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.
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