The New York Tech Meetup held a women-only demo night at Microsoft’s NY office in Midtown Thursday evening, where several hand-picked entrepreneurs discussed how they came up with their ideas and how they managed to stay positive and compete in a male-dominated technology sector.
Lynn Dixon co-founded Hourly, an employment network that matches people who are interested in flexible work with local employers. She said she thinks of it as a dating site for jobs.
The idea for the site came up when the co-founders we were looking for help using Craigslist. “We found the entire process frustrating,” she said. “We thought in this day and age there has to be a better way to find freelance work; where you can see the people, their photos, and their backgrounds and Hourly was born from there.”
They constantly see an assortment of jobs coming through. “We have 450 job types in there, but I think the weirdest one we had was paying someone to watch television for 12 hours.” We also have a lot of retail and hospitality jobs, and the job types growing, especially in this sort of uncertain market.”
Alison Anthoine also came up with the idea for Paperlex while she was working – she needed something to make her business more efficient, so she created a company that empowers businesses to manage their contract workflow.
“I’m a lawyer and I’ve been a lawyer for many years and the one thing I cannot stand is charging my clients to word process; it makes no sense,” said Anthoine. “So, l met my co-founder Michael Gruen at a startup weekend, and we found out that we have exactly the same mindset. He came from the technical side and knew what he could do to bring this into being. We’ve been working together ever since.”
Anthoine decided to take the plunge and start her own business. “For me I’m at the other extreme. I’m older than most of these people. I’ve raised three kids. My youngest was leaving for college at the same time I met Michael. I said well this is what I’m doing next — I’m starting a company. I’ve been wanting to do something entrepreneurial like this. This is my ‘it.’ I know this field backwards and forwards, I know all the foibles, I know all the tricks that lawyers play, I know all the needs my clients have and we’re serving those.”
Keya J.Dannenbaum, founder and CEO of ElectNext, also felt confident enough to start her own business. Her application is unique in that it translates political data into tools with the goal of building a more informed and engaged democracy. She came up with the idea while she was working in politics on the national and local levels. I” saw first-hand how people were just dropping off, in terms of levels of knowledge and levels of engagement at the local level. To me that’s where issues start to really matter. It was education, it was crime, it was local taxes, it was public services, provision of goods; that sort of thing.”
She is honest about her feeling about leaving business school to start her own company. “Every day is a scary moment. Are people going to come to our site today? Are they going to use our site? Are they going to tell their friends? Are the pieces we have going to make this successful and useful, going to work today? Some part of every day I think to myself that I would never ever would choose anything else and then another part of my day I think ‘This is crazy, what am I doing?’”
Pavia Rosati, founder and CEO of Fathom, dove head first into the overflowing travel information industry. Her website differs from other travel sites because it has curated guides, inspiring stories, travel tools and resources. She explained how there are thirteen thousand travel websites out there, but as a traveler, I could not find what she needed. “Fathom is not about giving you more options, it’s about giving you fewer and better options,” she said. “We don’t cover everything; we cover what we consider to be special. This is a real pig-headed case of ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself.’ For instance, I am intimated to do the research needed to take a trip to Tokyo. So, I launched Fathom and now it tells me what I need to know.”
She is realistic about owning her own company. “Absolutely, failure is ninety percent. I’ve never been interested in owning a business; I never had a passion for understanding workers compensation. But I really did have an interest in creating this product. Every day that I get an email, which happens about once a day, and says ‘Thank you for building the travel website I’ve been looking for,’ I know I’m on to something.”
“This is a content website, and this is not a kind era for content,” Roasati continued. “I am a journalist and editor that cares about quality ideas, but we’re not living in a time where this captures headlines or makes money easily. But as the Godfather would say, ‘This is the business we have chosen. This is what I do.’”