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40 Power Women of DC Tech: Part I

Washington DC Tech

How boring would DC’s tech economy be if only men scratched the entrepreneurial itch? Thankfully a growing number of area women are launching or running innovative tech firms. We’ll be featuring 40 of them starting right now in Bisnow's first-ever Trending 40 list and celebrating them with a special event on the evening of Oct. 15—so please save the date.

Pamela Arya
Co-Founder/CEO, Optensity

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Company: Developed AppSymphony, platform for building advanced analytics in the cloud. Company launched 2010. Photo taken with team.
Job focus: Biz dev and strategy.
Customers: Intel, surveillance, and reconnaissance companies and federal agencies.
Latest news: Launched version of product on AWS marketplace to provide PaaS delivery method.
Inspiration to launch: Worked for LA-based startup and enjoyed pace and idea that something can be created and used. Launched Optensity to accelerate big data usage.
Why a tech career: Both parents were scientists, so part of DNA. Fell in love with computers while pursuing geophysics degree.
Biggest challenge: Consumer apps get more attention from investors than enterprise tools.
Business lesson: Engage with people; find out their specialties and how they can be helpful.
Career milestones: Getting first biz dev job and leaving technical side; becoming National Reconnaissance Office tech fellow; launching Optensity.

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Photo: Sons, 18 and 14. (18-year-old going to Brown in fall).
Hometown: Morgantown, W. Va.
Currently live: McLean.
Why DC area: Traveled around India after college for five months. Told by Dad to come home and get job. Plane ticket ended at Dulles and started looking for a job.
Education: Geophysics degree from Brown; Computer science master's from Johns Hopkins.
First job: Developed systems for NASA weather satellites for CSC.
Other tech jobs: Applied Minds federal/intel biz director; A-T Solutions biz dev VP.
Daily habit: Keep activities organized in three categories—due today; due this week; and all other things.
Greatest fear: Driving over bridges.
Favorite book: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.
Favorite movie: Doctor Zhivago (1965).
Favorite vacation: Any beach.
Favorite restaurant: Oyamel (Penn Quarter).
Bucket list: See the Northern Lights.
Hobbies: Theater goer, elephant and glass collector, and mentoring in STEM careers. Volunteer at Brown and Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.
Advice to 18-year-old self: Just say yes. Get out there and try things.

Susan Tynan
Founder/CEO, Framebridge

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Company: Web and iPhone app for easier, more affordable picture framing in company's local production facility. Consumer either mails art in prepaid packaging or uploads digital photo.
Job focus: Moved from build mode to marketing. Company launched 2014.
Company’s latest news: Official launch and raising $1.25M seed round from NEA, Steve Case, and LivingSocial founder Tim O’Shaughnessy.
Inspiration to launch: Personal experience. Had posters framed from annual camping trips with sister and paid over $400 for each framing job. Didn’t think anyone had mastered online framing experience.
Why pursue a tech career: It’s a way to make things better and solve problems so easily.
Biggest challenge: From product perspective, there’s so much potential, but you have to prioritize.
Best business lesson: Keep on going through the ups and downs.
Top career milestones: Attending Harvard Business School; going for White House job (internal management) after first child; launching Framebridge.

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Photo: With husband in Australia, where he's from.
Hometown: Cleveland.
Currently live: Georgetown.
Came to DC for: Accenture job.
Education: Undergrad in English from University of Virginia; MBA from Harvard.
First job: The Gap sales person; Accenture management consultant. 
Tech experience: LivingSocial GM and TaxiMagic (now Curb) product VP.
Daily habit: Look at everything that needs to be done, and focus on one thing with biggest impact.
Greatest fear: Too busy to think about fears.
Favorite book: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus by Mo Willems.
Favorite movie: Top Gun (1986).
Favorite vacation: Australia.
Favorite restaurants: sweetgreen (DC region); Daikaya (Penn Quarter).
Bucket list: See the Taj Mahal.
Family facts: Married eight years; two daughters (ages 2 and 5).
Hobbies: Exercise—cycle and weight training.
Advice to 18-year-old self: Keep on going. Always take the experience. 

