Female Founder Track’s second cohort in NYC at final pitch day
Dorm Room Fund
Aug 23 · 7 min read

This summer, we brought the power of Female Founder Track to NYC with our second cohort of founders, focusing on a small group of kickass female students starting companies in spaces as wide ranging as developing a drug to treat traumatic brain injury to surfacing indie beauty brands for people of color to solving the student debt crisis.

We were honored to have so many incredible women come spend time with us as instructors and coaches: Deepa Gandhi (Dagne Dover), Alex Cavolacous (The Muse), Hayley Barna (First Round), Nash Mouen Makoua (First Round / DRF), Lindsey Ullman (Umbrella), Banu Guler (Co — Star), Rebecca Kaden (USV), Katie Hunt (SHOWFIELDS), Amanda Johnson (Mented), Kelly Peeler (Commonbond), Sam Ku (Cooley / DRF), Mollie Chen (Birchbox), Meghan Cross-Breeden (Amplifyher VC), Jodi Kessler (3L Capital), Lisa Burton (HearstLab), and Abigail Hunter-Syed (LDV Capital).

With this incredible set of teachers, we covered the essentials for getting from zero to one, and brainstormed with these experienced women on how to spin up prototypes, how to position the narrative of your pitch, the basics of brand strategy, the fundraising process, and more. They gave us invaluable feedback on our pitches, and took time to really dig in and provide actionable advice for our companies — this beat the hell out of your average “how to start a start-up” lecture.

But the real stars of the show were the incredible women who participated in this Female Founder Track cohort. They come from a true diversity of schools and backgrounds, and it goes to show that there is no one specific experience or skill that lends itself to being better at building a great business. What does create great companies is a vibrant community that serves as a safe space to ask questions, get mentorship, and amplify an individual’s power — and that is what we’ve been building here at FFT and at Dorm Room Fund, for all the female and other founders on campus who feel alienated by what can sometimes be a “tech-bro” heavy startup community at their schools.

What does create great companies is a vibrant community that serves as a safe space to ask questions, get mentorship, and amplify an individual’s power

If you want to get in touch with the next generation of Katrina Lakes, Jenn Hymans, Mark Zuckerbergs, and Bill Gates of the world — look no further than this list. We here at Dorm Room Fund are proud to introduce the graduating Cohort 2 of Female Founder Track!

Name: Efi Turkson

School: Columbia Business School

Social Media: linkedin.com/efi-turkson

Company Name: Basis Beauty | thebasisbeauty.com

Company Description: Multibrand beauty marketplace tailored towards the needs/wants of people of color.

Next steps: Developing relationships with inclusive, indie beauty brands.

One thing FFT helped with: The importance of user testing and validating your hypotheses.

Name: Taylor Rowe

School: The London School of Economics

Social Media: linkedin.com/in/taylorrowe | Twitter: @taylor_rowe_

Company Name: Indebted

Company Description: Indebted is a human-centric approach to the dysfunctional higher education market. We’re creating a community of resources to help navigate the student debt crisis, from applying for financial aid to managing existing debt.

Next steps: Creating original story-driven content to de-stigmatize student loans and provide resources for repayment.

One thing FFT helped with: Developing unique ideas for quick and effective user testing.

Name: Jackie Gottshall

School: Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences

Social Media: linkedin.com/in/jackiegottshall

Company Name: Ceresyn Biosciences

Company Description: Ceresyn is leveraging two decades of clinical research to develop new therapeutics that improve long-term quality of life for people with acquired brain injuries.

Next steps: Secure industry partnerships to develop our intellectual property

One thing FFT helped with: Connecting me with an incredible and inspiring network of founders and innovators

Name: Kymberlee Hill

School: Howard University

Social Media: Instagram: @kymwithay | Twitter: @kymsmilesxd | Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/kymberleehill

Company Name: Curl IQ | curl-iq.com

Company Description: We create easy and fun ways to discover, learn and shop textured hair care. Currently building visual technology that turns photos of curly hair into personalized product recommendations.

Next steps: Running paid pilots with name brand hair care brands

One thing FFT helped with: Coming up with new ways to test & validate hypothesis and assumptions

Name: Lisa Lu

School: Harvard University (Class of 2019)

Social Media: GitHub: github.com/LisaLudique | Instagram: instagram.com/lisaludique/ | LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/lisaclu/ | Twitter: @seaweedfarmer

Company Name: ShelterHacks | shelterhacks.com

Above is the link to the hackathon that our team members plan on organizing annually. We have yet to name our platform and are happily taking creative name suggestions :)

Company Description: We are building an ecosystem that helps people experiencing homelessness meet their goals and reach the next level of self-sufficiency and stability, starting with a platform that makes it easy to discover and navigate to relevant resources on-the-go. We want to democratize the support that case managers and resource advocates offer, as well as digitize inefficient shelter workflows.

Next steps: Launching our resource platform to at least half the population of people staying in emergency and transitional housing in Cambridge, MA.

One thing FFT helped you with: Learning different, low-friction ways to test and validate hypotheses and how to craft insightful user interviews.

Name: Sara Siye Liu

School: NYU Stern School of Business (Class of 2022)

Social Media: linkedin.com/in/siye-liu-sara/

Company Name / URL: Miranda | mirandame.com

Company Description: Miranda helps independent insurance agents who sell homeowner and commercial property insurance save time and grow their business by qualifying their leads and delivering the necessary data points for producing insurance quotes. Miranda strives to be the one-stop shop for insurance services from homeowners and commercial property insurance.

Next steps:

  • Going live with our first pilot agency
  • Getting our first paid pilot contract in the next 4 weeks
  • Interview 5 independent insurance agency owners weekly to further investigate their problems and getting closer to problem-solution fit
  • Interview 5 SaaS industry experts weekly to validate other parts of our business model canvas such as cost and revenue structure

One thing FFT helped you with: Brainstorm ideas on how to conduct experiments and gather feedback as rapidly as possible to fine tune our value proposition and validate our business model canvas.

Name: Christine Hong

School: Harvard University (Class of 2019)

Social Media: linkedin.com/in/christine-hong-28b144112 | medium.com/@christinehong_76785

Company Name: Apothecary | apothecary.ai

Company Description: Apothecary is a data-driven skincare consultation service. We streamline product discovery by making the process of trial and error targeted and cost-effective.

Next steps:

  • Pre-launch referral campaign to build waitlist and prep for…
  • Beta launch in September!

One thing FFT helped you with: FFT opened the door to an incredible community of founders who are going through the ups and downs of building a company alongside each other. Not only were relationships built within the program, but they were also extended to the First Round network. I received really helpful feedback from entrepreneurs and investors who were experts in the consumer space which was very relevant and actionable.

Name: Sofia Alejandro

School: Duke University

Social Media: twitter.com/aifjs, | github.com/alejandrosofia | linkedin.com/in/sofia-alejandro

Company Name: YouElect | youelect.co

Company Description: YouElect helps you make an informed vote by giving you personalized, nonpartisan recommendations about the issues and candidates on your ballot, just by taking a quiz specific to your region (with an emphasis on municipal and state elections).

Next steps: Our next major milestone is launching our beta in at least two major American cities and reaching at least 20,000 voters before March 2020.

One thing FFT helped you with: FFT helped me better understand fundraising — everything from different investment decisions behind venture funding, what fundraising decisions founders make, and to what specific funding vehicles look like and how they work.


Want to get in touch with any of these women? Shoot me an email at shohini@dormroomfund.com — I’ll be happy to connect you!

Dorm Room Fund

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