Women of Tech

The blogosphere has renewed the debate about the gender disparity in the tech industry. Leah Culver, co-founder of a successful microblogging site, shares what it’s like on the frontlines of the startup sex wars.

Kim White / Bloomberg,Bloomberg

Kim White / Bloomberg

Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook, the hugely successful social-networking site with 500 million users.

Andy Freeberg

Gina Bianchini, CEO, Ning

Ning helps organizers and activists around the world create their own custom social networks. Its co-founder, Gina Bianchini, served as the site’s CEO for five years before stepping down in March 2010. Bianchini moved to fellow Ning co-founder Marc Andreessen’s venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.

Nandor Fejer / Flickr

Jessica Livingston, Founding Partner, YCombinator

A founding partner of YCombinator, Jessica Livingston wrote the book Founders at Work, about the people who get startups off the ground. YCombinator offers seed funding for companies in the earliest stages of trying to get off the ground.

Dina Kaplan, co-founder, Blip.tv

A former TV news reporter, Dina Kaplan co-founded Blip.tv, which helps people manage their independently produced web shows.

Caterina Fake, co-founder, Hunch & flickr

Caterina Fake was one of the early entrepreneurs to glom on to the power of Web 2.0. While working on an online gaming product for a Vancouver-based company, Fake and her then-husband started Flickr as a side project. It launched in February 2004 without a single penny of venture capital—and a little more than a year later it was acquired by Yahoo! for nearly $30 million. Building upon this success, Fake launched Hunch.com in June 2009 to capitalize on the Web’s recently discovered power for crowdsourcing. Hunch is akin to Amazon.com's recommendations feature, except that it makes recommendations for everything. The company just secured an additional $12 million in funding, and claims 1.5 million unique monthly visitors.

Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Carol Bartz, CEO, Yahoo

In January 2009, Carol Bartz was named CEO of Yahoo, the third most visited website on Earth.

Nick Ut / AP Photo

Susan Lyne, CEO, Gilt

Susan Lyne is the chief executive officer of Gilt Groupe, the popular site that offers members to 36-hour-long sales featuring the most-wanted luxury fashion items. Lyne joined Gilt Groupe in September 2008 after 20 years as a media executive.

Rashmi Sinha, co-founder, SlideShare

Rashmi Sinha made the jump from life as an academic to the Web when she got bored of working in a lab. She started by dipping her foot into the tech arena when she cofounded Uzanto Consulting, a company that provided user research for technology products to companies like Microsoft and Yahoo! That enterprise eventually helped launch SlideShare in 2006, where Sinha is co-founder and CEO. SlideShare is like YouTube for PowerPoint or KeyNote, creating a social network of sorts for presentations. Among Sinha's notable accolades are being named to Fast Company's Most Influential Women in Web 2.0, not to mention making it onto Playboy's list of America's sexiest CEOs.

Heather Harde, CEO, Techcrunch

Ever since Heather Harde transitioned from Fox Interactive Media to CEO of TechCrunch in 2007, industry pundits have kept a close eye on her. The wildly successful and profitable tech blogs of TechCrunch, started by Michael Arrington, track the minutiae of the tech business, covering everything from products to startups. (In a coup in 2006, TechCrunch broke news of Google's acquisition of YouTube.) Harde was recruited by Arrington to grow TechCrunch from a blog to a media company, making her a major influencer among venture capitalists and technology companies. She’s used to dealing with big transactions; at Fox, she oversaw a $2 billion budget for mergers and acquisitions. In 2007, Harde and her blog empire hosted the Crunchies, recognizing key leaders in technology and innovation. She also recently helped organize TC Disrupt, a competition and conference to hook up New York startups with investors—an event for which they struggled to get a woman-led team to attend.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

Marissa Mayer, VP, Google

Marissa Mayer is the vice president of search products and user experience for Google. She joined the search giant in 1999 as its first female engineer and decides when a new Google product is ready to be released to consumers.

Mena Trott, Six Apart

Before Tumblr and David Karp, there was Mena Trott. Credited for starting the blogging boom, Trott was an avid blogger with a personal blog way back in 2001. Dissatisfied with existing blogging tools, she and her husband Ben developed Moveable Type out of their spare bedroom. Since then, the Trotts have also been responsible for TypePad, LiveJournal, and Vox, all highly popular, mainstream blogging software for the masses, some of which they developed and some of which they acquired. The blogging platforms now exist under Six Apart, the company Mena and her husband started in 2002 and of which she is co-founder and president.

Soraya Darabi, Alexa Andrzejewski, co-founders, Foodspotting

Foodspotting is the brainchild of Alexa Andrzejewski, who, upon returning from trips to Japan and Korea, wanted a way to discover where to find the dishes she had enjoyed abroad, like okonomiyaki and tteokbokki. After realizing that a book wouldn't help people find the dishes they wanted, and that existing guides focused mostly on restaurants, Andrzejewski came up with Foodspotting. The service is a "foodie-powered field guide” with user-generated sightings of specific foods at specific locations.

Eileen Gittins, CEO, Blurb

Eileen Gittins is Blurb’s president and CEO. She decided to found Blurb after wanting to create a beautiful book of her photos, but needed just 40 copies. It would have been extremely expensive, so Gittins set out to change that. Blurb helps users create good-looking books for as little as $4.95 a copy.

Darcy Padilla

Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins, co-founders, Blogher

Bringing together a network of 21 million women for its annual conferences, BlogHer is an online community of female bloggers who are fixing to translate their niche posts into income by connecting advertisers with potential customers. The site draws in 20 million unique visitors a month, and its articles, culled from a network of more than 2,500 blogs, are syndicated on sites from iVillage to Yahoo! to BravoTV.com. What's most impressive about the enterprise is that after two years of bootstrapping, Stone, Page, and Des Jardins are one of the few women-founded teams to have secured three rounds of venture funding, totaling $15.5 million. They're expecting to turn a profit this year.

Sandy Jen & Elaine Wherry, co-founders, Meebo

Meebo.com is already defying expectations for its against-stereotype leadership team. Of the company's three co-founders, it's the two women who bring the engineering chops. Sandy Jen and Elaine Wherry, with degrees in computer science and symbolic systems respectively, teamed up with fellow Stanford alum Seth Sternberg (MBA) to start Meebo, a browser-based, all-in-one instant-messaging service. In 2005, Jen was frustrated with having to remember all 13 screen names for her various instant-messaging accounts, and after fiddling around for a few months with Wherry and Sternberg (and leasing server space with their personal credit cards), Meebo was born. These days, Meebo claims 140 million users and has been valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Leah Culver, co-founder, Pownce

A fresh graduate of the University of Minnesota in 2006, Leah Culver wanted to use her computer-science degree to forge a career in programming. With empty pockets, this future entrepreneur drew upon her creativity instead: Culver decided to sell ad space on her yet-to-be-realized laptop. The idea worked, and at $50 per square inch of ad space, Culver got her shiny new MacBook, onto which she laser etched all the ads for the real estate she sold. Culver’s self-starter attitude led her to become co-founder and lead developer of Pownce, a blogging and social-networking site that was shut down in November 2008 when it was acquired by Six Apart, the company behind a handful of popular blogging platforms.