08/21/18 | Founders

The Female-founded Startups at Y Combinator Demo Day 1

We had one of our Women 2.0 team, Alison Cheung, out at Y Combinator’s Demo Day at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View to speak with the female founders in the YC Summer 2018 batch. The Women 2.0 team was especially excited about covering this event, as YC has historically been very vocal about wanting to bring more female founders into its accelerator program (Thanks Kat Manalac for the YC Female Founders Conference!) and has brought in many female partners, which female founders have said was instrumental to their YC experience.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]YC has historically been very vocal about wanting to bring more female founders into its accelerator program.[/su_pullquote]

The line to women’s restroom was refreshingly shortas alwayswhile the number of women investors and supporters in the audience was a sign of progress. The Demo Day started with an introduction by the President of YC, Sam Altman, covering some important statistics, especially around the number of participating companies with a female founder, which now stands at 28%. This is a 7% increase from last year. (However, important to note that in 2015, this number was 22%.) Slow progress, we have to admit.

AnnieCannons — Transform survivors of human trafficking into coders (Jessica Hubley and Laura Hackney)

Founded by Jessica Hubley and Laura Hackney (Fun Fact: they are not only partners in business but also partners in life!), AnnieCannons is a non-profit coding bootcamp for survivors of human trafficking.

Each year, over 15,000 people are trafficked in the US. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking globally. While there are organizations that help to stop the spread of human trafficking, like Ashton Kutcher’s Thorn, there is a need for an organization like AnnieCannons to transform the lives of survivors and to truly break the cycle of exploitation through education and subsequently through providing economic opportunity. Within 9 months, Annie Cannons can train their students to be proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and React Native.

Fun (but disappointing) fact: The cofounders recalled that a male VC was specifically upset that they didn’t have men on the board. He was quoted saying ‘I’m offended that you don’t have men on your board’ (No, just no.)

Seattle Food Tech — Plant-based meat as cheap as chicken (Christie Lagally)

We’ve heard about Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat taking on creating plant based meat that not only tastes as good as real meat, but is healthier and better for the environment. What makes Seattle Food Tech different? Different from Impossible Food or Beyond Meat’s substitute which cost 2 to 5 times that of real meat, Seattle Food Tech is making a chicken substitute that is as cheap as chicken through smart, automated production lines. This means that it is not cost-prohibitive to most Americans and will be more widely adopted. With previous engineering experience at Boeing’s production team, the founder, Christie Lagally, has mastered producing this substitute at low cost and at high volume. At a scale which allows Seattle Food Tech to supply office, university, and hospital restaurants with enough plant-based meat.

Fun fact about Christie: She cares deeply about (human) female equality, but she also works hard to make life better for female animals too. She notes that female animals are the most abusedjust think about chickens as egg-producing machines and cows as milk-producing powerhouses…

C16 Biosciences — Lab-grown palm oil (Shara Ticku)

C16’s cofounder, Shara Ticku, was frustrated by two related problems, which led her to found C16 Biosciences. First, palm oil caused some of the worst fires in Southeast Asia, to an extent where pregnant women were not allowed to even walk outside because air pollution was too bad. Second, there was a lot of innovation that takes place in life sciences, particularly in universities and she did not want that to only stay in research; she wanted to commercialize science.

Palm oil is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions (this is equivalent to burning 300 football fields!). Bad news is that you’re probably consuming palm oil as we speak: it’s found in 50% of supermarket items, from shampoo to bread, cheese and Nutella.  C16’s alternative palm oil is grown in bioreactors, making it 20% cheaper and less harmful to the environment. Having already established partnerships with leading beauty and food distributors, C16 is onto a mission to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Fun Fact: Women2.0 loves Shara’s candor: she wants more female VCs on her cap table.

AskMyClass — Turn Alexa into a Teacher Assistant (Aparna Ramanathan)

AskMyClass is already in over 400 classrooms, supporting 8,000 students. With smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, AskMyClass aims to be  teachers’ favorite assistant. By letting AskMyClass manage repetitive tasks, such as spelling tests, teachers can gain back 75 minutes a week. For example, a teacher can focus on helping a struggling student while the rest of the class listens to AskMyClass for a problem to solve. With over 3.2 million classrooms in the US alone, the founder of askMyClass, Aparna Ramanathan, has a big mission, and a big potential market.

