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Power Women Of DC Tech!

Michele Perry
Business Adviser


When a tech company is looking for a wise, new board member or adviser, there’s a good chance they’re trying to woo Michele Perry (right). 

She’s spent a career in B2B sales and marketing for software companies, studied business at Wharton, got an MBA from Harvard, and worked at IBM, USinternetworking and Sourcefire. She’s gone through three IPOs—Sourcefire (as CMO); USinternetworking (as marketing SVP, company sold to AT&T for $300M); and Unify, a small startup in California. 

Now she works independently, sitting on several boards, including ThreatConnect and most recently Unanet. She’s also on a few advisory boards, teaches at UMBC’s entrepreneurship program and does some angel investing. Some of her current work is helping her companies raise A and B rounds—making intros to potential investors and perfecting their pitch. 

Lesson: Maximize luck, timing and talent.
Hometown: Worcester, MA
Current home: Annapolis
Free time: Skiing, biking and watching her kids play hockey and soccer.
Bucket list: Travel to Budapest—will check this one off next month to visit son, who’s doing a semester abroad.
Favorite books: Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore and Give and Take by Adam Grant.
Favorite restaurants: Iron Rooster and Vin 909, both in Annapolis.
Drink of choice: Margarita with salt.
Family: Married 25 years; son (20) and daughter (17); three turtles and a fish.
Startling fact: Despite a tech-focused career and not being much of a cook, one of the companies she advises is Bake Overs, a company that makes delicious cookies that are also safe for people with allergies and food sensitivities. 

Katherine Ferguson


Take a look at the team behind any high-flying startup or fast-growing publicly traded company in the DC area and you can almost bet that Cooley business development SVP Katherine Ferguson is there. 

Her role at the law firm is to bring in new clients and serve as a business adviser to current clients, which cover all business sectors. She advises and makes connections for investment capital, M&A strategy and IPOs. Some of her recent highlights include seeing client AddThis get acquired by Oracle and helping Snagajob land a $100M funding round. 

Her path to Cooley started at her alma mater, James Madison University. She entered a business plan competition and ended up winning MVP and her team placed first. One of the organizers was Grotech partner Don Rainey, who became a mentor and friend. He plugged her into the startup and tech ecosystem in DC, including sitting on the board of Mindshare, an invite-only program for entrepreneurs. 

Lesson: Always dream big. Also, you get one shot to leave a legacy and change the world. 
Hometown: San Antonio
Current home: Reston
Free time: Stays active in the business community, spends time with friends and family, traveling, beach time, sporting events, concerts and trying new restaurants.
Bucket list: Sail the Greek Isles.
Favorite book: The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh
Favorite restaurant: Fiola in Penn Quarter
Drink of choice: Caymus Special Select cabernet and champagne 
Family: Sister, parents and four nieces and nephews live in the DC area 
Startling fact: She doesn't watch any TV–can't sit still long enough.

Shally Venugopal


Nearly half of homebuyers—especially women—don't shop around for their mortgage, and end up with higher interest rates and fees. That was the problem Shally Venugopal wanted to tackle with Myolo, a startup she launched last year. The online mortgage marketplace connects borrowers to lenders through a common application. 

Shally, who has a background in finance, says there's a great window of opportunity to help borrowers shop around more easily after recent regs passed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and technology advances in data and design. The company will launch a pilot later this year in the DC area. 

Coming from a family involved in technology—brother has a PhD in computer science and mom is a software engineer—Shally says she had the support network to launch the company. After her son was born, she knew it was now or never. 

Lesson: Learn to ride through the lows, because after a week of lows, you’ll have a week of highs. 
Hometown: Singapore/DC
Current home: Van Ness-UDC
Free time: Cooking, eating, sports and spending time with family.
Bucket list: Visit Bhutan
Favorite books: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and Blindness by Jose Saramago
Favorite restaurants: Indigo in NoMa and Thip Kao in Columbia Heights
Drink of choice: Campari and virgin Pina Coladas
Family: Married seven years and son (3)
Startling fact: She used to juggle and play tennis professionally, and once the two converged when she juggled tennis rackets. 

Brandi Suttles


Brandi Suttles spent much of her career in nonprofits, falling in love with mission-based work. So it makes sense that she would find her way to LifeFuels, a startup that’s developing a smart nutrition bottle for people to lead healthier lives. She joined the Reston company as business development director and now serves as the strategic operations and partnerships VP.  

She oversees a team tasked with establishing partnerships with companies like Fitbit and IBM. Her team also handles LifeFuels' supply chain, including international shipping, FDA guidelines, regulations and product fulfillment and distribution.  

Some of her most recent career highlights have been seeing the product go from stealth mode to getting lots of buzz during CES in Vegas this year. Another highlight has been serving as the only female member of the LifeFuels leadership team.

Lesson: Use your voice to be an advocate for diversity. 
Hometown: Cleveland
Current home: Woodley Park
Free time: Reading, baking and running through Rock Creek Park.
Bucket list: Hike a volcano.
Favorite book: Quiet by Susan Cain
Favorite restaurant: Zaytinya in Chinatown
Drink of choice: Bourbon on the rocks.
Family: 5-year-old niece (who’s coming to visit this summer).
Startling fact: She’s an avid baker who takes cake decorating courses and recently baked a seven-layer 25th anniversary cake for her aunt and uncle.

Meredith Balenske


Meredith Balenske was entrenched in the DC tech startup community before she landed as communications VP at Revolution, which invests in tech startups through Revolution Growth and Revolution Ventures. She works closely with Revolution’s partners portfolio companies on their communications strategy and media relations. 

Her career highlights are every new investment Revolution makes, including in DC-area companies recent rounds for Framebridge, Sweetgreen and Optoro. The firm also just hired four new people for its investment team. 

Before Revolution, she co-founded Snapdash in 2011 and started getting involved in the startup community and learning about raising money around the same time that 1776 was getting off the ground. 

Lesson: A lot in life is mental and your attitude toward something can have profound impact on the outcome. Also, admitting you don’t know the answer to something opens you up to a huge learning opportunity. 
Hometown: Annapolis
Current home: Georgetown
Free time: Play with dog, workout with friends and go sailing with dad on the weekends in Annapolis.
Bucket list: See the Northern Lights and hike in Banff.
Favorite book: What If? by Robert Cowley
Favorite restaurant: Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle
Drink of choice: Iced coffee
Pet: French bulldog
Startling fact: She hates condiments, including salad dressing, mayo and ketchup. 

Read more profiles of Power Women in DC Tech here and here

And come help us celebrate their success on Feb. 18 at 1776-Crystal City. Sign up here.