Women Rule the Tech World at Women Startup Challenge and Win $50K

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The first-ever Women Startup Challenge Pitch Competition was a huge success in Washington, DC. 12 women-led startups pitched their innovative and disruptive ventures to a panel of tech investors at General Assembly/1776.

The judges consisted of:

  • Lorine Pendleton, Business Development Executive, Angel Investor, and Advisor to Startups
  • Kelly Keenan Trumpbour, Founder of See Jane Invest
  • Jeffrey Cherry, CEO and Managing Partner of The Porter Group and Founder and Executive Director of Conscious Venture Lab
  • Dr. Steve Davis, Director of Advanced Projects at Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX).

I supported Women Who Tech, with Joanne and Fred Wilson, to help ensure that women-led startups get funded.

The event sold out at 340 tickets, and the line to get in wound around the street. Here's some good updates (and this Storify's pretty accurate...).

After the 12 startups pitched, the judges chose 3 winners:

  • Third place went to Kicker (gokicker.com), an independent digital news startup co-founded by Holly Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Lisa Vehrenkamp, based in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Second place was Fam-ess (fam-ess.com), which stands for Family First, Earn Always, Save Often and Spend Wisely, founded by Michelle Salsberry, based in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Fam-ess -, is an app that teaches kids ages 3 to 15 the discipline to make spending decisions based on their willingness to earn and save, so that they are better equipped to side step debt as they grow.
  • The winning startup was On Second Thought (onsecondthought.co) co-founded by Maci Peterson, based in Washington, DC, an innovative messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they are received on another person's phone. Replacing the phone's native messaging app, users can eliminate awkward or damaging text situations.

Here are the twelve finalists from the Women Startup Challenge.

  • Amplify Loud - a DIY website and online marketing toolkit for small and mid-sized businesses on a budget.
  • Fam-ess - which stands for Family First, Earn Always, Save Often and Spend Wisely, is an app that teaches kids ages 3-15, the discipline to make spending decisions based on their willingness to earn and save, so that they are better equipped to side step debt as they grow. Fam-ess has a mission to teach kids financial discipline long before going off to college or get their first job.
  • GeoHealth.US - their goal is to help ignite kids with a sense of curiosity & excitement about STEM. They also work to share hyperlocal info with those interested in the impact of their environment on their health.
  • Kicker - an independent digital news startup. Kicker provides snappy explainers with tweets, pictures, and videos that help you get informed and make a difference. They do relevant stories with substance, not clickbait. They note that they never drone on or screech-they curate and explain news and put it into helpful context.
  • LGBTQutie - a progressive online dating and social networking platform that allows people to find meaningful connections, romantic relationships, and friendships. They note that they're the only site that exclusively caters to the full spectrum of LGBTQ sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • MYOLO - considering that nearly 1/2 of all borrowers don't shop around for a mortgage, leaving thousands of dollars on the table, and women heads of household pay 0.4% more on home mortgages on average, Myolo's here to change that. They say, "we make it simple, easy, and dare we say it, fun, for anyone to apply for a mortgage."
  • On Second Thought - an innovative messaging app that lets you take back text messages you regret before they are received on another person's phone. Whether Autocorrect is waging a war on your phone, or you've just had a little too much to drink, On Second Thought has your back. Replacing the phone's native messaging app, users can eliminate any awkward or damaging text situations with this app.
  • PeerSpring - a civic-tech educational platform that helps students understand, apply, and master core skills through the practice of good citizenship and passion based learning.
  • Primary Book Club - an e-commerce discovery platform and resource for parents. They currently offer a subscription service for parents of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Each month, members receive a set of age-appropriate children's books selected by their team of early childhood development experts.
  • Vijilent - Vijilent strives to create technology that gives individuals and businesses impartial and informed opinions of peoples' fitness for sharing economy transactions. Unlike other opt-in or subscriber-based trust services, a Vijilent 'V-Score' is based on predictive analytics of anonymous peoples' public records and public social media data - much like a credit score, only tailored for particular social transactions instead of financial ones.
  • Virtue.Us - Virtue.Us takes your purchasing data (from your email inbox), and maps research done by NGOs and sustainability experts onto it, giving you a distinct sense of how your purchases are impacting the world. You can think of it as "social impact analytics about your purchases, straight to your email inbox."
  • Zidisha: P2P Microlending Without Borders - an online microlending community to connect lenders and borrowers directly across international borders - overcoming previously insurmountable barriers of geography, wealth and circumstance. Zidisha borrowers pay one lifetime membership fee when they first join, and thereafter only 5% for each loan. Lower costs mean profits from the loan projects go to the borrowers, instead of to the banks' administrative expenses.

Helping people build businesses should be about investing in women the same as men. It's how we'll find the best startups with the potential to change the world. Stay tuned...

**Photo Credit: Kristin Johnson, Women Who Tech Staff