layman's terms? They are working on a chemotherapy agent that will have the ability to treat, target and be monitored in the body. Hat tip to Robert Scoble who highlighted her work while he was at Davos.
    Funding:
    Series A

  19. Charlotte Rademaekers, Founder and CEO, Call2Action

    Call2Action puts videos and action tools together in a portable online engagement and marketing tool. Their current product is a widget, called Spark to support social justice causes. The company says that they have an average interaction rate (number of actions taken anywhere on a widget divided by the number of times it has been loaded) of 6 times the industry standard at 28%.
    Funding: Seeking funding

  20. Victoria Ransom, Co-Founder, Wildfire Interactive

    Their patent-pending technology allows corporations, small businesses, marketing agencies, bloggers and nonprofits to easily create their own branded interactive campaigns (e.g. sweepstakes, contests, give-aways, incentive-based surveys, etc) and to simultaneously publish them in multiple social networks and on their website.
    Funding: Series A

  21. Carol Realini, Founder & CEO, Obopay

    A pioneer in mobile payments, Obopay lets consumers pay anyone, anywhere in the U.S. in just a few seconds using your phone. It offers flexible, instant mobile money that lets you send money to family, collect or make online payments, get a prepaid debit card or send a remittance.
    Funding:
    Series A, B, C, D, and E

  22. Birame Sock, Founder, MyReceipts

    A green solution for consumers to receive and file receipts. Participating retailers include Whole Foods (who also offer digital coupons to MyReceipts users), Best Buy, Amazon, and more.
    Funding: Uknown

  23. Wendy Tan White, Co-Founder, MoonFruit

    Moonfruit provides software that allows users, with no previous web technology experience, to build and develop websites. Over 1.2 million business and individual websites have been built by people around the world using Moonfruit's website building tool SiteMaker. The company started in 1999, endured the dot com bust and made a big come back in 2009.
    Funding:
    Series A

  24. Amra Tareen, Founder and CEO, Allvoices.com

    A global community that shares and validates user-generated news, videos, images and opinions tied to news events and people from all over the world. In January the site received over 11 million unique web visitors.
    Funding:
    Series A

  25. Alexa von Tobel, Founder, Learnvest

    Learnvest makes personal finance fun (well as fun as you can possibly make it). Whether you're buying a home, saving for grad school, or simply trying to become a better 'budgeter,' LearnVest provides products, content, and a community to make personal financial information accessible to millions of women. Learnvest offers a customized financial action plan, a budgeting tool, and more.
    Funding: Series A

More Resources: Thanks to the following organizations, the women run startup community is energized and flourishing. All of these groups helped contribute to the 25 Women Run Startups to Watch list by not only supporting women entrepreneurs but by building comprehensive databases of women run startups.

What women-led startups are you most excited about?

Read about The Most Influential Women in Technology and our expert views on Women in Tech

Note: The funding information was compiled through public and organizational databases. In some cases, the funding information maybe incomplete if the databases were not updated in time for the publication of this article.

Disclosure: My web firm Rad Campaign has worked with Salsa Labs. Annie Chang, Kaliya Hamlin, Tara Hunt, and Amra Tareen have participated in the Women Who Tech TeleSummit, which I founded in 2008.

Allyson Kapin is the Founder of the award winning web agency Rad Campaign, Women Who Tech, and the Blogger-in-Chief for Care2's Frogloop blog. You can follow her on Twitter at @WomenWhoTech.

[Image by Marion Doss | illustration by AH]

Add New Comment

17 Comments

  • Jodi Maxson

    The biggest thing women can do which will allow all business to flourish, is to continue to support not only other women, but to share our unique skill set with men in similar positions. This way, everyone grows.

  • Vladimir Nedovic

    A BIG problem: I checked every single one of these companies, and only ONE is based outside of North America (in London).
    I'm sure there would be more women if you looked a bit farther away, to Europe and Asia. For one, there is Claire Boonstra, a co-founder of Layar in Amsterdam: http://www.fastcompany.com/art...

