All over the world, women are becoming more and more inspired to step out of the shadows. They are now more confident about claiming their place as movers and shakers in various industries.
While the road to success wasn’t easy, this generation has seen more women take over the helm of multi-million dollar companies. There’s Oprah Winfrey, whose net worth according to Forbes, is a massive $2.8 billion. She founded three successful companies: Harpo Productions, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
Marian Ilitch, on the other hand, became one of the most successful American entrepreneurs when she co-founded Little Caesars Pizza with her late husband, Mike Ilitch. Her net worth is estimated at $5.1 billion. She also owns the Detroit Red Wings and MotorCity Casino Hotel.
Oprah and Mrs. Ilitch are just two women who are now captains of their own industries. Here’s a roundup of 20 successful and emerging companies which are founded by female entrepreneurs:
Lucy Peng – Ant Financial
Ant Financial Services Group is an online payments services provider that allows businesses and individuals to execute secure payments online. The company’s platform – Alipay – is the largest mobile and online payments platform in the world, surpassing PayPal in 2013. A part of the Alibaba group, Alipay caters mainly to buyers and sellers who are engaged in e-commerce transactions. It has a registered base of more than 43 million and is an accepted online payment method for most of the online retail websites and service providers in China. The company has secured $4.5 billion in equity funding to date.
Peng Lei, also known as Lucy Peng, co-founded Alipay in December 2004. They now employ more than 5,000 people. Peng, who is also one of the founders of the Alibaba group, earned a business administration degree from Hangzhou Institute of Commerce and is one of 21 self-made women billionaires in China.
Tan Hooi Ling – Grab
Grab is a Singapore-based technology company. It offers logistics and ride-hailing services in Singapore and neighboring Southeast Asian nations through its app.
The company was founded by Anthony Tan, the youngest member of the family that operates Tan Chong Motors in Malaysia, with Hooi Ling Tan, a fellow Harvard graduate. Hooi Ling was Anthony’s classmate who also happened to be a consultant at McKinsey & Company. The two wrote a business plan to promote their mobile app with the goal of making taxis safer in Southeast Asia. The company was launched in 2012 using a $25,000 grant from the Harvard Business School and Anthony’s personal capital. In 2013, Grab expanded to the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. In 2014, the company further expanded to Vietnam and Indonesia.
In 2016, Grab Taxi was rebranded into Grab, which covers other products and services. In 2018, Grab acquired the operations of Uber in Southeast Asia. It has secured nearly $3.5 billion in equity funding.
Hooi Ling earned her MBA at Harvard Business School and a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Bath. She was an associate at McKinsey & Company, which sponsored her graduate studies at Harvard Business School. While a co-founder of Grab, she gladly gives the spotlight to Anthony who is regarded as the face of the company.
Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki – 23andMe
23andMe is a biotechnology research company which studies human genomes so users can study their ancestry, genealogy, and check for any possible inherited traits.
The company is a startup co-founded by Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki. The startup aims to make the human genome searchable. $3.9 million from Google and Brin helped initially fund the startup which now has a total equity funding just over $482 million.
23andMe was named after the number of pairs of human chromosomes. The company aims to make people understand the meaning of their genes by indexing them and highlighting significant findings. The company also caters to researchers and scientists by providing them neatly categorized and searchable data.
Linda Avey is a biologist, having earned a BA at Augustana University. She spent 20 years in sales and business development in biopharmaceuticals before co-founding 23andMe with Anne Wojcicki.
Anne Wojcicki is a Genomics pioneer. A graduate of Yale University, Anne worked as a healthcare consultant and investment analyst. In 2006, she co-founded 23andMe.
Tyler Haney – Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices is an active lifestyle brand that manufactures technical apparel for recreation. According to company founder Tyler Haney, “Our goal is to inspire people to be active on a daily basis. We believe that the future of athletics is not about being there first, but about showing up most often. By eliminating the pressure to perform, we’re building a community of exercisers who approach activity with easy, humor and delight.”
