From a grassroots effort to a community-driven media company, now to new growth, new leadership, new business vision.
By Shaherose Charania, Co-Founder, Women 2.0
I have big news to share. Women 2.0 is taking its next step forward in its mission to inspire, catalyze and connect diverse innovators in technology.
A decade of change
Before equality and diversity were a part of any tech conversation…before Facebook, Twitter, smart phones, long before Lyft and Airbnb, back in the days of the Blackberry Pearl and pen-and-paper driving directions, Women 2.0 took its first steps. We didn’t even have a garage to start in. We took shape in whatever apartment my co-founders and I could meet in. That was back in 2006.
The good old days
Despite the first tech bust, we all knew then that tech was poised to impact every part of our business and everyday life. But as we looked in front of us, it was led by a homogeneous, mostly like-thinking, echo chamber of innovators. The “pattern recognition” hubris only made (makes) things worse. It ignored less visible – and equally impactful – innovators, but most of all it limited (limits) the impact of our industry. We knew this wasn’t sustainable. So we had to act.
Since then…here is the TL;DR:
– 100 pre-seed companies have gone Women 2.0 programs, the top 38% have gone on to collectively raise over $91 million – 11 of these companies have been acquired to date by companies including Yahoo! OpenTable, RetailMeNot, Twilio, TripAdvisor, Rise (One Medical) – 55,000 people have come through our event doors – 500 events around the world in 25 cities across the US, Canada Latin America, Europe and Asia – 5,000 blog posts/stories told on the blog
We’ve sparked a global community of technologists in over 25 cities worldwide, led by local influencers who hosted over 500 events and reached 55,000 people. Far and wide.
We’ve catalyzed new startups, helping more than 100 pre-seed startups succeed at programs like PITCH and Founder Labs. They’ve soared. The top third of these companies have raised a collective $91 million. Eleven have been acquired by big-name companies including Twilio, OpenTable, Yahoo, and OneMedical to name a few. Up and to the right.(Side note: We know we haven’t captured all the stories of change Women 2.0 ignited. If you have a Women 2.0 Story of Change, please share it with us, we want to hear it!)We’ve made some great friends. Megan Smith, Jeff Clavier, Kara Swisher, Jessica Livingston, Tony Hseih, Caterina Fake, Robin Chase, Dave McClure, Charles Hudson, Diane Greene, Sarah Tavel, Josh Elman: the list goes on. We’ve honored shot callers like Kara Swisher and visionary founders like Lynda Weinman and Julia Hartz. Countless inspirational leaders have spoken at our conferences, mentored our community, and helped elevate our impact in so many ways. Thanks all.
We’ve helped leading brands – a lot of them – join our movement of change. All of these:
…have helped move inclusion forward. That’s nearly 50 companies who stood with us and aligned our vision with their internal change including Google, Microsoft, MasterCard, Salesforce, Eventbrite, Etsy, Paypal, Pandora, Lyft, AOL to name a few.
Couldn’t do it without you
We made noise. And people listened. Thanks to the writers at Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, USA Today, Inc. Magazine, FastCompany, Forbes, Vogue, Glamour, CNBC, BusinessWeek, Huffington Post, Bloomberg TV, and countless others who took an authentic interest in this movement. Your messages reached farther than we could have imagined. And it helped create change.
This impact was the result of so many people. Every sponsor, speaker, core team member, mentor, attendee…so many people helped move this vision forward. I’m endlessly grateful, and wowed by what we created together.
Collective collaboration.And now…
We’re all feeling the shift:
- More and more companies – including many who helped fuel our movement – now hiring Heads of Diversity or creating in-house groups and programs to help move inclusion forward
- Executives, investors, and founders are stretching their comfort zones to elevate diversity – and once they start, they keep building
- Female founders – and funds focusing on them – are notably on the rise
- Unicorn returns on venture funds founded by women are being realized
- Tech conferences (actually, all sorts of conferences) are addressing diversity with inclusive content and speakers. In fact, “all male” panels get their fair share of jabs.
- We have our first female Presidential nominee
Tech is changing – and so is the world around us. The message is clear. We are better together, stronger when we balance our talents and perspectives and when all of us can contribute our full strength to creating impact. As Women 2.0 rose, so did this message. We see change everywhere.
It’s awesome. Yet there’s much more work ahead. And that leads us to our news.
