By Martin Kidston
Ten businesses launched by women and selected from a pool of nearly 400 candidates will participate this week in a startup challenge in San Francisco hosted by a company based in Missoula.
The Audience Awards, founded by Paige Williams of Missoula, will film the sales pitch given by the 10 finalists and host the content on its website for a round of public voting, which opened Tuesday and runs through next Monday.
The top prize includes $50,000 provided by Newmark and a $10,000 investment grant from Backstage Capital. Williams said the contenders will also vie to win one of three Audience Awards worth $120,000 in services provided by IBM and acceptance into the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program.
“As a female entrepreneur in tech myself, Audience Awards is very excited to partner with IBM and Women Who Tech to support these innovative women and this exciting program,” said Williams. “We’re pleased to use our unique, contest-based platform to shine a spotlight on these emerging industry leaders and to give three worthy projects an opportunity in to flourish in the marketplace.”
According to studies by the Kauffman Foundation – which also sponsors the Missoula chapter of 1 Million Cups – technology companies led by women achieve a 35-percent higher return on investment, making them more capital efficient.
When backed by venture capital, they also bring in 12 percent higher revenue, according to the foundation. Yet less than 10 percent of startup investments are directed to startups led by women.
Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech, called the lack of venture capital director toward female entreprenuers unfair and bad for business.
“The Women Startup Challenge has one goal – to shake up a culture and economy that has made it exceedingly difficult for women entrepreneurs to access capital,” said Kapin. “Our startup challenges have reached over 1,000 women-led startups from across the country, all of whom are focused on solving problems for people, businesses and the planet.”
Williams launched the Audience Awards in 2013, offering on online video-contest platform that now claims more than 100,000 members. The competitions hosted by the Missoula company help promote various brands, products and services while employing emerging filmmakers.
“Our competitions have provided opportunities to be presented at prestigious film festivals and land distribution deals with major networks,” Williams said. “Corporations and other organizations gain unique perspectives into consumer tastes, as well as rights to valuable assets.”
The ten competing companies include:
Babyation — Samantha Rudolph; Missouri: Revolutionizing the breast pump by making it quiet, comfortable, discreet and controllable by smartphone, offers customizable programs and an app for “smart” data logging.
Blendoor — Stephanie Lampkin; California: A blind app for job recruiters, which conceals the candidate’s name and photo to circumvent unconscious bias and facilitate diversity.
bluDiagnostics — Katie Brenner; Wisconsin: A revolutionary app enabling women to understand their body through saliva-based measurement technology, giving women immediate, quantitative data regarding hormone levels.
Cake — Suelin Chen; Massachusettes: The mint.com for end-of-life planning, experts help create a comprehensive strategy, stored securely in the Cloud.
ClearVest Advisers — Sara Malak; New York: A financial-tech alternative investment platform, providing access to established and emerging managers with lower investment minimums.
Design Flux Technologies — Courtney Gras; Ohio: Revolutionizing the energy storage industry by creating and selling the world’s first battery operating system, “Cognicell,” via clean energy applications.
Embrace Family Health — Denise Terry; California: A mobile-first, digital, health platform which empowers women with personalized information for maternity and baby care.
Entry Point VR — Carissa Flocken; California: Provides cross-platform distribution and analytics for virtual reality content.
Mohop — Annie Mohaupt; Illinois: Utilizes robotics to digitally mass fabricate customizable footwear-on-demand.
SIRUM: Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine — Kiah Williams; California: The match.com for unused, unexpired medicine, redistributing it to people in need.