There’s no denying we have a long way to go. After all, venture capital firms are made up of mostly men, and some continue to suggest women aren’t cut out for the tech world at all. And way more VC money is offered to male founders than women.
But more and more women are building multimillion-dollar startups, and venture firms like Forerunner Ventures, BBG Ventures, and Female Founders Fund all focus on female-founded companies.
It’s paying off. 2016 saw female founders launch innovative companies and raise millions to help them grow, while startups in their second or third year of life began gaining ground.
And 2017 is likely to be even bigger. Here are some of the most exciting women-run companies to keep an eye on in the coming year.
Parachute wants to make a comfy night’s sleep affordable
What is it: Parachute is changing how you buy one thing you use every day: your sheets. It produces the high-quality bedding from a factory in Italy and then sells it only through its website, and one store at its headquarters in Venice Beach, California. Parachute bedding has gained a bit of a cult following, and now co-living startups are even advertising that they have Parachute sheets with Casper mattresses. Every time a customer buys a set of its Venice line the company donates a mosquito net to help kids in Africa have a safe sleep.
Founded: 2014 by Ariel Kaye
Funding: $10.28 million from Upfront Ventures, Joanne Wilson, QueensBridge Venture Partners, and Structure Partners, among others.
Laurel & Wolf connects interior designers with people who want to give their homes an affordable makeover
What is it: Laurel & Wolf wants to take advantage of a Pinterest-obsessed generation and make it easy and affordable to design your dream home. People searching for a new look can take a survey about their style, upload pictures and information about the space, and post their project. Typically, three to five designers respond with their ideas so you don’t have to settle on one from the start.
Founded: 2014 by Leura Fine and Brandon Kleinman
Funding: $26.63 from Benchmark, Charles River Ventures, Tim Draper, and others.
Maven lets you video chat with doctors
What is it: Maven is a women’s health app that connects you with doctors via video chat, allowing you to ask questions, get advice, and receive prescriptions. Maven was founded by Kate Ryder, who came up with the idea for the app when she was working at a venture-capital fund in London. Ryder noticed that all of her friends were starting to get pregnant and were receiving a lot of misinformation or having trouble finding the right doctor.
Users can connect with doctors, nurse practitioners, and mental health experts through the app.
Founded: 2014 by Kate Ryder
Funding: $6.67 million from Female Founders Fund, Grand Central Tech, BoxGroup, and others.
Rockets of Awesome is a subscription service for children’s clothes
What is it: Rockets of Awesome is a subscription service that regularly delivers boxes of clothes, but unlike other subscription services such as Bombfell or StitchFix, the clothes are designed by Rockets of Awesome itself, and they’re for kids.
The company sends customers trendy clothes every three months in kids sizes 2 to 14, or for those about ages 18 months to 11 years. Parents pay for the clothes they keep and send back the ones they don’t want.
Founded: 2016 by Rachel Blumenthal
Funding: $19.5 million from Female Founders Fund, Gwyneth Paltrow, General Catalyst Partners, Forerunner Ventures, BBG Ventures, and others.
Glossier is a cult beauty brand whose users help decide what products it carries
What is it: Glossier was born out of the popularity of founder Emily Weiss’ beauty blog, Into the Gloss. Started in 2010, the blog quickly grew to a massive internet community of beauty aficionados — from there, a pivot into products was inevitable. What sets the brand apart is its two-way conversation between the product team and people in the user community, who tell Glossier what types of products they would like to see.
Founded: 2014 by Emily Weiss
Funding: $40.4 million from Forerunner Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Thrive Capital, David Tisch, and others.
Winnie wants to be the Yelp for parents
What is it: Yelp is great for finding good restaurants or coffee shops, but a list of the best spots changes if your new priority is finding somewhere that’s stroller-friendly.
Part Yelp, part Foursquare, Winnie helps parents find locations that meet their needs — whether that’s a changing table in the restroom or a quiet area to nurse — and lets them share the story of their visit when they check into the spot.
Founded: 2015 by Sara Mauskopf and Anne Halsall
Funding: US$2.3 million from BBG Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and others.
