Power Women of DC Tech!
As a Rad Campaign partner, Allyson Kapin is creating hard-hitting advocacy campaigns and compelling websites. Her other job is bringing together women in tech and startups helping them grow–an initiative she’s been focused since launching Women Who Tech over eight years ago.
Women Who Tech’s startup challenges have helped women-led firms raise close to $400K. In the group’s first Women Startup Challenge (in partnership with Craig Newmark of Craigslist and Craigconnects) last spring, over 300 entries were sent in where competitors were part of a large crowdfunding campaign where they raised money for their startups. The finalists eventually got the chance to pitch their startups to a group of investors. Allyson has held two Shark Tank-style pitch events, one at 1776 drew over 400 people, with a line wrapped around the block.
Allyson is now looking to scale the Women Startup Challenge and is exploring regional challenges. The first was held in the Northeast in November at Microsoft as a traditional pitch competition with women-led ventures. The sold-out event was judged by investors Joanne Wilson, Susan Lyne of AOL’s BBG Ventures, Kathryn Finney of digitalundivided and Victoria Song of Flybridge Partners.
Best lesson: When you’re building something, be flexible. You have to realize quickly when your vision is not quite working and how to quickly adapt and take a step back.
Hometown: NYC and Miami
Current home: Upper Northwest
Free time: Exercise, gardening, painting, hanging out with her four cats and dog and spending time with family.
Bucket list: To become an investor.
Favorite book: Harry Potter series
Favorite restaurant: Mandalay in Silver Spring
Drink of choice: Coffee
Family: Married 10 years
Most people don’t know: She used to curate art exhibitions and ran the DC Underground Film Festival.
Shally Venugopal, Myolo
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.
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.
Lucie Leblois, Crumbdrop
Lucie Leblois got pulled into tech after graduating from college in 2000. It was the middle of the dot-com bubble and startups were hiring young 20-somethings like crazy. She worked in the early days at Washingtonpost.com, before any social media, and then worked at Healthcentral.com.
After HealthCentral was sold, she thought about how she could marry her tech skills with her other passion—real estate. Her mother, grandmother and aunt were real estate agents in Paris, where Lucie grew up.
She eventually created Crumbdrop, a tech platform that allows real estate agents to create virtual neighborhood tours. So homebuyers can get a sense of where they’re going to live beyond seeing the inside of the house. The app officially went live in August.
Lesson: Surround yourself with a team you love working with, especially that can get you out of those low days.
Current home: Glover Park
Free time: Turn off the phone and computer and focus on kids and husband.
Bucket list: Launch a nonprofit that uses music to help inner city kids.
Favorite book: Will Wild and the Door—soon-to-be-published book written by husband.
Favorite restaurant: Bistro Lepic in Georgetown
Drink of choice: Start everyday with ice coffee, merging into water mid-day and ending with wine.
Family: Married 10 years; two children (6 and 3)
Startling fact: Physically can’t eat sandwiches for dinner.
Kate Glantz, Heartful.ly
Kate Glantz has always worked on solving big, world problems, either as a Peace Corps volunteer or working in the State Department in public diplomacy, telling stories about how the organization was solving problems.
Like many people in tech, she came from a different sector, frustrated about a problem not being solved. She wanted to use technology to assist people who didn't want more stuff—especially for their weddings—and to make it easier to help others.
So she launched Heartful.ly last January. The organization lets engaged couples set up a registry asking guests to make a contribution to a certain cause rather than buy them a toaster oven. After the wedding, Heartful.ly sends all the guests an update on what their contribution did for the cause. To date, registries are raising on average $1,600.
Lesson: Figure out a problem on your own. That doesn’t mean you’ll always know the answers, but you’ll know who to ask for help. The whole point is to get it done.
Current home: Columbia Heights
Free time: Catching up with friends
Bucket list: See the Northern Lights
Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Favorite restaurant: El Chucho in Columbia Heights
Drink of choice: Champagne
Family: Single—wonderful family out west
Startling fact: She’s an avid bowler.