  • Rhalee

    Also check-out: Saveby, www.saveby.com
    Saveby has a female co-founder/ CEO, Or-Tal Kiriati, and its chief developer is also a woman. It is a self-service group shopping platform and enables consumers from across the web – who are interested in the same product – to band together and get it at group discount. Merchants receive mass volume sales, instant payment, and new customers.
    Here's an adorable video explaining how it works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • Meredith Obendorfer

    My PR agency, Sparkpr (www.sparkpr.com)! Shameless plug, but I honestly love working here! The agency was founded by two women, Donna Sokolsky Burke and Chris Hempel, who managed corporate communications for Netscape when it was sold to AOL. They founded Sparkpr shortly after (12 years ago) and it's now a very successful and ever-growing PR agency that handles PR for both big name tech companies and hot start-ups. Donna is still very involved on a day-to-day basis leading the company not just as a co-founder but as a Senior Managing Director for the agency, and Chris is still an active board member. We won the TechCrunch Crunchie for Best Tech PR firm last year too!

  • Jenn Prentice

    I recently read a statistic that women make up only 15-17 percent of the technology workforce. I myself work for a tech company and have encountered many powerful women doing amazing things with technology. The women in this article are great examples of that!

    With the Internet becoming increasingly social, I think there's a huge role --and need-- for women to use their set of communication skills to start companies, start (and join) conversations and listen and create a dialogue around emerging issues in the technology industry. I met Marissa Mayer yesterday and wrote a blog post with more thoughts on the issue of women in tech if you care to read: http://xprt.it/g86qMI

  • anne hanson

    thanks for a great article and for dispelling the myth that women-run startups are hard to find, but in my own rather specialized community of business, the number of innovative companies with a large global reach were predominantly conceived by, and now run by women. it truly is a hidden movement, but NOT because it's hard to find. as you say, you really just have to look a little . . .

  • Kim Alexander

    What an inspiring group! Congratulations. Powernoodle belongs on the list too!
    We are an all women executive team lead by founder Deb Krizmanich, running an exciting new SaaS company, bringing effectiveness and fun into everyday meetings.
    www.powernoodle.com

  • Kathryn Minshew

    I love this list -- thanks for putting together a great run-down of some amazing companies!

  • Darci Nash

    Chastity House is an amazing not-for-profit organization offering a dual emphasized integrated approach to prevention and intervention in teenage obesity and teen sex. Mostly the nation is focusing on early childhood obesity which is absolutely wonderful and necessary. But in the meantime, many of our teens are suffering with this potentially deadly, rising disease and there are very few organizations helping this target audience. I think the medical community, fast food restaurants, corporations and philanthropists need to rally around this organization to help prevent teenage obesity because in a couple of years, today's teens are going to run this country and we want them to be healthy and wise.

    Chastity House is founded by counselor/therapist and author, Beverly Ashby.

  • Julie Hall

    It's great to see so many innovative and interesting women owned startups. There are definitely some game changing businesses in this list. Eventbrite, Wildfire Applications and Moonfruit are all brands that I have personal experience with and think the women leading these organisations are exceptional.

    Julie Hall
    Women Unlimited
    http://www.women-unlimited.co....

  • Julie Lenzer Kirk

    SO proud of our ACTiVATE alum, Kris Appel, in at #3! Given that she does NOT come from a tech background, she is a great role model for one way to get more female tech entreprenuers. An innovative way to fill this gap: find smart, experienced, business women and team them with technologies from research institutions where they can work with the inventors as the technical staff and bring life-saving products to market! We're working to replicate the success we've had in Maryland with the ACTiVATE program in other regions so look for more ACTiVATE'd women to join this list in the future!

    Julie Lenzer Kirk
    Co-Founder and CEO, Path Forward Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    Home of the ACTiVATE program
    http://www.PathForwardCenter.o...

  • Suzanne Biegel

    Dont forget about Investors' Circle... for women led/women-founded, or women focused businesses with strong social and/or environmental impact. Early stage and early expansion, but not raw seed.
    Many of the enterprises above would qualify for Investors' Circle. 28% women membership. Angels, philanthropists, and others with a passion for making change and making change.

    Suzanne Biegel
    CEO
    Investor's Circle

  • Ruth Hedges

    26:
    Ruth E Hedges Creator and CEO of http://fundingroadmap.com
    The Business plan reinvented !
    Is your business plan working as hard as you are?
    With everyone using ipads and smart phones, they thought business planning needed an update too. So they reinvented the business plan into the patent-pending Funding Roadmap, a cloud based virtual reporting system to help you launch or expand your business and give investors and lenders everything they need (through one seamless login) to make an informed decision and get you funded faster!

  • Thomas Oppong

    Women have contributed a lot to the success of a lot of startups, but unfortunately influencial bloggers do not give them the kind of exposure to encourage others create startups. This list also recognise other women founders: http://alltopstartups.com/2011...