Away has developed a following for its luggage
What is it: Two former Warby Parker execs — Jen Rubio, the company’s former head of social media, and Steph Korey, former head of supply chain — teamed up to create Away, a travel brand aiming to create products that combine high-quality materials and innovative technology at an affordable price. The brand debuted its first carry-on this spring and has since developed a following for its suitcases that can even charge your phone.
Founded: 2015 by Steph Korey and Jen Rubio
Funding: US$11 million from Forerunner Ventures and Accel.
Flip helps you easily — and legally — sublet your apartment
What is it: Flip is a platform that allows tenants to list available space and find subletters. In a similar vein as Airbnb, Flip lets hosts create a listing and add photos and information like how long the place is available. Flip then takes over, sending a notice to the landlord, which protects tenants in case the process gets contentious later on. If a user matches with a subletter, Flip will perform a credit check and make a recommendation about whether that subletter is the right fit.
Essentially, Flip is an advocate, assistant, and housing expert rolled into one.
Founded: 2016 by Susannah Vila
Funding: US$1.2 million from BBG Ventures, Joanne Wilson, and others.
Modsy lets you see furniture in your home before you buy it
What is it: Modsy lets you try out furniture in your own virtual house before you buy it. The startup transforms pictures you take of your space into an online model, like in “The Sims.” From there, its staff redesigns your rooms, and you can customize them as you want, easily swapping out pieces.
Founded: 2015 by Shanna Tellerman
Funding: US$13.6 million from Norwest Venture Partners, GV, Joanne Wilson, BBG Ventures, and others.
Revel Systems is turning iPads into cash registers
What is it: Revel is a pioneer in the iPad point-of-sale market. CEO Lisa Falzone and CTO Chris Ciabarra launched their startup in 2010 and built it into a company with a valuation of about US$500 million that employs about 750 people.
The company doesn’t disclose its revenue but says it is profitable.
Falzone told Business Insider she launched the company with no money and “sheer willpower.” At one point, she even hunted down a guy she had met at a coffee shop and convinced him to invest US$28,000 in her company on the spot. (She later paid him back.)
Revel names Cinnabon and Chobani among its customers and just landed a big contract with Shell. Over the summer, rumors swirled that it was in talks to sell itself to IBM.
Founded: 2010 by Lisa Falzone and Chris Ciabarra
Funding to date: US$127.3 million in five rounds.
PlateJoy builds personalised, on-demand meal plans
What is it: PlateJoy wants to help people be happier with what they’re eating. Founded by Christina Bognet after she successfully lost 50 pounds, the company uses an algorithm to help build the perfect, healthy meal plan for each person based on their dietary restrictions, diet preference, weight goals, and likes or dislikes.
Founded: 2012 by Christina Bognet, Stedman Hood, and Daniel Nelson
Funding: US$2.6 million from Sherpa Capital, Joanne Wilson, Jared Leto, and others.
Accompany gives everyone a chief of staff
What is it: Accompany wants to put a chief of staff in your pocket with its app that will pull executive-level dossiers for you. Whereas LinkedIn is great at showing you someone’s background, Accompany prepares you for your meeting by pulling in things like recent news articles about the person and information from company filings.
Founded: 2013 by Amy Chang, Ryan McDonough, and Matthias Ruhl
Funding: US$40.7 million from Cowboy Ventures, CRV, and others.
Outdoor Voices is an activewear brand for the fashion-conscious
What is it: Outdoor Voices is an activewear company, but it doesn’t traffic in cheap fabrics and neon prints. Founded by Parsons graduate Tyler Haney, the brand creates workout clothes meant to resemble the fashion brands we wear every day. While it’s sometimes called an “athleisure company for hipsters,” Outdoor Voices isn’t trying to be a niche brand. “We want to be like a Nike, Under Armour, or a Lululemon, but just with a totally different positioning,” Haney said.
Founded: 2013 by Tyler Haney
Funding: US$22.8 million from General Catalyst Partners, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leandra Medine, Forerunner Ventures, and others.