The next decade of change
Now it’s time for the next phase. I am thrilled to announce I’m transitioning leadership of Women 2.0 to a newly formed company that will work towards it’s B Corp Certification led by Kate Brodock and her team. She’s brought together leaders I admire and respect to take the work of Women 2.0 to the next level.
Elisa Miller-Out, an entrepreneur, investor and community-builder will lead operations with Kate. Alongside, are selected Advisors to join this new journey and they include:
- Jesse Draper, General Partner at Halogen Ventures & CEO of Valley Girl, Inc
- Sean Branagan, Director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship a the Newhouse School, Syracuse University
- Meagan Eisenberg, CMO of MongoDB
- Monique Woodard, Venture Partner at 500 Startups
…and three long time supporters of Women 2.0 are continuing their commitment in this new phase:
- Charles Hudson, Managing Partner at Precursor VC and Venture Partner at SoftTechVC
- Jenny Fielding, Managing Director, TechStars
- Natalia Oberti Noguera, CEO, Pipeline Angels
And a selected group of purpose-driven, impactful Partners:
We’ve been working through the transition for Women 2.0 for a some time. We met a lot of companies and people who expressed their excitement in taking this to the next level. We imagined different futures together, we evaluated each other, carefully.
This wasn’t easy
In every meeting with Kate over the past year, I got excited, I got inspired, I saw a future that I wanted to help her build. She brought her experience, her authenticity, passion and determination so vividly. I knew this was the right next step for Women 2.0. I’ll be joining along for this new journey as a Board Member of the newly formed entity.
We know the numbers. In 2009, 9.5% startups had at least one woman founder. By 2014 that rate had almost doubled to 18%. Great trends but still, a long way to go. Female CEOs still face disproportionate levels of scrutiny and criticism from their boards. And women are still ditching the tech career ladder at much higher rates than men. With the new team and model ahead, the real job is to keep the momentum going – accelerating it, even – so that our numbers climb along with the success of this entire industry, year over year.
We aren’t done yet
I’m in. And if you’re reading this then I know you are too. We have new momentum on our side. Come join the new Women 2.0 and take action with us. Let’s do this.
Endless thanks to Ellen Leanse for contributing vision and edits to this post.
I’d like to take a moment to thank as many people as I can for their time and effort to Women 2.0:
- City Meetup Volunteers in all cities: Wow, each of you, you know who you are, you built the global fabric of the Women 2.0 network. Thank you for the generosity of your time and energy.
- Angie Chang: All this wouldn’t exist without you. You built so much of what we know today as Women 2.0.
- Shivani Sopory: In early days, you kept us on focused and moving.
- Baat Enosh: Brick by brick your passion and dedication helped us organically grow. You always said “yes” and were a trusted partner in this business
- Noah Kagan: It’s because of you Women 2.0 exists!
- Justin Maples: You supported and challenged the business in new ways when hard pivots were the only way.
- Jin Zhou: Your passion brought new movement and authentic energy to our cities.
- Jessica Schimm: Your new ideas and follow through made it all worthwhile.
- Jessica Stillman: You brought polish to our content while maintaining writing with purpose.
- Betsy Mikel: You were a true partner to us as we grew and always thoughtful, effective and fast!
- Ellen Leanse: You are a big, big part of Women 2.0 and have added upteen pounds of value strategically and tactically, in this entire journey. You’ve made me a stronger leader.
- Jenny Fielding: Our brain jams brought the best out-of-the-box ideas and you were always a voice of reason.
- Tabreez Verjee: You were always available and swiftly guided me in the dark spots.
- Mari Baker: It’s been a gift to tap into your wisdom and depth. I’ve gained the most actionable advice and perspectives from you.
- Joy Marcus: You believed in us early.
- Dianna Mullins: Your dedication to us felt like family. You brought clarity and confidence in your perspectives and instilled a revenue-focus.
- Dave Kochbeck: You continuously added serious value to our PITCH companies.
- Dana Rosenberg: You always showed up with commitment and delivered your work with passion and ownership.
- Adrian Rich: You know it all, navigated choppy waters, we couldn’t do it without you.
- Eric Ries, Steve Blank and Ann Miura-Ko: Your inspiration and guidance led to the inception of Founder Labs.
- Ayesha Rizvi: Your creative approach to our videos will last forever.
- Amy Myles: Your authenticity could be felt over the pond.
- Shari Eisenberg: You leveled up our work overnight, I will never trust anyone but you to large scale execution.
- John Mitchell: You are the smoothest operator in the business, I wouldn’t do a production without you, ever!
