As we close out Women’s History Month, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the amazing supportive women that I have met throughout my journey of founding Startup Boston in 2017. They not only support other women but have also shaped (and are shaping) how the startup ecosystem in Boston is formed.
They have built organizations, invested in companies, and advocate for female and diverse founders. Let’s see who’s paving the way for the Boston startup ecosystem here.
The Women Shaping the Greater Boston Startup Scene
Allison Byers (Founder & CEO, Scroobious) - Allison is an ally for helping women and minority founders lock in funding for their startup company. She created her company, Scroobious, to address this funding gap and is very vocal on social media about the issue.
Ande Lyons (Startup Life LIVE Show) - this lady hosts Startup Live LIVE every Tuesday and Friday, it’s become a staple live streaming show in the Boston community and is a great watch for founders and startup enthusiasts everywhere.
Bobbie Carlton (Innovation Women, Innovation Nights, Lioness) - Bobbie built Mass Innovation Nights in 2009 which has helped launch over a thousand products into the startup community. She continues supporting and connecting the startup community with the online magazine she manages, Lioness, which supports and highlights many resources for female entrepreneurs.
Donna Levin (Cofounder, Care.com & CEO Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Babson College) - Donna founded one of the largest online marketplaces for finding and managing family care, Care.com. She took the company through five rounds of funding and, ultimately, an IPO. If that accomplishment wasn’t enough, she has gone on to help students with their entrepreneurial goals through her work at MIT, WPI and now Babson College.
Diane Hessan (Chairman, C Space & CEO, Salient Ventures) - Most in Boston have heard of this lady - simply because she is incredible. Diane is the founder of C Space, the first company to leverage social media to help major brands get insight and inspiration from their customers. She also received the Most Admired CEO and Boston Power 50 awards from the Boston Business Journal, E&Y’s Entrepreneur of the Year, among many many many other awards. She’s a powerhouse.
Gayatri Sarkar (Founder, She-VC) - she is a growth-stage VC investor. She founded She-VC, a storytelling media platform focused on women and diverse GPs, LPs and fund managers all around the world.
Helen Adeosun (CEO & Founder, CareAcademy) - this woman is taking Boston by storm. Her startup, CareAcademy, was founded in 2012. In 2021, this startup was named on Inc Magazines Best Business List for Education and she herself was selected as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Leaders for 2021 by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. I’m excited to see what’s next for her.
Jean Hammond (General Partner, LearnLaunch Accelerator) - Jean is a very well known and active investor in Boston. She is the founder of the Boston branch of Golden Seeds (focused on investing in women-managed businesses) and is a member of Launchpad Venture Group and Hub Angels. In addition, she is the co-founder of EdInno, a learning community for edtech innovators, and a General Partner at LearnLaunch Accelerator, which is created for edtech startups.
Jennifer Jordan (Managing Director, Techstars) - Jennifer has been in the Boston startup scene for over a decade and during that time she strongly supported founders and startup teams through her time at Golden Seeds, MassVentures, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, Fintech Sandbox, the Cambridge and Roxbury Innovation Centers, Harvard iLab, Springboard and now Techstars. She’s always actively giving back to and helping support the community here.
Jennifer Lum (Co-founder & Managing Partner, Biospring Partners) - Jennifer is a founder with multiple successful exits (Adelphic Mobile was acquired by Time Inc in 2017 and Forge.AI was acquired by FiscalNote in 2021). She is also a very active investor in the community, and has been for close to a decade. You’ll also find her supporting entrepreneurs at Harvard Business School.
Jennifer Paxton (VP People, Smile.io) - this woman is becoming quite the leader in how to scale a people ops team at your startup and how to create an inclusive company culture. She is constantly lifting other women up and speaks up on the importance of including women in the conversation and on your leadership team and your startup.
Jody Rose (President and Co-founder, Hack.Diversity) - Jody is very well connected to the venture capital and startup scene in the Greater Boston Area. Through Hack.Diversity, her and her team are tackling the underrepresentation of high-skilled minority employees in Boston’s innovation economy. She was also the President of NEVCA for many years, where they invested back into the entrepreneurial ecosystem on behalf of the VC community.