Fun fact: As with all voice assistants in the market, there will always be some glitches (Voice assistant still has a lot of space to mature!). Young kids, however, seem to be much more forgiving than  adults about the immaturity of the technology. When they notice something odd about AskMyClass, teachers hear the students saying ‘Alexa is sick today. We need to give her a break.’

Buttermilk — Instant fresh ethnic food shipped to your door (Mitra Raman)

Making authentic Indian food takes a lot of time, effort (and love!). Like the founder, Mitra Raman, over 20 million second-generation immigrants who grew up on home-cooked Indian food and continue to crave this food, but never having time to make it from scratch. The best option that they might find in supermarkets is chicken tikka masala, if they’re lucky. Buttermilk is here to solve this problem. With high quality fresh food and a guaranteed home-made taste that takes no longer than five minutes to cook. Simply add water or oil and there you have it, food that brings you back to your childhood.

Fun fact: All the recipes are crowdsourced from Buttermilk’s network of homecook chefs and they are given 5% of the profits.We can almost call Buttermilk the Glossier for Indian Meals.

Public Recreation — Outdoor gyms (Jennifer Pattee)

For $50 per month, Public Recreation subscribers can access all types of group, outdoor workout classes, from yoga to weightlifting. What’s special about Public Recreation: They care about paying instructors what they deserve, two to three times what most gym studios pay. How can they achieve this? They do not need to pay rent for studio space. As  co-founder, Jennifer Pattee, mentions, Public Recreation is well-poised to build a network of gyms without owning any physical properties, much like Airbnb has become a huge hospitality company without owning any properties

Spero Foods — Recreating dairy and eggs from plants (Phaedra Randolph)

Spero Foods is recreating dairy and eggs through patentable plant-based products. Founder Phaedra Randolph started the company after her life-changing experience transitioning to a plant-based diet.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]They have produced and sold two products thus far: cheese 2.0 and eggs. 2.0, both of which have provisional patents.[/su_pullquote]

Existing plant-based substitutes for animal proteins, such as nuts, were too expensive, nutrient-deficient, and lacked the flavor of their animal protein counterparts. So Randolph used her background in bioscience, data, and software engineering (and sifting through over 300 research abstracts) to craft data models to predict the optimal combinations of plant ingredients to mimic the texture and flavor of animal products. They have produced and sold two products thus far: cheese 2.0 and eggs. 2.0, both of which have provisional patents.

Fun fact: Instead of rushing to the food provided by YC during demo day, I found myself continuously returning to the Spero Foods booth to nibble on their cheese and eggs.

HoneyLove — Spanx but better (Betsie Larkin)

A butt-lifting, posture-enhancing and body-contouring shapewear that still lets you breathe? And you do not need to adjust it every five minutes? Too good to be true. Apparently not.

Betsie Larkin has gifted us with HoneyLove to revolutionize shapewear. Through her experience as a top EDM artist performing on stage in front of tens of thousands of fans, she realized that the shapewear she was wearing made her performance uncomfortable. She then decided to found HoneyLove.

Through carefully designing it with a corsetry wizard (possibly the most badass title ever!),  she designed shapewear that contains patent-pending BoostBands, which sits underneath your buns to lift your buns and to contour your legs.

Gone are the days of frantically pulling up your shapewear or desperately taking off the unflattering underwear (as in Bridget Jones) these look as good underneath your favourite dress as they do on their own.

We are buying our own pair as we speak…

Fun Fact: HoneyLove’s Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of $30K in under 24 hours. And they eventually raised over $300K.

QuRasense — Diagnostic Menstrual Pad (Sara Naseri)

I mean, if you have Jessica Livingstone (the co-founder of YC) pitching for you and discussing the details of menstruation… We know you’re onto something revolutionary.

Menstruation is no fun (most of us can all agree on that), but QuRasense is here to make your menstruation smart. QuRasense equips you with much-needed information about your health – it will help you make the most of your menstruation. Smart menstruation.

With their smart pads, Q Pads, they capture your blood in a collection strip that is embedded in your pad. You can then pull out the strip, send it out in a secure envelope for testing and receive your results on your phone.

Simply put, your menstruation will no longer feel like a burden. With QuRasense’s QPads, you can understand your health through menstruating, specifically, 14 different blood tests, 2 tests for STDs (HIV and HPV) and even cervical cancer screening. 

Fun Fact: Qurasense’s co-founder, Sara Naseri: ‘Some male investors said that they wished they could bleed.’ (Now that’s news.)