Kellee James
Co-founder/CEO, Mercaris

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Company: Market data and online electronic trading for organic and non-GMO commodities like corn, soybeans, and wheat. Launched 2012.
Job focus: Raising money and turning idea into revenue-generating business.
Customers: Whole Foods and Stonyfield Farms.
Company’s latest news: Held first organic corn auction two weeks ago. (It was successful and oversubscribed.) Also attracted five new organic and non-GMO grains. Will soon close series A round.
Inspiration to launch: Always interested in market mechanisms, especially for environmental products, and price and market data for organic agriculture—a sustainable way of farming and eating.
Previous job: Economist for Chicago Climate Exchange, a market for carbon credits and green house gases.
Why pursue tech career: Tech is a means to an end.
Biggest challenge: Launching tech company with no tech background.
Business lesson: Maintain customer dialog. 
Career milestones: Quitting career as professional horseback rider with Olympic aspirations because of injury; becoming White House fellow; and launching Mercaris.

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Hometown: Fort Bragg. 
Currently live: Silver Spring.
Came to DC for: White House fellowship.
Education: Degrees in Spanish and international economics from University of Kentucky; MBA and master’s in international development from American.
First job: Rode and trained horses and worked as consultant for World Bank after grad school.
Greatest fear: Failure.
Favorite book: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
Favorite movie: Jackie Brown (1997).
Favorite vacation: Salvador, Brazil.
Favorite restaurants: sweetgreen (DC region) and Restaurant Nora (Dupont Circle).
Daily habit: Get tough tasks done early or late in the day.
Bucket list: Spend year traveling and see as many countries as possible.
Family facts: Married seven years.
Hobbies: Horseback riding for fun, bike riding, wine tastings/festivals.
Advice to 18-year-old self: Don’t wait for anyone, and be bolder sooner.

Amber Wason
Co-founder/COO, Riide

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Company: Design and build electric bikes for urban professionals. Filling 130 orders in a few weeks.
Job focus: Sales, marketing, biz dev. Company launched 2012
Latest news: Considering working out of new collaborative maker space in Union Market district.
Inspiration to launch: Grew up in small town, moved to city for college, grew frustrated with DC gridlock. Friend (later co-founder) Jeff Stefanis saw electric bikes in China, started research for US market. Others targeted Baby Boomers; Riide focuses on urban Millennials.
Biggest challenge: Affecting change with minimal resources. Riide existed 18 months with no outside funding, yet built prototype for $10k.
Business lesson: Persistence.
Career milestones: Marketing director at Flexcar (acquired by Zipcar) at age 22; decision to never work for anyone but self; and Riide’s Kickstarter campaign in January—hit goal in first eight hours.

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Photo: Wedding in St. Maarten two years ago.
Hometown: Eliot, Maine.
Currently live: Glover Park.
Came to DC for: College.
Education: Bachelor’s in business administration with international business from GW.
First job: Young entrepreneur—babysat, mowed lawns, cleaned houses.
Previous jobs: Transportation consultant for UrbanTrans Consultants; VA/DC realtor; founder/CEO RideBliss.
Why pursue tech career: Riide product required tech. Tech is necessary and ubiquitous.
Daily habit: Yoga four to five times a week. (Almost daily).
Greatest fear: Losing loved one.
Favorite book: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Favorite movie: Charlie Wilson’s War (2007).
Favorite vacation: St. Maarten.
Favorite restaurant: Cactus Cantina (Wisconsin Avenue).
Bucket list: Sell or go public.
Hobbies: Yoga, running, skiing, sailing.
Advice to 18-year-old self: Acquire as many tangible skills as possible in college—coding, copywriting, graphic design.

We’d love your suggestions for other great women starting or running fast-growing companies in the DC region. So let us know. We’re grateful for our great partners in this initiative: Deloitte, TriNet, Cabot Consultants, Vornado and the Crystal Tech Fund. Thanks!