Juliana Heitz, Ideaventions Academy for Mathematics and Science
Juliana Heitz’s son was 3 when she noticed he was struggling in school. So she started researching other options for her young son, who was fascinated by science and math. There wasn’t much at the elementary school level that could keep him engaged. So Juliana and her husband started their own school.
Ideaventions started as an after-school program and recently launched as a full-fledged science and math-focused school last fall. Twenty kids are going through fourth through seventh grades at Ideaventions Academy in Reston and now, after hearing feedback from some that they want to continue through high school, Ideaventions Academy announced it’s expanding into higher grades.
Juliana, who went to MIT, comes from an IT and project management background. “So much of the philosophy and what we bring to the school is shaped by my professional experience,” she adds.
Lesson: Don’t be afraid to grow.
Hometown: Lived in Venezuela until age 7, then moved to Northern Virginia and lived in Falls Church, Vienna and Fairfax.
Current home: Oakton
Free time: Reading
Bucket list: Visit the Galapagos Islands
Favorite book: High-IQ Kids
Favorite restaurant: Taverna Del Alabarbelo on I Street
Drink of choice: Milk
Family: Married 16 years; two sons (13 and 9) and a dog named Giget.
Most people don’t know: She loves to dance to Latin music and took Argentine tango lessons.
Amelia Friedman, Hatch
Amelia Friedman may be young (23) but she already has a few notches on her belt. She launched the Student Language Exchange in college, a nonprofit that focuses on building programs for underrepresented languages and cultures. She launched the DC affiliate of Vinetta project, an ecosystem that supports early-stage female tech founders. And she co-founded Hatch, a SaaS product that helps non-coders create mobile apps. The company was launched five months ago. She's also a fellow at the DC-based Halcyon incubator for social enterprises. Did we mention she’s only 23?
Best lesson: Team is more important than anything.
Current home: Rosslyn
Free time: Developed and now selling ($43k in sales in two weeks) a Cards for Humanity-inspired game with an election year theme.
Bucket list: Write a long-form investigative piece about something completely unrelated to work.
Favorite book: Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Favorite restaurant: Zenebech in Shaw
Drink of choice: Vinho Verde
Family: Parents, grandmother, aunts, uncle and cousins live in the DC area; brother is in college in Boston.
Most people don’t know: She majored in Brazilian literature and she writes daily (not in Portuguese) for her personal enjoyment.
Brandi Suttles, LifeFuels
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.
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.
Carolyn Parent, LiveSafe
Carolyn Parent says her tech career started because of serendipity. She majored in liberal arts and loved sales and business development. She talked to a software company at a campus job fair that friends had already joined and ended up also getting hired. Her first job was as a junior sales associate and she was immediately hooked.
Since then she has launched and run Gravy, a marketing analytics firm that tracks consumer interests, and served as GM at Deltek, an enterprise software and information solutions firm, during its rapid growth and IPO. She recently snagged her most senior level position as CEO of LiveSafe, a mobile safety platform for crowdsourcing intelligence that prevents incidents and directly connects people to the help they need.
The company recently generated some buzz when police in Delaware created a video to Drake’s Hotline Bling called Copline Bling to encourage University of Delaware students to use LiveSafe’s crime reporting app. LiveSafe also recently upgraded its platform to allow companies to send emergency messages to employees in a certain geographic area.
Lesson: Nothing lasts forever, good or bad. Work through the challenging times and make sure to savor the good ones.
Current home: Leesburg
Free time: Spends it with family, including attending daughter’s equestrian events and going to family beach house in Ocean City, Md.
Bucket list: Climb Machu Picchu
Favorite book: Lincoln on Law, Leadership, and Life by Jonathan White
Favorite restaurant: The Source in Penn Quarter
Drink of choice: Champagne
Family: Married 24 years; two kids (21 and 17); four dogs and one horse.
Most people don’t know: She writes poetry.
Startling fact: Carolyn and her husband were on one of the first TV reality shows. It was about getting married in the '90s.