Matt McIntyre and Tyler Haney founded the company in January 2014. Tyler grew up involved in several sports, but as an adult gravitated towards hiking and walking her dog. As a true millennial, she was interested more in fitness than competition. Unable to find an active wear brand that she likes, she started Outdoor Voices which she describes as “a friendly, inclusive call to action that is non-prescriptive.”
In 2016, the company brought its total investment to $22.5 million, which it used to expand its retail footprint by opening new stores in New York and Texas in addition to its original Austin location. It has a total funding of $64.1 million.
Gwyneth Paltrow – Goop Inc.
Launched in 2008, Goop is owned by American actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The lifestyle brand started as a weekly e-mail newsletter that provided new age advice like “eliminate white foods” and “police your thoughts”. Later, a lifestyle website was added and the company expanded into e-commerce that collaborates fashion brands, launched pop-up shops, wellness summits, and a print magazine. Goop generates revenue from advertising and from its Goop-branded clothing line, perfume, and books. It has a total equity funding of $75 million.
Paltrow became famous for being an actress and singer. Later, she made a name for herself as a food writer. She has published two cookbooks and has been the face of two famous brands—Estée Lauder and Coach.
Michelle Zatlyn – Cloudflare
A web performance and security company, Cloudflare provides online services to protect and accelerate websites online.
The company, through its Cloudflare CDN platform, distributes content around the world to speed up websites. Its Cloudflare optimizer enables web pages with ad servers and third-party widgets the ability to download Snappy software on computers and mobile devices. Cloudflare security protects websites from online threats such as spam, DDOS, and SQL infection. Cloudflare analytics gives insight into web traffic including threats and search engine crawlers. Keyless SSL allows organizations to keep their SSL keys private.
The company was incorporated in 2009 in San Francisco, California. It is co-founded by Lee Holloway, Matthew Prince, and Michelle Zatlyn. It has a total equity funding of $182 million.
Zatlyn grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, studied at Harvard Business School and became one of the co-founders of Cloudflare, now recognized as one of the most important security firms in Silicon Valley.
Jessup Shean – CommonBond
CommonBond was founded in 2011, to lower the cost of higher education. Its innovative model makes it possible for students to save money on their student loans while giving investors the chance to earn a competitive financial return.
The company makes personal finance more affordable, transparent, and easy to manage. It aims to correct the problem of high rates and poor service that usually comes with student loans. The company is creating a better way of handling student loans and allows students to save money by refinancing their student loan through CommonBond. Total equity funding to date is $128 million.
CommonBond was co-founded by David Klein, Michael Taormina, and Jessup Shean. Shean worked at Fried, Franc, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson Law Firm focusing on debt private placement. She also worked for J.P. Morgan’s Equity Capital Market in Hong Kong before joining Klein and Taormina in founding CommonBond. Shean has a liberal arts degree from Brown University and a JD/MBA from Penn Law and Wharton Business School.
Leanne Kemp – Everledger
Everledger is a provider of a ledger used by diamond owners as well as other related transaction history verification for owners, insurance companies, and law enforcement agencies. Based in London, the company was founded in April of 2015, by Leanne Kemp.
Everledger built a global, digital ledger that protects and tracks assets during their lifetime. The company collects an asset’s characteristics, history and ownership to create a permanent record. Stakeholders use the thumbprint or digital incarnation across the supply chain to verify, authenticate and prove where the item originated. The company builds innovative solutions in markets that value provenance and transparency. It has a total equity funding of $10.5 million.
Leanne Kemp, founder and current CEO of Everledger, made use of her extensive background in business, jewelry, insurance, and emerging technology to build a worldwide verification system featuring transparency along the supply chain process. This allows the protection and tracking of high value assets that mitigated the risks and fraud in the global marketplace. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Blockchain Council.
Weiwei Hu – Mobike
Mobike, owned by Beijing Mobike Technology Co., Ltd. is a station-less bicycle-sharing system with headquarters in Beijing, China. It is the world’s largest shared bicycle operator and has made Shanghai the world’s largest bike-share city.
