Celebrating female founders making an impact on International Women’s Day
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge, encouraging all of us to rise up against bias and inequality; and celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women all around the world.
Avanta Ventures is proud to partner with some outstanding female founders, who each day choose to challenge the norm and blaze their own path. In celebration of their efforts and to inspire other aspiring female entrepreneurs, we asked each of them to share the biggest lesson they have personally learned as a female founder.
As a first-time founder, I am continually learning valuable lessons and growing from the experiences of our company. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the need to continually reference the market for our product and the need that it serves for our customers. Since we launched Buzz Solutions in 2017, the market has greatly changed with increased adoption of new inspection technologies, especially drone technology, and as such, our product road map is ever refining. We are continually improving our go-to-market strategy and honing our product market fit. This helps us in our prioritization of resource allocation based on our biggest customer needs and demands. As a founder, I have learned the importance of ongoing customer discussions and enhancement of our product to stay on the leading edge of innovation.
Kaitlyn is the CEO and co-founder of Buzz Solutions, providing AI-based fault detections and actionable insights for grid inspections. Kaitlyn graduated from Stanford University with coursework in Economics, Finance, and Psychology. She has previous experience working in finance at J.P. Morgan. Prior to Buzz Solutions, Kaitlyn ran a non-profit in the sustainable food space, employing 60 people and overseeing the needs of 300 people. In 2017, she co-founded Buzz Solutions with Vik Chaudhry in a launchpad course at Stanford focused on energy and sustainability.
Change is the only constant in life and even more so when founding a company. Embracing that thought is core to building resilience and to enjoying the ride of entrepreneurship.
Rachelle and Henriette met at MIT where they shared a passion for AI and solving enterprise problems. Rachelle received her Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Computer Vision and Architecture from MIT, a program that only accepts two candidates per year. She’s led over $1B in building projects for strategic innovative initiatives and built over 60+ computational tools. Her work focused on the intersection of AI and architecture, which serve as the foundation for Hosta Labs’ mission: merging intelligence and infrastructure. Henriette received her MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and has worked in top tier consulting, managing multi-million-dollar projects for Fortune 100 companies on process optimization, strategy development, and restructuring for more than 12 years.
Founding a company is hard regardless of the package God chose to place us each in. That said, here in Silicon Valley there are privileges afforded to those born into certain bodies, certain networks and accepted into certain universities. For those like me with none of the above, bridging the chasm from no access to fast-growing, hot startup absent those easy entry ramps was challenging, rewarding, and built my tenacity while hardening my resilience. As a founder not born of privilege, hearing a hugely disproportionately number of “No’s” is a given regardless of how many other boxes you may check (e.g., technical co-founder, past big exits, massive anchor enterprise customer, etc.) And that’s when you focus on the awesome and what works for you!
If you are Black female (she) like me, you find savvy investors like Chris Yeh, Tom Brophy, and Michael Ross who see others’ low expectation as an opportunity to capitalize and secure another huge exit. They each bring more than money meaning (though they offer that too) — they connect me into those networks I may not otherwise have access to.
Technology business visionary Anita Darden Gardyne is an award-winning Black businesswoman with a personal mission of extending women’s careers, closing the pay equity gap faster, and creating thousands of living wage jobs. As Co-founder and CEO of Onēva, Anita combines her prowess as a trendsetter and trailblazer with this mission. The certified Minority Owned Business offers an employer-provided technology platform that matches FBI background-checked in-home care providers with employees to help them achieve greater work-life balance and peace of mind. Through the platform, caregivers are able to carve their own schedule and pursue jobs that best match their skillset while employees are comforted to know available caregivers have current FBI background checks, are fairly compensated and are trustworthy to care for elders, children, those with disabilities, pets, and home needs.
Overcome that moment of hesitation. In 2012, I was approached by my co-founders to start my first company, but I was very hesitant to leave my stable job and start the business. Luckily, I took a leap of faith and the business grew and became profitable, ranking #28 in Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies in 2015. The two biggest factors that made me hesitant to co-found my first company were the salary reduction and the risk. By risk, I mean many factors, including financial risk, market and opportunity risk, team experience risk, etc.
