The winner? Moonlab, the latest brainchild of wunderkind Dr. Sabine Seymour, flew in the face of wearables — those trending little gadgets that we wear to track everything from our biorhythms to our steps per day with SoftSpot. “This [sensor system] can actually [be] embedded in, well, your undergarments.” Well, alright! How much more wearable can you get? And though that was no easy task and the competition was fierce, she walked away a lot richer. Talk about going hard while keeping it soft. What a velvet-glove, iron-fist play.
Ten of the best women-led start-ups in the Northeast region, as selected by judges, pitched their vision to a crowd of journalists, tech-heads, business titans, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — and a panel of digital disruptors and investors. The judges — Digitalundivided’s Kathryn Finney; digital innovator and investor, Joanne Wilson; business maven and president of BBG Ventures (a fund for women lead tech start-ups), Susan M. Lyne; and Victoria Song of Flybridge Capital (an early stage venture capital firm) — leaned forward.
“What’s your business model?” Finney asks one entrepreneur. “How will this monetize?” Lyne asks of another. “How is this truly unique?” Wilson asks. Direction from established tech-mavens is priceless, and nights like these are a gold mine for both the tech-curious and tech-savvy alike.
And so went the first ever #WomenStartUpChallenge at the Microsoft headquarters, hosted by Women Who Tech, in partnership with Craig Newmark, the force behind Craigslist and Craigconnects. The next time there’s an event like this, I highly recommend you check it out.
Why would you want to go to an event like this, my tech-curious friend? Three good reasons. Three very good reasons.
So much of our time is spent behind a computer screen, talking to people in keystrokes. Or, thumbing our input and lives into acronyms, like "ttyl" and "np," laced with emojis to legions of “friends.” Getting to meet someone you’ve established a business e-relationship with (or want to establish a relationship with) is cool! And what about reconnecting with someone who you haven’t seen. These events are a great way to make real connections.
Tech is everywhere. Literally. #WomenStartUpChallenge winner, SoftSpotIO founder Dr. Sabine Seymour, nailed it with a comment as to the utility of her seamless sensory system during her pitch: “It’s in my clothing. My heart is really racing right now and the feedback is showing me that.” Anxious laughter aside, this wearable was a good thing after all! Based on the fact that she won, the judges also thought it was a good thing. The second runner-up, SirenRing was bringing that Wonder Woman 3.0 ethos in a stylish ring that emits a debilitating sound when activated. What a badass way to be a lady! Go tech.
In the tech space, women start-ups are often called “unicorns,” so rare are they in the digital land of TechEquality. According to a stat glaring out from the Women Who Tech site, “Only 7% of investor money goes to women led start-ups.“ Yikes! By supporting women in tech, we nurture a growing niche industry into a vibrant economic source. To create platforms for issues vital to women, it’s vital that women create the platforms. Simple. And the more we share, retweet, like, fund, discuss, develop, dream, and do, the more we invest in our most valuable commodity: ourselves. And that’s a good thing.
Women-centric tech events like #WomenStartUpChallenge are a good way to learn about a growing industry, meet new smart and innovative people and quite possibly spark an idea whose time has come. Who knows? Maybe next year, you’ll walk away with a cool, hard $25,000 after meeting a venture capitalist at an event who invests in your idea. A long shot? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. We believe in unicorns after all. And that’s a good thing.
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