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Announcing Our Female Founders Competition Finalists

By Tamara Steffens

With 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley, I’ve seen first-hand how difficult it can be to grow a successful startup. Building great technology, recruiting talent, and landing customers are all difficult challenges that every entrepreneur faces. But for some entrepreneurs, there are additional hurdles that prevent them from realizing success.

Access to venture capital — a sometimes critical lever for company growth — proves to be one of these “bonus” hurdles, for women in particular. Early stage female founders pitching for capital receive on average $1 million less than their male counterparts. That $1 million deficit ladders up to a much broader systemic issue; if we take a step back, female-founded companies raised only 2.8% of venture capital in 2019.

While we have a long way to go in terms of sustainable progress, there are positive indicators of steps forward. 2019 saw the rise of 21 female-founded unicorns. The Wing Founder and CEO Audrey Gelman was on the cover of Inc. magazine during her pregnancy — the “first visibly pregnant CEO to be on the cover of a business magazine” — demonstrating a major shift in the public representation of a company leader. Entrepreneur’s 100 Powerful Women issue featured the women behind FabFitFun, ClassPass, Stitch Fix, Glossier, and more. While every entrepreneur’s journey is different, there’s a theme amongst many of those female-founded companies: they’re largely targeting female consumers.

Women focused on the enterprise with highly technical solutions were less of a cover story and more of a Cliff’s Note in 2019. Crunchbase finds that women building companies that offer gender-neutral products and services have an even more difficult time raising venture capital than their female-focused counterparts, amassing only 54% of the funding that female-founded, women-centric companies receive.

However, as the gender-neutral reality of IT spending grows, and women continue to deliver higher revenue than their male counterparts, it’s a business imperative to invest in women building technical companies.

In an industry steeped in those systemic “bonus” hurdles for underrepresented founders, we announced our second Female Founders Competition to reach outside of standard inroads and identify those game-changing women entrepreneurs disrupting the enterprise. We expanded our geographic reach, added a new award category and increased our combined investment to provide greater opportunity for this community. The applications were impressive, and we were blown away by the technical expertise, customer-centricity, and passion from these founders.

In partnership with Mayfield and Melinda Gates’s Pivotal Ventures, we’re investing $6 million in four female-founded companies. But before we get there, here are our finalists:

Deeptech — Global

Dr. Ilana Wisby, Founding CEO; Oxford Quantum Circuits — Oxford, UK

A spinout from the University of Oxford, OQC has built the UK’s most advanced quantum computer — the only one commercially available in the country. OQC is now developing a unique Quantum Computing as a Service platform to enable its partners and customers to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from encryption security to climate change.

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Zara Riahi, Founder and CEO; Contilio — London, UK

Contilio is the world’s first 3D AI analytics platform, empowering the $12 trillion construction industry to close the critical performance feedback loop for big construction projects, saving millions in error and delay costs.

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Jasmin Ravid, Co-founder and CEO & Dr. Daria Feldman, Co-founder and CTO & Hadar Shohat, Co-founder and COO; Kinoko-Tech — Jerusalem, Israel

Kinoko-Tech offers a mushroom-based alternative protein, created through the fermentation of edible mushroom mycelium with legumes and grains.

Dr. Carmit Yadin, Co-founder and CEO; ArcusTeam — Tel Aviv, Israel

ArcusTeam identifies, analyzes, and secures all connected devices on an enterprise’s network and gives the enterprise a holistic security overview.

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Mehak Mumtaz, Co-founder and COO & Joana Paiva, Co-founder and CTO & Paula Sampaio, Co-founder and CSO; iLoF — Oxford, UK

iLoF uses AI and photonics to build a cloud-based library of disease biomarkers, initially focusing on the biggest epidemic of our time: Alzheimer’s disease.

Enterprise Software — Global

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Cristina Vila, Founder and CEO; Cledara — London, UK

Cledara is the purchasing and analytics platform for businesses that need to manage and control recurring subscription payments.

