What Foodspotting, LARK, and TaskRabbit Have in Common: Women Entrepreneurs

5 years ago

Everyone has problems. Entrepreneurs are those that solve a problem -- and take offer their solution to everyone else in the world. Here are three women who wanted something that didn't exist, and made it happen by launching a tech startup to solve a problem.

Let's Go Foodspotting

A few years, ago, designer Alexa Andrzejewski realized that she wanted to find particular dishes at restaurants, but websites like Yelp, Chowhound and Zagat focus on long-winded reviews on the restaurants as a whole. But what if you wanted to find the best place to eat okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake? Or the best fried chicken and waffles place near you?

Enter Foodspotting, which provides a location-aware smartphone app (and website) that helps you discover the tasty dishes by you. Foodspotting easily lets you share pictures of delicious dishes at restuarants taken by Foodspotting's loyal community members. These pictures are taken at the restaurant and then submitted via smartphone app or website. I bet you've seen more than your fair share of people taking pictures of their food at restaurants -- this is where some of those pictures are shared, to help you find the dishes you want to eat.

How did the 27-year-old Andrzejewski start Foodspotting? She went to Women 2.0 Startup Weekend in 2009 with her idea for a way to find a dish near you simply by using your smartphone. As a designer, she had created sleek interface designs for what the smartphone app would look like if it were real. She shared these with the crowd and soon mobilized her first investor and technical co-founder who built the smartphone app per her specifications. Today, her Foodspotting smartphone app has been downloaded over two million times, and her company has received $3 million dollars in venture funding to expand and grow the business.

Julia Hu, Alexa Andrzejewski, Leah Busque. Images courtesy the entrepreneurs profiled

Inventing An "Un-Alarm Clock"

Here is another woman who found herself with a problem, and imagined a new way to fix it. A few years ago, 26-year-old Julia Hu was attending business school and finding that her partner's alarm clock woke her up at 5:30am every morning -- when her own preferred waking time was 7:30am. She was so tired from this constant disturbance that she could hardly function at school. So she pitched the idea to her school's business plan competition and landed in the top five, and was encouraged to start her company, LARK, that fall.

Her solution was a vibrating wristband that serves as a soundless alarm clock. It gets better: The LARK wristband tracks your sleep patterns and syncs to your iPhone to show your how you slept at night, even making recommendations for improvement.

Today, you can find Julia Hu's LARK wristband "un-alarm clock" on shelves at Apple stores across the country. With the tagline "wake your potential, not your partner," LARK is sure to be a runaway hit.

Helping Hands

Engineer Leah Busque is a self-proclaimed fan of math, algorithms, puzzles and ... efficiency! She wanted a way to outsource things like small errands and tasks, so she coded the first version of the website herself over the course of a summer.

TaskRabbit is a place for people to outsource their errands and tasks to "TaskRabbits" nearby. Here's an example: I've used TaskRabbit to purchase and bring me a banana cream pie on Pi Day. I couldn't leave and do it myself because it was an especially tough work day but I wanted someone else to go across, stand in line, purchase the banana cream pie and deliver it to my office because I absolutely could not leave. So I did what any self-respecting techie would do -- I posted the task up on TaskRabbit, and by the end of the day, I had the banana cream pie delivered to me at my office by a smiling TaskRabbit.

People have used TaskRabbit to wash a neglected pile of dishes, pick up dry cleaning or pet food, clean an apartment before AirBnB guests arrive and much more. These TaskRabbits have been screened and background checks performed -- you can even see a record of customer ratings from previous tasks they ran.

Three cheers for Leah Busque, who has been "single-handedly creating thousands of jobs" in this current economic recession.

[Do you want to start something? Whether your goal is to strike out on your own with a brilliant idea, or to bring an entrepreneurial approach to innovation within a company, you should attend BlogHer Entrepreneurs '12 -- register now!]

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