On May 29,, 2019, Women Who Tech hosted its 8th Women Startup Challenge at Google in New York City. The event offered female entrepreneurs across North America the opportunity to pitch their ventures before a panel of judges for the chance at winning an equity-free cash prize of $50,000.

Founded by Allyson Kapin in 2008, Women Who Tech is a nonprofit organization on a mission to fund women-led startups that are breaking new ground in technology. While there has been a rise of women entering STEM fields and embarking into the world of entrepreneurship, statistics have proven that only 2.2% of venture capital goes to female founded startups. With women at a clear disadvantage, Kapin sought out to remedy this global issue by launching the Women Startup Challenge, which showcases female founded ventures that are tackling some of the biggest issues facing the world. Since starting the Women Startup Challenge, Women Who Tech have seen an increasing amount of success in their efforts to support underrepresented founders. So far, Women Who Tech has built a pipeline of more than 3,000 women-led startups, 40% of which are women of color. The organization has also built a strong network of over 65,000 people. In addition, 84% of Women Who Tech's Alumni have raised venture capital funding with a collective total of more than $53 million. Showing their support for the Women Startup Challenge, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, Techstars, Pineapple Fund, Rad Campaign and Donna Griffit Corporate Storyteller were all sponsors for this year's event. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies also serves as a member on the advisory board for Women Who Tech. As an ally for gender equity in tech, Newmark has been actively supporting the Women Startup Challenges over the years while advocating for women to have equal opportunities to receive the necessary funding needed to scale their ventures. "Investors need to put their money where their mouths are to support women founders and close the funding gap for good. This will help maximize innovation and create products that are useful for everyone," said Newmark. During the event, sponsor Karen Aviram Beatty, Managing Director of Global Partnerships at Google, shared her support for female entrepreneurs who are changing the culture from a woman's perspective while making space in the workplace for diversity of thought. According to Beatty, statistics show that gender diverse and racially diverse companies are more likely to outperform their counterparts. "Companies with more women in leadership show twice the profit of companies with no women leaders. Companies that make gender equality a priority are 12% more profitable. Companies with higher leadership diversity reported 19% innovation revenue," stated Beatty. With a mission in mind and an outpour of support from advisors, judges, mentors and sponsors, this year's pitch challenge was a success. Among the 10 finalists at the 2019 Women Who Tech event, Christine Schindler, co-founder and CEO of PathSpot, won the $50,000 grand prize for her innovative hand-scanning system that eliminates the threat of food-borne illnesses by detecting signs of bacteria and viruses that may still be on the hands of food-handling staff members. The product serves to raise awareness and promote safety within restaurants by exposing any lapses in sanitation practices that may potentially put customers' health at risk. The Audience Choice Award of $120,000 in cloud services went to Stephanie Yim, co-founder of Good Call, a 24/7 emergency arrest hotline that provides free legal support in under a minute to those who have been detained. After hearing the stories of dozens of New Yorkers who have been arrested for minor offenses, the founders created Good Call as a way to combat this issue for people who may not know their rights or who to call. The eight remaining finalists, however, did not walk away empty handed. Ventures Farm Fare, I-Subz, Metalmark Innovations,Basepaws, Ejenta, Elidah, The Growcer and Queen of Raw all received $20,000 in cloud services from Google. In addition, all 10 finalists were also hosted at Silicon Valley Bank for one-on-one meetings with investors after the event. As attendees utilized the hashtag #WomenStartupChallenge throughout the night, the event quickly rose to Twitter's trending page as men and women alike, tuned in and found themselves inspired by each of the finalists. For young girls and women, the Women's Startup Challenge showcases female representation in the tech space that is not often seen. It encourages females, regardless of age or race, to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career choice in which their ideas and passions can transform into physical products that will benefit society. As the challenge continues and receives more applications with each coming year, women can find inspiration in knowing that there is always room for new, innovative ideas. There is still more to be done in the tech world. Building upon their momentum, Women Who Tech have already announced next year's challenge theme — health tech. This event will take place in Europe and is open to women in the US, as well. Applications open June 2019. For those who would like to watch this year's pitch competition, you can watch the full video on Women Startup Challenge's official YouTube page.


Shivani Mangar