Katie Rae (CEO & Managing Partner, The Engine) - this woman has advised hundred of founders and invested in over 100 companies. At The Engine, her and her team built a VC fund that invests in early-stage companies solving the world’s biggest problems. Prior to The Engine, she co-founded Startup Institute, which really helped people learn how to be great a startup upon Day 1 of joining and she was the Chairman of Techstars Boston.
Kiki Mills Johnston (Partner, Drive by DraftKings) - she is one of the founder members of Drive by DraftKings, a multi-stage venture capital firm for sportstech and entertainment. She also is on the Leadership Team of the All Raise Boston Chapter, an organization dedicated to accelerating the success of female funders and founders (love women supporting women!) and prior she was the Managing Director of MassChallenge Boston.
Lauren Abda (Founder, Branchfood & Cofounder, Branch Venture Group) - Lauren is the person connecting food innovators and entrepreneurs here in Boston. She is a go-to resource for founders or startup enthusiasts in this space. Through her founding of Branchfood, she also created the Branch Venture Group, to further the impact her and her team were having for food-related startups
Lucia Maffei (Technology Reporter, Boston Business Journal) - Her pulse is truly on the Boston startup scene. She’s an incredible journalist who really cares about highlighting the movers and shakers of our community. You can find her writing about everything startups, venture capital and tech in the Greater Boston Area.
Maria Cirino (Founding Managing Partner, .406 Ventures) - Maria has been in the startup scene for close to two decades. She is a founder, investor and board member. She has been named Massachusetts CEO of the Year and EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year, among many other awards.
Marie Meslin (President, The Capital Network) - as President of The Capital Network, Marie focuses on creating access to fundraising expertise and capital to all startup entrepreneurs. She is also a great advocate and ally for female founders, and created a fellowship for female founders looking to raise funding through her organization.
Melissa Withers (Managing Partner & Cofounder, RevUp Capital) - she is a fund manager and business builder with over 100 investments under management. Prior to RevUp, Melissa co-founded Business Innovation Factory in 2006, where organizations accelerated the design and testing of new business models and was the Managing Director of Betaspring in 2011 (it was founded in 2009), which was one of the first startup accelerators in the world.
Sarah Hodges (Partner, Pillar VC) - Sarah is an investor, board member, advisor and previous cofounder. She founded intelligent.ly in 2012, which was Boston’s source for leadership development, and then went on to serve on the boards of NEVCA, Hometap, Knox Financial, among others.
Senofer Mendoza (Founder & General Partner, Mendoza Ventures) - this woman is an advocate for diversity and inclusion across her portfolio and in her personal life. Her firm has invested in many notable startups, including Boston-based startups Wabbi and Alyce.
Shereen Shermak (CEO & Cofounder, Nth Party) - Shereen has been very involved in the Boston startup community for many years. Including involvement with Techstars Boston, Launch Angels (now Alumni Ventures), Boston Women’s Workforce Council and an EIR at HBS.
Sheila Marcelo (Co-founder & CEO, ProofofLearn) - this woman is a serial entrepreneur and no stranger to the Boston startup community. She co-founded Care.com in 2006, where she served as CEO until 2020, and is now founding yet another startup here in Boston! She also is a supporter of advancing women, and serves as Executive chairman of TheWing, a female-oriented co-working company.
Simone LaPray (Program Manager, Techstars Boston) - Simone is a super connector in the Boston startup scene. She was originally in charge of running TiE Boston’s ScaleUp and has since taken on her new role at Techstars Boston.
Stefania Mallett (CEO & Co-founder, ezCater) - this lady is a serial entrepreneur and very well-known in the Boston startup community. She’s incredibly upfront about her successes and learnings and an incredibly intelligent woman. I always learn so much from her from her interviews and seeing her speak!
Who else should be on this list?
There are so many women who have laid the foundation for the Boston startup scene as it is today. I’m really excited to see what these women will continue to build and who will step into the scene and help build it up in the future. If you know someone who should be on this list but wasn’t, please drop us a note here.