The company allows an individual to pick up a bike and return it to any public bicycle parking. It created a revolutionary lifestyle that allows people to use a healthier means of transportation, which reduces pollution and congestion. It also helps improve urban design through the use of data.
Mobike operates in over 160 cities in China and in some markets outside of the country. The company started its Singapore operations in 2017. In the same year, Mobike launched its operations in Manchester, UK, Florence and Milan in Italy, Fukuoka Japan, and in Malaysia. The company has plans to expand its operations in the United States and in Australia.
Weiwei Hu, Wang Xiaofeng, and Yiping Xia founded Mobike. Weiwei Hu was a journalist working on connected cars for Ford in China. Hu persuaded Xia to move from cars to bikes. Along with Wang, they started Mobike, now the world’s largest bike-sharing company with more than 25 million daily rides in 160 cities across the globe. Mobike received more than $1 billion in funding from companies like Tencent, Warburg Pincus, and Sequoia.
Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin – theSkimm
Founded by Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, theSkimm is a media company that provides a subscription-only newsletter, which is a digest of news stories for simple and easy reading.
theSkimm does the reading for the subscribers, explains the topics, breaks down what they need to know to start the conversation. The focus of the newsletter is a condensed and easy-to-read version of the news, which is focused on urban women, aged 22 to 34. theSkimm has more than 4 million subscribers.
There is also theSkimm Ahead app on iOS, which directly inserts events into the subscribers’ calendars. theSkimm is a news curation and delivery app which is noteworthy for having a clean interface, and at the same time it clears the clutter on the user’s calendar. Entries could be added to the calendar in one click. The founders of theSkimm also have a podcast called “everything but the couch.” The founders are the hosts of this podcast where they invite female entrepreneurs or founders of their own companies and discuss how they started, and how they got their startups off the ground.
Weisberg graduated from Tufts in 2008. She interned at MSNBC and worked for the Daily Beast before becoming an associate news producer at NBC. While there, she reconnected with Zakin, whom she met in Rome while they were studying. Their friends constantly asked them what was going on around the world so the two friends decided to provide the answer through a daily news digest that recasts news using conversational language in a format that breaks down the stories into smaller bytes for easy consumption by millennials.
Zakin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. She interned with CNBC in New Jersey before creating documentaries and reality television for MSNBC and Lifetime. She later joined NBC’s Peacock Productions in New York as an associate news producer, where she reconnected with her friend Weisberg. Together, they co-founded theSkimm, which has grown to 16 staffers and over 4 million subscribers. It has raised a total funding of $28.4 million.
Sandra Lerner – Cisco
Cisco Systems, Inc. is a multinational technology conglomerate with headquarters in San Jose, California, at the heart of Silicon Valley. Cisco is a worldwide leader in networking hardware as well as telecom equipment and other industrial and residential network products and services. The company has acquired several subsidiaries specializing in specific technology markets, such as domain security, Internet of Things, and energy management. In 2017 it had total gross revenues of $48 billion and net income of $9.6 billion.
The company was co-founded by Sandra Lerner and her now ex-husband Leonard Bosack while they worked as computer scientists at Stanford University. They realized the need for a platform that allowed users across different networks to share and exchange data. They came up with a device now known as a router and set up Cisco to commercially sell the product. Lerner was fired from Cisco in 1990, after which her husband resigned and they SOLD all of their Cisco stocks.
In 1996, Lerner co-designed Urban Decay through a venture capital company. The cosmetic company that became famous for its bold and vibrant nail polishes and lipsticks. L’Oreal bought Urban Decay for an estimated $350 million. She is no longer connected with the company and Lerner went on to run a certified organic farm in Virginia.
Adi Tatarko – Houzz
Houzz is a website and online community about architecture, decorating, interior design, home improvement, and landscape design. The Houzz platform and apps feature articles, photos and product recommendations. The company is based in Palo Alto, California was founded in 2009 by Israeli couple Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen.
In 2014, Houzz expanded to the UK, Germany, and Australia. By December of the same year, Houzz started to make a presence in the rest of Europe and Asia. By the end of 2015, Houzz had over 35 million monthly unique users and over a million active home professionals. By 2016, Houzz had more than 40 million users worldwide. It has raised a total of $613 million.