Emily Rasowsky, Social Driver
Emily Rasowsky has two big roles in DC: marketing director of Social Driver, a digital marketing agency, and founder of All Women in Tech, which organizes virtual events on diversity and inclusion in the tech world and profiles women thriving in the space.
Some of her recent career highlights include leading her first huge pitch. She was the youngest person at the table but she found the nerve-racking experience empowering as she gained respect from seasoned professionals in the field. She also led a social media campaign for DC at SXSW last year.
Social Driver recently launched a new social analytics and strategy reporting service. And All Women in Tech recently held a 100% digital event with African American Women in STEM. Participants included women from the White House, NASA, the Department of Energy and several entrepreneurs.
Lesson: Before you can be there for other people, you need to show up for yourself. Set boundaries and have a clear sense of what you can and cannot do.
Hometown: Las Vegas
Current home: Logan Circle
Free time: Teach yoga and spend time with friends and family
Bucket list: Hike the Himalayas.
Favorite books: Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt and Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Favorite restaurant: Acqua AI 2
Drink of choice: Whisky ginger or red wine
Startling fact: She took trapeze lessons as a kid.
Eryn Lampe, NAV.VC
Eryn Lampe grew up in a family with a strong background in the arts and nonprofits. She was able to fulfill her love for working with passionate and creative people at NAV.VC, a venture capital firm that focuses on seed and early stage companies. She says her role as director of operations lets her support driven entrepreneurs in an ecosystem that’s essential to the American economy.
One of her responsibilities is producing annual meetings for the firm’s limited partners. Last year’s meeting stands out because it included a forum with successful women entrepreneurs, all backed by NAV.VC. She also recently managed the launch of the firm’s newly designed and architected website and is overseeing NAV.VC’s office expansion in Reston Town Center.
Best lesson: Don’t let pride get in the way of progress. If you want to collaborate with others, you have to be open to putting your answers aside, taking a deep breath and keep moving forward.
Hometown: Champaign, IL
Current home: Sterling
Free time: Running, hiking, biking and reading
Bucket list: Visit all the national parks.
Favorite book: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Favorite restaurant: Mokomandy in Sterling
Drink of choice: Craft cider–Potter’s Craft Cider in Charlottesville is a favorite.
Family: Married 13 years; two sons (16 and 11) and a Golden Retriever
Startling fact: She ran her first sprint triathlon at age 39 and a year before that, she couldn’t even run a half mile.
Holly Kortright, Ellucian
Holly Kortright started her career as an industrial engineer and worked in information systems consulting. She became intrigued by large-scale change management and went back to school for her MBA with a concentration in human resources. Since then, her focus has been helping very technical companies like Capital One, Deltek and now Ellucian find and develop the talent to grow.
In the last two years, Ellucian, which provides software and services to help educational institutions thrive, has hired 1,094 people, many of them highly technical and very much in demand. She also led an effort to drive an innovative culture and improve employee engagement while helping women within Ellucian advance to senior-level positions.
Lesson: As a role model, be aware of your priorities and model them for the people you’re mentoring.
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Current home: Chantilly
Free time: Volunteer at the Gladney Center for Adoption, where she adopted her two children.
Bucket list: See the Taj Mahal
Favorite book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Favorite restaurant: Fiola in Penn Quarter
Drink of choice: Prosecco
Family: Married to a rocket scientist (works for a government contractor) and two children (5 and 8).
Startling fact: Father encouraged her to study math–a skill she uses daily.
Kate Barrett, NEA
Kate Barrett dreamed of being a writer, so she trained to be a journalist. For the first 10 years of her career, she bounced between communications, IT and healthcare and finally found a role that incorporates all those passions as a marketing partner at NEA.
Since joining the tech and health care focused venture capital firm in 2007 as the first in-house communications staff, NEA’s committed capital has more than doubled to nearly $17B across all funds. It’s now investing out of a $3.1B fund and had more exits than any other large, diversified VC firm in 2015.
