We're moving beyond conversation and taking action.
That was my first thought when I walked out of Sunday's Triangle Startup Weekend Women
pitch event, the culmination of 48 hours of dreaming up, exploring and building new businesses. The event drew more than 60 participants, mostly women, but with a wide variety of experiences. There were college freshmen, serial entrepreneurs, fashion designers, a Teach for America grad, N.C. State professor, developers, data scientists, immigrants.
It felt different than the two events I attended (and wrote about) earlier this year in which women discussed the challenges they face in starting companies in a male-dominated startup world. We talked about better supporting woman entrepreneurs back then. Now, we're doing it.
*We're identifying and empowering leaders. I'm talking about co-organizer Archana Gowda, who attended her first Startup Weekend just over a year ago, then completed UP Global's Next accelerator. She'll facilitate her first Startup Weekend in Greenville, SC this weekend. ExitEvent writer Amy Huffman is a new startup enthusiast who jumped right onto the TSW organizing team. And Lizzy Hazeltine, who got her feet wet as internship and program director for UNC's e-minor program, is one week into her new role as venture advisor at The Startup Factory. She's already expressed a desire to have a TSW company make the accelerator's 2015 cut.
of Akili Software
(a Citrix Accelerator startup) and Sophia Hyder
of Evolvemint (a ThinkHouse fellow)
are first-time founders who took time from building their own startups to lead teams to first and second place finishes at TSW. Harper's team (pictured above) took first for SmartEats
, an app inspired by her food allergies and a recent costly ER visit that helps allergic consumers find safe items to eat at restaurants. Hyder's Papilia
(meaning butterfly) app helps travelers determine what to pack for trips, factoring length of visit, weather, activities and cultural norms.
And co-organizer Liz Tracy of HQ Raleigh and marketing expert Melissa Kennedy (pictured below) get credit for leading the effort to create TSW back in April, and rallying volunteers and supporters.
*Speakers talk about problems they're solving and businesses they're building.
The topics of talks by Laura Fenn
of The Walking Classroom
and Tatiana Birgisson
of Mati Energy
weren't challenges or stereotypes they overcame as women, only those they've faced and continue to face as founders and business owners.
*We're celebrating womanhood without being overly feminist. Women hooted and hollered after every pitch, showing their support for each other. There was understanding and patience during an emotional presentation. The organizers went to lengths to bring in good food prepared by female chefs in town. And a pair of young female flutists provided entertainment. Some of the startup ideas were targeted to females, like Papilia and My Family Cloud (pictured below), a dashboard that will aggregate family calendars and connected devices in the home to better manage family activities and household chores/repairs.
*Barriers to entry are eliminated. There were scholarships to give access to women of every income level. And the organizers provided childcare and activities for children at Marbles Kids Museum, freeing up parents to attend.
*TSW was the picture of diversity. There were women and men of many ethnicities, and intermixed on startup teams. It might have been the most diverse startup event I've attended since I moved to the Triangle two years ago. Perhaps it'll inspire the broader startup community.
So what's next?
N.C. State's Jenkins MBA Students Association and e51 (an entrepreneurial women's networking group) are planning an inaugural Innovative Women's Conference
for students and community members on Oct. 24. Soar
, a support organization for female founders led by American Underground, Groundwork Labs and Google for Entrepreneurs, hosts a quarterly speaker series and by spring will complete its first full year of mentorship for four funds-raising female-led startups.
And I'm eager to see what will come after Sunday. With new friendships formed and female-led businesses built, more women may be inspired to push the movement forward in ways we might not even imagine today.
(pictured below, the Papilia team)