I initially was an investment banker with a stable income, and I had worked hard for four years to be paid well and become recognized within the male-dominated industry of finance. So, to go back to feeling like I was starting all over again with a new team was a huge challenge for me. I remember speaking with my husband, and we came to the conclusion that since we still had no kids to support and a good marriage, it was a risk we could take. Ultimately, I believed in myself and made the final decision to move forward with co-founding the company. I knew that I was a fighter and a competitive athlete at heart. Thus, I felt I could overcome any hurdle that came my way. Believe in yourself and just do it!
Chen is an experienced Co-founder with a demonstrated history of success in the tech industry. She is a mentor to women entrepreneurs and enjoys empowering women, especially mothers, to achieve their goals while maintaining a satisfying family life. Chen is currently working on a new project that focuses on AI and future of work. Previously she was the Co-founder & CEO of MyKumbaya, Inc. the first gig marketplace for Gen Z and was the Co-founder & CEO of SimilarTech. Before that, she served as the President & CEO of ClicksMob (acquired by AIM: XLM). She also worked as an investment banker at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brother and was a former European champion hurdler.
Chen led both SimilarTech and ClicksMob’s growth. Both self-funded and profitable companies. ClicksMob was ranked #28 in Forbes Magazine’s list of America’s Most Promising Companies for 2015. In 2019, Chen was featured in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 under 40 as an individual to watch. She graduated cum laude from Brandeis University in Boston with a BA in business and economics and holds an MBA from Bar Ilan University in Israel and Fudan University in China.
A huge lesson I’ve learned is to be insatiably curious, always, often expressed by constantly testing and validating with MVP versions with real users. Experimenting with various use cases of the IP that we’ve built. Hungry for more data, always. Continuously connecting with our extended network, seeking as much information as possible about the potential paths available to us, including how that changes over time. By being constantly curious, we’ve vastly expanded the use case for our tech, and how to get our product to market.
Shanna is Co-founder and Chief Data Officer at Delos, a wildfire risk-focused home insurer, where she leads the world-class analytics team. The Delos analytics and modeling team stands out in the industry, with deeply experienced experts and cutting-edge proprietary methodology, which Shanna leverages into building insurance products that protect homeowners better than ever. Prior to Delos, Shanna spent 12 years performing statistical analysis and predictive modeling for weather satellites in the Aerospace industry, after studying Physics at UC Berkeley.
As a founder you must be your own cheerleader. You may want to fall back and judge yourself, but it’s better to take a moment, reflect and see what you did good and what you can learn and change for the future. You also have to constantly remind yourself of your passions. Remind yourself why you started the company and the problem you are trying to solve.
As a founder I tried to be open-minded to new opportunities. For me, starting off as a psychologist I noticed many people in my field are scared to venture out and apply their knowledge in different industries.
The most important thing I learned is to be part of a professional community, where you feel safe to ask for help and advice from people you trust and feel supported by. For example, I’m part of a woman in-tech community. The sense of belonging and validation and the fact that you know that people go through similar things makes the bond even stronger and reduce the sense of isolation that founders feel at times.
Dr. Adi Zief-Balteriski is a psychologist, entrepreneur and product expert. She applies her expertise as a behavioral science specialist in the field of community, wellness, technology and consumer behavior. She is also a researcher in the field of well-being, human computing interaction and technology and presents her work at universities and organizations in the Bay Area. Previously, Adi opened a successful private practice and a consulting business and engaged in product consulting for consumer and wellbeing products. After working several years as a consultant for startup founders in the Bay Area, she shifted her focus towards the tech world. Adi began working on products at startups focused on the well-being of individuals and communities. Later, she worked as a product manager being part of the entire product lifecycle from ideation to launch. Adi was the co-founder and the Chief Behavioral Officer of the Kumbaya App, a communal marketplace app that connected teens with parents. Adi holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Palo Alto University, L.L.B in Law and B.A in Business and IT from the Interdisciplinary Center. She is also the mother of two young children and passionate about making a positive impact on people’s well-being and advocating for the empowerment of women to succeed in modern society.
Avanta Ventures is very proud to work with these amazing founders and can’t wait to see how their leadership stories continue to unfold.
Join the conversation this International Women’s day by following #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021 on social media.