Kate recently spearheaded development of the firm’s portfolio services model, designed to leverage NEA’s scale to best support its companies. Her team is in the final stages of a rebranding project, with a new logo and refreshed visual identity slated to roll out next quarter. The design celebrates its nearly 40-year history and evolution, as well as its future.
Best lessons: Letting things happen is as important as making things happen; and don’t view people’s perspectives or opinions in absolute terms–they always fall somewhere on a spectrum and can always be moved.
Current home: Bethesda
Free time: Pilates, yoga, volunteering with Thrive DC, Girls on the Run and kids’ school.
Bucket list: Write a book, travel without an itinerary or agenda and do both at the same time.
Favorite books: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Possession by A.S. Byatt
Favorite restaurants: Sushiko in Chevy Chase and Fiola Mare in Georgetown
Drinks of choice: Triple shot latte in the morning; vodka tonic with lime at the end of the day.
Family: Married to Andrew; daughter (9) and son (6); dog and cat
Startling fact: She blushes. All the time. Often for no reason.
Katherine Ferguson, Cooley
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.
Kaylyn Gibilterra, Capital One
Kaylyn Gilbilterra’s technology path started by randomly taking a Microsoft Visual Basic class in high school because she thought it would be easy like Microsoft Office. She was more interested in becoming a teacher, pilot or interior designer and soon realized computer programming had a tie to all those things. At Penn State, she studied psychology and engineering—learning how computers think and how people think, two related things that she wanted to improve.
She’s convinced banking technology is way behind, so as a software engineer at Capital One, her job is working on a team making banking services more accessible through technology. She specifically works on the 360 Bank Card, a former ING product, and is getting ready to launch its new platform. “The goal is to reinvent all of banking and let people use their money in ways they want to,” she adds.
Lesson: Solving engineering problems is really exciting because it hopefully impacts millions of people.
Hometown: Hershey, PA—grew up on Chocolate Avenue.
Current home: Dupont Circle
Free time: Two weekend hackathons per month; attend Women Who Code events (love getting together with people to code, not with a goal to build something but to learn), origami and sky diving.
Bucket list: Go to space.
Favorite book: The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
Favorite restaurant: District Taco
Drink of choice: Leprechaun Hard Cider—only found in Texas.
Family: Bamboo plant
Startling fact: She’s never gambled but she wants to learn how to count cards.
Meredith Balenske, Revolution
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.
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.
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.
Patty Donnelly, Inovalon
Patty Donnelly put herself through college at the University of Maryland and graduated with a sociology degree. She knew she wanted a career helping people, but without a master’s degree, she wasn’t able to get a job as a social worker. So she landed at a temp agency testing and hiring administrative assistants. She was immediately hooked on HR.
She now leads HR for Inovalon, a healthcare tech firm. Her role spans learning and organizational effectiveness, recruiting, employee relations, HR systems, benefits and compensation. One of the highlights of her career was seeing Inovalon go public on the NASDAQ a year ago.
The company recently partnered with Quest Diagnostics to create a real-time analytics tool that helps healthcare providers by identifying and addressing gaps in their medical history.
Best lesson: Life is short and throws all kinds of challenges at you, but it’s how you handle those challenges that matters.
Hometown: Jersey shore and South Carolina mountains
Current home: Gambrills, Md.
Free time: Spent with two teen sons, serving on the board of the Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center, volunteering and working out.
Bucket list: Take a month off and sail to the Bahamas.
Favorite book: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Favorite restaurant: Filomena in Georgetown
Drink of choice: Water and Chardonnay
Family: Married; two teen sons; and a dog, cat, and bird. Also comes from a big family with six siblings and dozens of nieces and nephews.
Startling fact: She was so burned out from putting herself through college that she dropped out with 16 credits left to graduate. She gave away everything she owned except for a duffle bag of clothes and her favorite music and bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii. She worked on a cruise ship for a year and then came back to finish school. “Probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done.”
Roselle Safran, Uplevel Security
Roselle Safran’s cybersecurity career goes back 12 years, when she started in computer forensics. Before launching Uplevel Security, which uses graph intelligence to help enterprises and government agencies respond to cyber attacks more quickly and accurately, she worked at the Executive Office of the President. As the cybersecurity operations branch chief, she was responsible for protecting and defending the network used by the White House.