BlueCargo — Optimized container management for port terminals (Alexandra Griffon and Laura Theveniau)

It typically costs $30 to move a container, but 50% of container moves are unnecessary, which means that $20 billion a year is wasted in unnecessary and unproductive shuffles. BlueCargo is here to solve the container shuffling problem with Machine Learning. ML allows clients to stack containers optimally, leading to a potential of $5 billion saved a year.

Penta Medical — Solution to injury management (Alexa Roeper)

Penta Medical has invented an innovative solution to injury management, specifically useful for athletes whose careers depend on the minimization of injury rates and of healing times. Their portable cold laser device, which can be used at home, will drastically reduce healing times as the more frequent the use, the more effective the treatment is.

Doctors and trainers can track the information on athletes’ injury data and progress, allowing them to gain insights and to accelerate the recovery times of injuries. They will also have access to customized treatments and preventative statistics benchmarked across the field

CSPA — SAT for software engineers (Angel Poon)

[su_pullquote align=”right”]The founders started The Computer Science Proficiency Assessment (CSPA) to help companies address the problem of hiring the best software engineers efficiently.[/su_pullquote]

Medicine has MCAT. Law has LSAT. What about software engineering? One of the fastest growing job segments? The founders started The Computer Science Proficiency Assessment (CSPA) to help companies address the problem of hiring the best software engineers efficiently. Students take this standardized exams that test both practical knowledge and theoretical principles and their scores about shared with the employer network of over 60 companies that CSPA has built. With the CSPA score, recruiters can screen candidates in a data-driven way with significant amounts of time saved.

BuyCoins  — Coinbase for Africa (Ire Aderinokun)

BuyCoins is the only cryptocurrency exchange platform in Nigeria that allows users to securely, efficiently and conveniently trade cryptocurrencies, directly with BuyCoins via their app without having to go through traders. Users can buy, sell, receive, sell, send and store cryptocurrencies, ranging from Bitcoin to Ethereum and Litecoin. The founders claim that $4 billion has already been traded in cryptocurrency in Nigeria and the market is growing faster than the Western markets.

InkHunter — Augmented reality app to try on tattoos (Oleksandra Rohachova)

Inkhunter allows you to ‘think before you ink’. How? It allows you to see how a tattoo will look on any part of your skin before taking that leap of faith. All users need to do is mark their skin with some ink (from a pen) and with their phone, they can visualize the size and placement of the tattoo design on exactly where they want it on their body. So long to the days of tattoo regrets.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Inkhunter allows you to see how a tattoo will look on any part of your skin before taking that leap of faith.[/su_pullquote]

Camelot — First mobile app for eSports betting (Melissa Yu)

Camelot is the first mobile app for eSports betting and one of the foremost companies tackling the intersection of sports betting and multiplayer video gaming. In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a federal ban on sports betting opening up massive opportunities (valued at billions of dollars) for new sports betting businesses like Camelot to capture the newly legal US betting market. The Camelot mobile app gives eSports fans access to best-in-class stats and updates as well as a casual interface that encourages social betting amongst friends. While the sports betting market is nascent and budding with new opportunity, Camelot is betting on their app to capitalize on this newly emerging US betting market.

Phiar — Augmented reality navigation app (Ivy Li)

With expertise in deep learning, computer vision and AI specifically, the cofounders of Phiar are building the first augmented reality navigation app for driving. Unlike Google Maps, Phiar’s AR navigation app shows you exactly where to drive. Because AR Navigation is really hard to make, they had to create AI similar to self-driving cars since they’re running self-driving computer vision on a smartphone. Phiar’s algorithm can run at more than 200 fps on an iPhone mounted to your dashboard.



Watchen Nyanue

Watchen Nyanue

Watchen Nyanue is a strategic marketing and business development expert from Liberia, who resides in Chicago, Illinois. She is currently the Vice President of Marketing Partnerships for the WNBA Chicago Sky. As an advocate for female leadership and empowerment, her journey has been filled with more than twelve years of executive experience, where she has excelled as a proven business strategy leader who understands the importance of building relationships and capitalizing on a firm “it” factor in order to take the organization to the next level. Watchen holds a bachelor’s in communication from DePauw University. She is currently pursuing her MBA at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Prior to working at the Sky, she has had the honor of working with a multitude of renowned companies, including Comedy Central, Hearst Digital, Yahoo!, and Johnson Publishing Company. When she isn’t immersed in her career, Watchen happily serves on the Board of Trustees of the Associated Colleges of Illinois. The NextGen group of UNICEF and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is also a 2018 Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence Honoree.

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