There are few topics that get me more excited than female empowerment and venture capital, so when Sheryl Marshall and Jill Kravetz brought these two topics together last Thursday at the Capital W Summit, I was beyond excited to be the one to attend and cover the event.
The room was packed with female founders, educators, students, researchers and investors with a sprinkling of male VCs, many of whom came from the long list of sponsors and supporters of Capital W’s one big mission, to close the female funding gap. That gap is unfortunately massive as Lakshmi Balantandra of the Babson WIN lab broke down for us.
The agenda was packed with thought-provoking talks from speakers including Lisa Rometty, VP of Global Markets at IBM Watson Health and Gina Ashe, CEO of ThirdChannel Inc., a Redstar Company and panels featuring a never ending list of Boston-area VCs firms including, Bain, Atlas, .406, Converge, G20, Victress Capital, Launchpad Venture Group, Pillar, and Polaris Partners.
The theme for the pitch competition was health and wellness due to the overwhelming amount of wellness tech and services business plans that have been brought to the table over the last year. Let’s hear about the ventures who made the cut.
This nanny-share business founded by MIT-alum Tatyana Gubin was a hit! The business, which is up and running, matches local families to provide a montessori-backed in-home childcare solution.
Founder, Madhavi Gavini pitched Novopyxis’ device, Droplette, a painless, contact-free transdermal delivery system for delivery of drugs. The NASA-funded technology isn’t just revolutionary, it looks beautiful too.
What reminded me of a version of the Sims game many of us played as children, is actually an immersive social gaming platform for diabetes management. Founder Suzanne Mitchell showed the audience the data-backed results that prove visualization of a healthy lifestyle with group clinical care for the highest risk patients can translate to a healthier lifestyle in real life.
Think of everMind as headspace and edX coming together to provide video-guided mental health challenges for people suffering with depression, stress, post traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health problems.
This pitch was hands down one of my absolute favorites. Laurel Taylor is not only an incredible presenter but she’s also solving a problem that is near and dear to my heart, crippling student debt. FutureFuel is enabling employers to offer student debt repayment as an employee benefit. That means employers can offer their potential and existing employees a monthly payment on top of their salary that goes directly towards paying off their student debt in return for a commitment to the company from the employee. Offering a competitive edge through a much-needed employee perk.
There was no shortage of parent-focused pitches but Unruly Studios struck a chord with many parents in the room who know there’s a problem with screen time for kids. Bryanne Leeming gave a polished pitch for Unruly Studios, a hardware and software company that challenges kids to make their own rules for creative play through STEM.
Teenlife is the leading source for college preparation through summer programs, gap year programs, community service and more. Though these programs aren’t necessarily new, having them in one place is a lifesaver. Many of us remember painstakingly searching for programs in high school that fit our needs and preferences but Teenlife is putting a pin in it.
It was only a matter of time until the subscription services industry made it to children’s toys and whether you need more toys or not, countless parents in the room were nodding their heads and thanking founder, Shiva Kashalkar for saving them from another trip to the toy store. Green Pinata Toy Share is an online subscription service that rents premium, educational toys.
Wearables aren’t just for tech savvy millenials. WatchRx has built an easy to use watch+phone+gps to help aging seniors take their medication on time. Using reminders and voiceover walk throughs, the watch assists the elderly in both remembering to take the medication and also taking it correctly.
After her mother's long battle between a fledgling career and diagnosing her son’s illness in the mid-90s, founder Nell Meosky Luo founded Folia Health to help parents take control if their children’s chronic disease care by tracking and aggregating health factors and symptoms in order to assist in diagnosis and care plan creation.
As someone who can’t seem to drink enough water during the day and doesn’t notice signs of dehydration until they’re in full swing, Meridith Unger’s pitch for Nix had me up at the edge of my seat. Nix is developing a single-use wearable hydration biosensor that will enable the user and those watching to track an athlete's hydration level. A simple patch with a potentially life changing value.
Last but certainly not least, founder Julie Fry pitched Gentreo, an eldercare planning software provider. After her own experience of dealing with overwhelming eldercare health and lifestyle planning, Fry and her sister created Gentreo, which provides easy-to-use, guided software to help families with estate planning, legal and medical document management, and navigate the world of Medicaid.
They came, they saw, they pitched and I was impressed. Not only was this the first time I’d seen so many women pitch, but many of the companies pitched were truly remarkable. I was proud to be in the room and part of the conversation around female funding. Though the event highlighted the dim state of affairs for female entrepreneurs, I’m sure it brought many women out of the woodwork who left educated, inspired, and newly equipped to approach the funding landscape.