In her prior job, she managed the malware and forensics analysis team at DHS’s US-CERT. She soon realized that the process security teams go through to respond to cyber attacks was inefficient and created a bottleneck. So she created her own solution by launching Uplevel.
The idea has become a full-fledged, venture-backed company that’s grown to a team of six, with more to come. The company has been working closely with large enterprises, including Fortune 1000 businesses, while in beta and is now weeks away from launching its product.
Lesson: The team is critical to the success of the company. You have to be able to get along with the people you work with and have an environment where everyone's opinion is heard and respected.
Hometown: Long Island, NY
Current home: Capitol Hill
Free time: Spends it with her daughter.
Bucket list: Write a screen play.
Favorite book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Favorite restaurant: Ethiopic on H St.
Drink of choice: Rosé
Family: 18-month-old daughter
Startling fact: She’s a travel addict and has been to over 50 countries, including hiking at the foot of the Himalayas in Nepal.
Shannon Turner, Hear Me Code
Shannon Turner’s interest in technology started with her video game-playing grandmother. As a little girl, Shannon would draw pictures of how she thought the game could be enhanced. Her grandmother told her she’d have to get good at computers to make her creations come to life.
She took programming in high school but ended up majoring in political science, realizing that computer science was a tool for how to approach problems. Early in her career she worked at a startup as a coder and eventually launched Hear Me Code, an organization that offers free beginner coding classes for women.
Since 2013, the organization has trained over 1,500 women, held nearly 50 classes and recruited dozens of students who are now teachers. One of her proudest moments was hearing over a dozen women last year credit Hear Me Code with skills they needed to land a tech job.
Lesson: You could spend forever trying to perfect a project, but it’s best to release it early and make improvements as you go.
Current home: Mt. Vernon Triangle
Free time: Cook (a favorite is Turkish cuisine) and exploring the city by bike with her fiancée.
Bucket list: Visit all the national parks.
Favorite book: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Favorite restaurant: Rice on 14th Street, and Lighthouse Tofu in Rockville
Drink of choice: Homemade hot cocoa
Family: Engaged; one niece and one nephew
Startling fact: People are surprised by how much art impacts technology. Creating software is a creative act and I try to think about whose lives we're impacting and whose problems we're trying to solve.
Ximena Hartsock, Phone2Action
Ximena Hartsock has spent a career working in government and advocacy. But it wasn’t until she ran membership and grassroots for a national advocacy group based in California that she realized there wasn’t a tool for digital grassroots. Smartphones were just taking off and she knew they would help democratize policy making.
She pitched the idea far and wide. It was at an Apple Developers event in San Francisco that she knew the idea had legs. So she then convinced Jeb Ory, now her co-founder, to help her build the company. They drew up the concept on a cocktail napkin and ordered the domain name on her phone at the bar.
Now Phone2Action, which helps consumers communicate with lawmakers about legislation, is growing 400% annually. The advocacy tools are being used in 10 countries and all 50 states. Last year, the tool was used to create over 4,000 campaigns.
Best lesson: Resilience, drive and the desire to learn can make the career transition to technology smoother. You have to be optimistic that you can learn things you don’t know and have fun along the way.
Hometown: Santiago, Chile
Current home: Alexandria
Free time: Works on Phone2Action, volunteering, running and traveling.
Bucket list: Visit the four states she hasn’t yet seen, as well as Patagonia and Antartica.
Favorite books: Ninja Innovation by Gary Shapiro and Schools That Learn by Peter Senge
Favorite restaurant: Phone2Action’s snack pantry.
Drinks of choice: Water and pisco sour
Family: Eight nephews, who live in Chile, and a niece.
Startling fact: Her college in Chile had a circus and she was a trapezist and a fakir, who performed with fire.
