11 Founders Who Most Certainly Feel Awesome Going Into 2018

I’ve had my eyes on several founders this year, each who’ve made moves that are going to keep me watching with popcorn in hand going into 2018.

One IPO, one acquisition, a lot of funding and innovation…… and a heck of a lot of amazing-ness.

So who are they?

Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix

IPO. Enough said.

Katrina Lake, Founder & CEO of Stitch Fix

Leah Busque of TaskRabbit

Acquired by IKEA. Enough said.

Icing on the cake? She joined Fuel Capital this Fall, which means she gets to continue her success on the other side of the table. I’m ok with that.

Leah Busque, Founder of TaskRabbit

Sara Chipps of Jewelbots

If you haven’t gotten your hands on a set of Jewelbots for any young girl in your life, go do it.

Chipps started out founding Girl Develop It, a global non-profit that trains women to become software developers. Herself a java developer, she went on to create Jewelbots, the friendship bracelet of today’s age that teaches girls who want to program their jewelry to send secret messages and change colors.

Anything for our next generation is just cool.

Julia Hartz of Eventbrite

Eventbrite’s been around since 2006 (and every single one of you has used it before!). They bootstrapped for two years, then plowed through the next decade to raise over $300m in funding, acquired 7 companies and now has a valuation of over $1b.

Sure though, we’ve been talking about Julia and Eventbrite for years. Why are we still watching her? Because every.single.person. I talk to about the company’s culture says it’s amazing, unique, and primed for success, and that’s primarily to the credit of Julia’s leadership and focus on the inside.

This is impressive. Someone who can create a culture that has only matured (in the best way) through growth is a role model for us all.

Julia Hartz, Co-Founder & CEO of Eventbrite

Iba Masood of Tara.ai

Masood embodies everything we stand for at Women 2.0 – diversity (on many fronts), cutting-edge technology (in this case, AI) and a focus on social impact (her company connects large firms to contract developers based on the firms’ existing open-source code, and recruits primarily based on programming skill, rather than age, gender or race).

While still early stage, Tara has gotten a lot of positive recognition this year, reinforcing its position as a future success story.

Iba Masood, Co-Founder of Tara.ai

Kristina Jones of Court Buddy

We talked with Jones earlier this year about being the only black woman founder in her 500 Startups cohort, at a time when she’d raised a small convertible note round of just over $150K for her startup Court Buddy. Court Buddy is a legal tech marketplace that matches and connects consumers with solo attorneys that fit their needs…. and their budgets.

Fast forward to this Fall, and she became the 14th black women (ever!) to raise funding over $1m (black women still receive an abysmal 0.2% of venture funding available…ugh).

Can’t wait to see what happens in 2018.

Kristina Jones and her Co-Founder (and husband!) James.

Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean of Werk

These ladies are just great. I had the pleasure of being on a webinar with Auerbach earlier this year (we talked about the Imposter Syndrome), and we connected shortly after that. She and Dean have plowed through 2017, kicking ass and taking names, and closed $3m in funding over the summer.

At the lead of the movement to create work environments, this is another company I taking very seriously the idea that women need to have better ways to work, realize their potential and reach success…. and companies would be missing a huge opportunity if they didn’t listen (that’s me being nice).

We’re lucky enough to consider the Werk crew our friends and can’t wait to continue supporting them in 2018.

Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean, Founders of Werk

Rana El Kaliouby of Affectiva

I had the delight of interviewing El Kaliouby, Co-founder of Affectiva (which uses AI for emotion detection) at Web Summit two years ago, back when her technology was showing a lot of success in the lab, but commercialization kinks were showing their face.

But even then she was being cited as one of the top women to watch in technology. Straight out of MIT, she’s focusing on a solution that humanity needs right now. One that could reverse the notion that our devices strip nearly all emotional context out. What would happen if your phone knew you were happy simply because you smiled? Stay tuned….

Rana El Kaliouby, Founder & CEO of Affectiva

Whitney Wolfe Herd of Bumble

I’ve been watching Herd from afar, and the reason I really enjoy what she’s done is that she took an awful situation (remember that thing with Tinder about sexual harassment before it was a thing? Herd does…and it wasn’t all that fun for her) and turned it into a great one.

She wanted to take everything wrong with what she saw as being Tinder (including its workplace culture), and created a dating site where women took the reins. Well, it surpassed $100m in sales and talk about town is a valuation well above $1b.

Whitney Wolfe, Founder & CEO of Bumble

Ooshma Garg of Gobble

Garg was brought to my attention by Shaherose Charania, Founder of Women 2.0, and she’s now fully on my radar.

This two-time entrepreneur raised $12m in funding in 2015 and another $15m this year for Gobble, ready-to-cook meal delivery before she was 30. The list of investors is impressive, which is saying a lot in a space that’s really hot and has already had a few hiccups by industry leaders.

Everything’s looking yummy for Garg going into 2018.

Ooshma Garg, Founder of Gobble

Nora Apsel of Morty

Suggested by Women 2.0 Advisor Jenny Fielding, I have to say I agree here. I met Apsel two summers ago as a Mentor to the Techstars FinTech Accelerator. The company itself, which lets consumer shop, compare and close on mortgages fast, was one of the strongest companies in that cohort. But I didn’t get to spend any one-on-one time with Apsel. Doh!

But in fact, she’s another great example of the female founders we’d love to see more of: she has a technical background, has co-founder status, and stands at the helm of a rising tech startup.

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