Monday, March 3, 2014

10 Surprises at YCombinator's First Female Founders Conference

March 1, 2014 is a game changing day: for the first time ever, YCombinator's usual demo day spot (the Computer Science museum in Mountain View) has a room full of wonderful women, and not just women, FemEngineers and extraordinary #femalefounders! Everyone at the conference is optimistic that 2014 is the pivoting year when female founders rise to the occasion and take leadership posts in advancing product innovation and entrepreneurship. Here are some highlights, surprises and unusually touching, shocking, and inspiring moments.

  1. Adora Cheung (co-founder of Homejoy) gave an unusual speech about the ups and downs of entrepreneurs, who are "sprinting a marathon" full of surprises and hurdles. Her rise to success took maxing out her credit card, becoming nearly homeless, brushing teeth at McDonald's and becoming a "cleaning lady" and had to justify why she wanted to clean with a college degree. (I personally think she's the best speaker. YC alumni seem to all agree that her speech was inspirational).
  2. Jessica Livingston (partner at Y Combinator) recalling having to do everything that was non-technical at the founding of Y Combinator: from doing tax to carrying air conditioners. And working hard with her baby boy on the desk, next to her work station. 
  3. Jessica Livingston (partner at Y Combinator) announced the Female Founder conference on the YC blog, yet Paul Graham was the cover of Inc.'s press
  4. More than 50% of the room raised their hands when asked if she is an engineer!
  5. More than 50% of the room raised their hands when asked if she is a founder!
  6. Kathryn Minshew (co-founder at The Muse) and her team were rejected by more than 10 accelerators in NYC before getting accepted into Y Combinator.  Kathryn is also a super fast talking ex-McKinsey consultant (yay, consultants! Disclaimer: I am an ex-consultant too). Her team all left their glamorous job to found their dream startup.
  7. Jessica Mah (co-founder at went from poster startup child on newspapers and the president of UC Berkeley's Computer Science club to getting five-star office spaces with Jacuzzi hot tub, to nearly broke, had to let go of everyone, went through a lot of self doubt, to land in the typical startup in the living room/garage situation. She and her co-founder each had a room in a house, and hack with the entire team in the living room. Some say she's the very best speaker.
  8. The audience is super amazing! Among the audience, there are serial entrepreneurs, startup 1st employees, engineers, PhD's and graduates of all kinds of bootcamps including Dev Bootcamp, Hackbright, and Coding Dojo (lolz myself?). There's NatashatheRobot, Michelle Sun a Hackbright graduate and a Buffer engineer who went to found the First Code Academy in Hong Kong, China, Vanessa Hurst who co-founded Girls Develop It and Code Montage. Jessica Greenwalt, a Y Combinator crowdsourced medical info startup co-founder, Vivian Xue the founder of The Box Noir and Soothie in Los Angeles. The list goes on and on and is nothing short of being inspiring.
  9. 34.5 % of women founders have started companies with their spouse/ significant other. It is still unfortunately true that women may have trouble finding co-founders at time. Founding a company with a significant other can be potentially a hack.  PG and Jessica have been co-founders at YCombinator when they got married.
  10. Last but not least, women have founded or co-founded extraordinary startups. It's still a "surprise" though already a fact because there isn't enough coverage yet. Homejoy, The Muse, Eventbrite, InDinero, YCombinator, HireArt, VMWare, Science Exchange, and many more!!
If there's a take away from Female Founders and the annual Startup School : found a startup now, it's not easy, there will be ups and downs, yet it is extremely rewarding! There's a huge network of founders already, ready to share their experiences.

While not a founder yet, Dilys has been blogging about technology and startup life in the Silicon Valley. She was previously the Codecademy Girl at the Crunchies 2012 award ceremony, and has been writing about learn-to-code, women in technology and web development bootcamps ever since. Her passion is to share the Silicon Valley busy daily moments with her readers via her CodeSumBlog. Dilys currently works at a YC-backed startup -, and previously worked at, another YC-backed startup.  Press about Dilys Sun

1 comment:

  1. Yes! and if anyone comes up with a brilliant startup, pitch in for an angel group/investor, like iSeed.


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