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Hagar Rips, Co-founder and CEO; Ladingo — Hod HaSharon, Israel

Ladingo offers online retailers the ability to sell cross-border effortlessly.

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Hanna Asmussen, Founder and CEO; Localyze — Hamburg, Germany

Localyze is an all-in-one software that simplifies the relocation process for companies and their international employees.

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Emma Rees, Co-founder and CEO & Kayleigh Kuptz, Co-founder and COO; Deployed — London, UK

Deployed is a B2B SaaS productivity platform for the $3 trillion of services transacted via Statements of Work (SoW) globally.

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Maayan Darki, Co-founder and CEO; Timing — Tel Aviv, Israel

Timing helps field service organizations better utilize resources and achieve outstanding efficiency and exceptional customer experience.

Deeptech — US

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Jessica Gibson, Co-founder and CEO; Ariel Precision Medicine — Pittsburgh, PA

Ariel delivers precision medicine solutions to accurately diagnose, treat and manage complex diseases.

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Farah Papaioannou, Co-founder and President; Edgeworx — San Jose, CA

Edgeworx is a Cloud-to-Edge fabric company, deploying, managing, orchestrating, and running applications seamlessly on any distributed infrastructure.

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Ann Holder, Founder and CEO; Odonata Health –Minneapolis, Minnesota

Odonata Health is dedicated to improving the experience and outcomes of pregnant women and their babies while reducing the cost of care across the care continuum for women.

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Michelle Zhu, Co-founder and CEO & Tammy Hsu, Co-founder and CSO; Tinctorium — San Francisco, CA

Tinctorium is a synthetic biology company making the world of color more sustainable, starting with the indigo for dyeing jeans without the use of petroleum and other toxic chemicals.

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Riana Lynn, Founder and CEO; Journey Foods — Chicago, Illinois

Journey Foods is a software company that uses machine learning to bring on-demand science and data analysis to the $600 billion food market.

Enterprise Software — US

Gal Zabib, Co-founder and CEO; Altostra — Palo Alto, CA

Altostra has developed a cloud-agnostic SaaS solution that helps engineers build modern applications rapidly by automating 90% of repetitive DevOps processes.

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Saujin Yi, Founder and CEO; Liquid — Los Angeles, CA

Liquid provides an all-in-one software platform that allows growing companies to streamline the way they onboard, manage, and pay their professional service vendors, contractors, and freelancers.

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Cecilia Flores, Co-founder and CMO; Webee — Sunnyvale, CA

Webee is an IIoT no-coding end-to-end toolset, powered by AI and Machine Vision, that provides real-time insights, alerts, and recommendations to increase the visibility, sustainability, and efficiency in manufacturing, industrial and supply chain operations.

Jag Gill, Founder and CEO; SUNDAR, Inc. — New York City, NY

SUNDAR’s digital platform connects apparel retailers with global manufacturers, transforming the fashion supply chain by driving the speed-to-market, responsiveness and sustainability standards demanded by today’s consumers.

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Pradnya Desh, Founder and CEO; Advocat Technologies — Bellevue, WA

Advocat conducts conversation-driven legal research and drafting for the Legal Departments of Fortune 500 companies.

While we had originally planned to join as a community in Silicon Valley and meet these founders face-to-face, we’ve pivoted to a digital experience in light of public health concerns. As always, these female founders have responded with resounding resiliency, and will deliver their pitches via Microsoft Teams instead.

Over the next two days, this group of incredible finalists will pitch to our all-female panel of judges. I am thrilled to be joined by Mayfield’s Priya Saiprasad and Julie Wroblewski of Pivotal Ventures to learn more about these incredible startups and the entrepreneurs behind them.

We plan to organize an in-person event for this community still, but delaying these pitches was not an option. Providing more equitable access to venture capital is not something that can be postponed.

To participate in the conversation, use #FemaleFoundersComp. To learn more about M12, visit www.m12.vc.

m12vc

Microsoft’s Venture Fund

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