Shippo is making shipping easier for businesses
What is it: Shippo’s API helps make shipping cheaper and easier for businesses. The startup gives merchants access to carriers like FedEx and UPS, letting them do things like create shipping labels or compare rates. More than 10,000 companies use Shippo’s services.
Founded: 2013 by Laura Behrens Wu and Simon Kreuz
Funding: US$9.3 million from Union Square Ventures, Dave Morin, Slow Ventures, and others.
Hooked wants to turn bite-size narratives into an empire
What is it: Hooked turns narrative fiction into bite-size stories that look more like text message conversations. It’s almost voyeuristic to watch the conversation unfold, but each message has readers hitting “next” to see the next line until it’s done. Each story takes about a minute to read.
F ounded: 2014 by Prerna Gupta and Parag Chordia
Funding: US$3.1 million from Anjula Acharia, Cowboy Ventures, Founders Fund, and others.
Cloudflare is making the internet safer and faster
What is it: Cloudflare is one of the startups that secretly runs the internet, handling as much of 10% of all web traffic, speeding up those websites, and protecting them from hackers.
And 2016 was a banner year for the company. It was assigned to protect President-elect Donald Trump’s websites from the hacker group Anonymous, which at one point threatened “total war.” It also took steps to make the whole internet more secure by supporting a technical standard known as TLS 1.3, bolstering a “turbocharged encrypted internet.”
And it helped make the internet faster, too.
Founded: 2009 by Michelle Zatlyn and Matthew Prince
Funding to date: US$182.1 million in five rounds.
Imbellus wants to rid the world of multiple-choice tests like the SAT
What is it: Imbellus is building a product that measures “how people think instead of what people know,” founder Rebecca Kantar said. While much of what Imbellus is building is still under wraps, the company’s approach will be closer to showing your work on a math test rather than just writing down the solution, meaning it’ll track how you solve a problem — not just whether you get the answer right.
Founded: 2015 by Rebecca Kantar
Funding: US$2.5 million from Thrive Capital, Sound Ventures, and others.
Simple Habit wants to help stressed-out millennials
What is it: After burning out after selling her first startup, Yunha Kim wanted to help other overworked millennials de-stress through the one thing that worked for her: meditation.
Simple Habit isn’t an app that’s all about chakras or sitting in the dark for 30 minutes to meditate. Its five-minute sessions are for young professionals on the go — the busy and skeptical people like Kim who thought meditation would never work for them. Apple featured Simple Habit as one of its “new apps we love” in May.
Founded: 2016 by Yunha Kim
ProDay lets you work out with professional athletes online
What is it: ProDay is a subscription app that lets you work out with professional athletes. When it launched, the main athlete on ProDay was Delanie Walker, a Tennessee Titans tight end, but founder Sarah Kunst told Forbes in May that she planned to eventually add professional dancers and Olympic medalists.
ProDay is part of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ accelerator program and has received funding from angel investor Arielle Zuckerberg and software engineer Sara Haider.
Founded: 2015 by Sarah Kunst
Speakable wants to make it easier to donate to causes
What is it: Jordan Hewson founded her company on one premise: Millennials aren’t taking action on the issues they care about because the process is difficult, confusing, and time-consuming.
So Hewson created Speakable, a company that uses technology to make civic engagement more accessible. In October, Speakable launched its first product, the Action Button, which adds to relevant news articles options to take a poll, sign a petition, or donate to vetted nongovernmental organisations and nonprofits.
Founded: 2015 by Jordan Hewson
Funding: US$2 million from angel investors.
Ritual is making a better vitamin
What is it: There are plenty of vitamins out there, but Katerina Schneider realized after taking a closer look that too many of them have outdated formulations. For example, most people get enough vitamin C in their diets that it’s not necessary to have it in a vitamin, Schneider told TechCrunch. Her startup, Ritual, sources its ingredients from different parts of the world and puts together the best blend of only what’s necessary.
Founded: 2015 by Katerina Schneider
Funding: US$4.8 million from Founders Fund, Upfront Ventures, Rivet Ventures, and Troy Carter.