Veronica Eklund and Sara Capra, Orate
Veronica Eklund loves learning new skills and doing things she’s never done before. Sara Capra (above) always thrived in jobs where she had to wear multiple hats. So it makes perfect sense that they co-founded of a tech startup. Veronica and Sara launched Orate in July 2014 after winning a Startup Weekend event in DC.
Orate is a digital platform that helps event organizers find the right speakers and helps speakers market their skills. The business is focused on association events for now, but will branch out as the platform of speakers grows. The team is also working on expanding the platform to help event organizers and speakers work together more effectively leading up to the event.
The platform surpassed its goal to have 500 speaker profiles by the end of 2015 and instead ended up with nearly 800. It’s now at over 1,000 published speaker profiles.
Best lesson: The power of good communication can’t be understated.
Current home: Arlington
Free time: Karaoke, indoor rock climbing, snowboarding, skiing, road biking, hiking, reading historical fiction and non-fiction and leadership books.
Bucket list: Visit all seven continents.
Favorite books: The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Favorite restaurant: Filomena in Georgetown
Drink of choice: Vodka gimlet
Startling fact: She’s an Irish citizen.
Best lesson: Make sure you take care of yourself or your quality of work will suffer and you’ll burn out fast. There are times entrepreneurs have to pull all nighters. That should be the exception and not the rule.
Current home: Arlington
Free time: Karoke, sand volleyball and dance
Bucket list: Visit every Disney park in the world.
Favorite book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Drink of choice: Cabernet (for its anti-aging properties)
Family: Five siblings
Startling fact: She’s dyslexic
Dayna Grayson, NEA
As an investing partner at NEA, Dayna Grayson focuses on applications that make consumers and businesses more productive. She makes 2-3 investments per year ranging from $3M-$15M. Roughly one-third of her investments are in women-led firms–a trend that wasn’t by design but driven by a diverse network of successful women and men who have been her focus.
She’s seen several of her investments take off, with one of the most recents being Onshape. The company is disrupting industrial design with a cloud-hosted CAD product.
Before going into venture capital, Dayna helped start an eye-gaze tech company in college with a professor and a team of students. She also led product design at a high-growth tech company called Blackbaud that went public in 2004. After business school, she joined a VC firm and realized she loved working with entrepreneurs at early stages.
Best lesson: Act on your instincts and find a path to doing this productively and effectively.
Hometown: Charleston, SC
Current home: DC–travel to NYC, Boston or Bay area frequently.
Free time: Ski and snowboard in winter, beaching and boating in summer in South Carolina.
Favorite book: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Favorite restaurant: Buck’s Fishing and Camping on Connecticut Ave.
Drink of choice: French 75 with cognac or gin
Family: Married, two daughters
Startling fact: She minored in English Literature with a focus on creative writing. She thought she wanted to be a writer but instead went into software development.
Elise Whang, SnobSwap
The American Dream is in Elise Whang’s DNA. Her grandmother opened the first sports store in Taiwan and her parents opened their own business after immigrating to the US. Combined with a major addiction to treasure hunting at local consignment stores and the explosion of online shopping, Elise and her sister launched SnobSwap.
The company brings together high-end, designer merchandise from consignment boutiques based in DC, LA, Miami, Dallas and New York into one online store. The company has partnered with over 150 designer consignment boutiques and recently built out its proprietary technology to migrate offline inventory online.
SnobSwap also recently launched the first and only exclusive online wholesale channel for pre-owned luxury items accessible only by its store partners. Elise says it’s like Alibaba for authentic, pre-owned luxury.
Best lesson: Pivoting and refining your business model is healthy and will get you closer to product market fit.
Hometown: Born in Queens, NY, raised in NoVa.
Current home: Palisades
Free time: Family, working on SnobSwap and the occasional workout.
Bucket list: Be Anthony Bourdain and go on a food tour around the world.
Favorite book: The Little Engine That Could
Favorite restaurants: Toki Underground on H Street, Rasika in Penn Quarter and Makoto in Palisades.
Drinks of choice: Soy latte by day, sake by night.
Family: Married, two kids, two dogs
Startling fact: She’s surprisingly strong for her size.