If you’re working in the world of startups you’ve probably noticed that female founders and leaders are seriously underrepresented. In fact, less than 15% of Europe’s startups are founded by women, according to the European Startup Monitor. However, research by Compass reveals that the number of female founders in the global startup ecosystem has grown by 80% over the past three years. Which suggests the industry is making positive moves towards gender equality.
The opportunity is there to find new innovations from a more diverse founder base and experts believe VCs need to look beyond their immediate network. For example, in the US, 38% of new businesses are started by women but only 2-6% of those founders receive VC funding, according to Ethan Mollick, a professor of management at Wharton.
New York is one tech hub seeing positive momentum. Crunchbase reports that 21% of New York’s startups have at least one female founder, the highest percentage in the US. New York also boasts the most venture capital deals involving women-led startups, and the city is home to the Female Founders Fund, focused on women-led ventures.
While the number of female-led app startups may be small, their results are impressive. Here’s our list of the most inspirational female founders of app startups in the world of healthcare, financial services, recruitment and more.
Ida Tin, Co-Founder and CEO, Clue
Born in Copenhagen, Ida Tin is co-founder and CEO of popular period and fertility tracking app Clue. Ida is a lifelong entrepreneur who has also led motorcycle tours around the world and published a book, called Direktøs, about the experience. In 2015, Clue raised a $7 million Series A funding round from Union Square Ventures and Mosaic Ventures to develop the app further.
Susie Lee, Co-Founder and CEO, Siren
Susie Lee founded dating app Siren, to empower women and change the tone of online dating. Users connect by answering Siren’s Question of the Day to fuel more natural conversations. A Yale biochemistry graduate and artist, Susie created Siren as an extension of her art to transform the way people meet online. This year, Siren raised a $500,000 seed led by Blackrun’s women-focused investment arm Half the World Holdings.
Christina Kehl, Co-Founder, Knip
Christina Kehl co-founded Knip AG, in 2013, to enable people to track their insurance policies, premiums and benefits through a mobile app. After conquering the fintech insurance industry Christina co-founded Swiss Finance Startups, Switzerland’s first association of fintech startups, for which she is now Managing Director. Knip boasts over 100 employees based in Germany, Serbia, USA and Switzerland.
Dr Elina Berglund, Co-Founder and CTO, Natural Cycles
Dr Elina Berglund founded Natural Cycles with her husband Dr Raoul Scherwitzl, in 2013, and the fertility app now boasts more than 100,000 users. Elina, a physicist and former CERN researcher, wrote the app’s algorithm which helps women pinpoint their fertile window. NaturalCycles became the first women’s health app to be regulated as a medical device.
Tan Hooi Ling, Co-Founder of Grab (formerly GrabTaxi)
While at Harvard Business School, Tan Hooi Ling and classmate Anthony Tan entered a startup competition and their startup Grab (formerly GrabTaxi) was born. Now Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing platform, Grab is giving Uber a run for its money. This month, Grab raised $750 million in a round led by SoftBank, bringing its funding total to well over $1 billion.
Madhuvanthi Ananth, Founder and CEO, SlamdunQ
Madhuvanthi Ananth turned her passion for sports and technology into a business, in 2014, when she founded SlamdunQ. The startup’s apps help players improve their performance in sports such as cricket and golf by collecting data through wearables. SlamdunQ won the Google Launchpad contest earlier this year.
Gina Bartasi, Founder and CEO, Progyny Inc.
Gina Bartasi launched the Fertility Authority platform, in 2009, when she became frustrated with the lack of available IVF information. In 2015, Gina’s startup merged with Auxogyn to become Progyny and created its fertility services app. Gina is a Harvard Business School graduate and has over 20 years’ experience in the digital healthcare industry. This year, Progyny closed a $15 million Series B round, bringing its funding total to $87.8 million.
Dr Maryam Ziaei and Dr Shadi Saberi, Co-Founders, iSono Health
Dr Maryam Ziaei and Dr Shadi Saberi have developed an ultrasound device and app that allows women to self-monitor their breast health at home. The two engineers both had close family and friends who battled breast cancer and wanted to build an affordable solution for early detection. iSonoHealth launched out of Y Combinator’s winter 2016 class.
Polina Montano, Co-Founder and COO, Job Today
Polina Montano discovered how difficult hiring for the service industry was when she was managing a chain of petrol stations in Luxembourg. Noticing the need for a simpler hiring solution Polina, and her friend Eugene Mizin, launched the Job Today app in Barcelona in 2015. A year on, Job Today has expanded into Madrid, Paris and London; and has plans for a US launch. Polina holds a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Luxembourg.
Katherine Ryder, Founder and CEO, Maven Clinic
Journalist turned entrepreneur Katherine Ryder is the founder of Maven, a digital health clinic for women. To prepare for launching her own business venture, Katherine joined the early stage investment team at Index Ventures for two years. Her health startup Maven is one of the first portfolio companies of The Female Founders Fund, a VC firm that only funds companies with at least one female founder.
Roni Frank, Co-Founder and Head of Clinical Services, Talkspace
Roni Frank, and her husband Oren Frank, founded Talkspace to deliver affordable therapy online. The Talkspace app provides access to licensed therapists through messaging and video appointments. Former software developer Roni has a Masters in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Earlier this year, Talkspace raised $15 million in a Series B round led by Northwest Venture Partners to expand its services.
Crystal Huang, Co-Founder and CEO, Prosky
Crystal Huang is the co-founder and CEO of Prosky, a performance-based hiring platform. Prosky allows companies to train, test and hire talent through its platform. Crystal is a marketing pro, having worked on projects for Nike and Cannon, and led marketing for Vivint. Last year, the recruitment startup raised a $2.3 million seed led by Lightbank, to develop its technology and ramp up its marketing.
Natalie Verter, Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer, Photomyne
Natalie Verter is Co-Founder and Chief Design Officer at Photomyne, a smartphone app designed to digitalize old photos. Natalie has a Masters in Integrated Design from the HIT Institute and was previously Senior UX Designer at HP software. This year, Tel Aviv-based Photomyne raised a $2.6 million seed to develop its product. The app is well on its way to one million downloads.
Rosa Mei Huang, Founder and CEO, Funky Bots
Rosa Mei Huang: app developer, animator, creative director, professional choreographer, dancer, and martial artist – this is one talented lady. In 2014, Rosa Mei founded Funky Bots, a startup that produces motion sensor apps. Funky Bots launched Funky Dance, the first street dance app with motion sensor, and kids’ app BoomKLAKers which was named Apple Best New App in over 108 countries.
Liat Mordechay Hertanu, Co-Founder and CMO, 24me
Israeli entrepreneur and mother Liat Mordechay Hertanu needed a better way to deal with her mounting to-do list so she devised personal assistant app 24me. The app uses artificial intelligence to generate personal reminders, organize your schedule and autocomplete tasks. It was named ‘App Store Best of 2014’ by Apple. Liat holds a BA in computer science and an EMBA from the US. She founded the startup with her husband Giladin in 2013.
The app startup scene is brimming with opportunity. While women-led startups once clustered in sectors like e-commerce and digital media, more female founders are breaking into areas such as health technology. These successful female entrepreneurs are now inspiring app startup founders of the future.
You can read more about the changing app startup industry in our startup articles.