- Julie Chin: You GSD and kept us in check and moving at Founder Labs and Women 2.0 Conferences.
- Patricia Araque: Your guidance helped us spread our wings in Spain and Latam.
- Pedro Moneo: For incubating me, and supporting the launch of Founder Labs. Olé!
- Rebecca Lipon: Your enthusiasm, brains and brilliance was a gift.
- Aihui Ong: Your energy and generosity was the foundation of PITCH.
- Jazmin Hupp: You always thought outside the box and followed through.
- Emily Goligoski: You brought the video game to use early and lead the way.
- Lora Kolodny: From the early days, you followed our story, thank you always for the support.
- Google for Entrepreneurs: For being the first to invest in taking Women 2.0 global. Especially thanks to Mary Grove.
- Microsoft: For being consistent in your commitment to us over the years.
- MasterCard: For being an innovative partner, we became true friends. Particular thanks to Andrea Soto, Marlow Valdeabella, Dorian Tomace, Kelly Buchanan, Jen Millard.
- Blue Run: For the generosity of your team for the space for a Founder Labs home on Sand Hill.
- True Ventures: You were so gracious in giving us access to your space, twice for Founder Labs.
- General Assembly: In so many cities, we called your spaces our City Meetup home.
- WeWork: When we needed it the most, you gave us a welcoming space for City Meetup.
- Dave McClure: You always participated and did more by actually funding our companies, you were one of the first investors to take a chance on founders in our community.
- Xochi Birch: You hosted one of the best events at your home and since then became a loyal and honest friend.
- Shailesh Sachdeva: You deeply believed our vision and brought us opportunities I wouldn’t have imagined.
- Sarah Allen: You always collaborated and reminded me of the importance of the vision we both were working towards.
- Malachi Leopold: You remain dedicated to telling the stories of all founders in the most authentic way.
- Tessa Taylor: For giving me your couch, endless times while I came to NYC to grow the business and always making me feel supported.
- Everett Harper: For being an incredible sounding board, close friend and advocate as a Founder Labs company.
- Sumaya Kazi: For sailing in the same boat and just “getting it” when it came to #founderlife and #familylife.
- Conor Taylor: For being so selfless with your time when we needed it the most.
- Chris Shipley: You guided us with vision as we strategized in the early days.
- Charles Hudson: For always saying yes. I’m pretty sure you’ve moderated and spoken at nearly every conference! You inspire me with your bold moves.
- Joanne and Fred Wilson: For honest guidance and commitment to launch Founder Labs in NYC. You both have added so much value with your perspectives and guidance.
- Serge Kassardjian and Hana Chang: We had a blast, thanks for supporting Founder Labs in NYC at the Google offices.
- Jalal Karim: You have been selfless with your time and expertise.
- Kira Wampler: You were our first ever sponsor! Intuit software in boxes, what a time.
- Chris Shipley: The early days, strategizing on how we would scale was invaluable.
- Lesa Mitchell: You were our first “investor” in so many ways and always gave generously of your vision and experience.
- Sukhinder Singh Cassidy: For extending your wisdom and network to me in the right moments.
- Janet Hanson: For always being supportive and collaborative.
- Theresia Ranzetta: For your visionary perspectives early in the process.
- Rebecca Hwang: For being so giving of your time and office space in the early days.
- David Weekly: You were a champion in the early days and paved the way for authentic community building.
- Susan Pelosi and Rahul Prakash: For hosting Women 2.0 at Hatch Today as we grew, it always felt like home.
- Congo Sanchez: For the best, performers a tech conference could ask for!
- Divine: For being the most inspiring rapper a tech conference could ask for!
- DJ Jesika: For adding the vibes at our first ever Awards Ceremony.
- 23Design: For the, down-to-the-wire design support.
To my inner circle of friends: You’ve held me up, gave me perspective and reminded me of the importance of this work. Mom, dad, bro: for supporting my dedication to change.…and to anyone else I may have missed, Thank you.
About the author: Shaherose is a purpose-driven Product Marketing leader. She was previously, the CEO and Co-founder of Women 2.0. She began her career working at various startups in Silicon Valley in Product Management and Marketing at: Ribbit (British Telecom), Talenthouse and JAJAH (sold to Telefonica/O2). She is an active advisor to early stage technology startups through her pre-incubator, Founder Labs which she founded in 2010 and sits on the Board of Directors for Good World Solutions. Shaherose holds a B.A. in Business Admin from The University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business. Follow her on Twitter at @shaherose