Houzz began as a side project involving 20 parents from Adi and Alon kids’ school as the first users. Since then, it has become the biggest remodeling community online. It focuses on the needs of homeowners and home professionals and helps foster a community among them.
Early in her career, Adi founded a software company that developed products and services for the high tech industry. From New York City, she moved to Palo Alto, California, where she worked in an investment firm. Adi and her husband founded Houzz as a result of their frustration in finding ideas for remodeling their house.
Lynsi Snyder – In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger is a fast food restaurant chain in the Pacific Coast and Southwest of the US. In 1948, Harry and Esther Snyder founded the company in Baldwin Park, California. The chain of iconic hamburger outlets is headquartered in Irvine, California and has expanded from outside of its traditional area of operations—Southern California—into the rest of the state as well as Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Utah, and Oregon. It had an estimated gross revenue of $614.5 million in fiscal year 2015. The company is privately held is does not disclose financial information to the public.
Lynsi Snyder, the only grandchild of the Snyder couple, currently owns In-N-Out Burger.
The chain resisted going public or franchising its operation due to the desire to maintain the company’s quality and consistency. The restaurant chain has a highly loyal customer base and is rated one of the top fast food restaurants in the country.
Esther Lavelle Snyder co-founded In-N-Out Burger with her husband Harry Snyder. Esther grew up in Sorento, Illinois, attended Greenville College and graduated with a degree in Zoology from Seattle Pacific University.
Esther met Harry Snyder while working at a Seattle restaurant. In 1948, they got married and moved to Baldwin Park, California, where they founded In-N-Out Burger.
Cathy Hughes – Urban One
Urban One is a media company with holdings primarily in radio, digital media, and cable television. It owns and operates 55 radio stations in the US and is the top African American-owned broadcasting company. Urban One is also the largest radio broadcaster that targets African American and urban listeners. The company offers hip-hop, R&B, rap, talk radio, and news.
Urban One was previously known as Radio One and owns Reach Media. It holds the majority shares in TV One, as well as Interactive One, a digital publishing firm with websites and brands that target urban users.
In 1980, Cathy Hughes founded the company as Radio One. She purchased radio station WOL-AM in Washington DC for $995,000 and changed the station’s original programming format from all-music to include politics and culture from the perspective of an African American. She later purchased another radio station in Washington and converted it into a rhythm and blues station. This started the strategy of Radio One acquiring small radio stations in urban markets and refocusing them to meet the demographics of the community. In 2017, it had annual gross revenues of $440 million and net income of just over $111 million.
Cathy Hughes is an African American entrepreneur, business executive, and radio/television personality. When Urban One went public in 1999, it made Hughes the first African American woman to be head of a publicly traded corporation.
Whitney Wolfe – Bumble
Women-centered dating platform — Bumble, is the brainchild of Whitney Wolf and Andrey Andreev of Badoo. The app was launched in 2014 and has 23 million registered users to date. Bumble is also responsible for approximately 5,000 engagements and weddings, and 850 million matches. Compared to other dating apps, Bumble is known to be more safe and fun for women especially because they rule the game. Bumble’s major requirement? Women should make the first move.
Whitney Wolfe is an entrepreneur who was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. She majored in International Studies at the Southern Methodist University. At the age of 19, while in college, she started a business selling bamboo tote bags whose proceeds benefitted the areas affected by the BP oil spill. She, together with Patrick Aufdenkamp, launched the Help Us Project, a nonprofit organization. After graduation, Wolfe traveled to Southeast Asia to work with orphanages.
She was named one of the most successful women in tech by TechCrunch in 2017.
Katrina Lake – Stitch Fix
Stitch Fix is a personal shopping and subscription service based in the US. The company was founded by Erin Morrison Flynn and Katrina Lake in 2011 and went public in 2017. Initially running out of Lake’s Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment, Stitch Fix started as a service for women but later expanded to include men’s clothing, maternity wear, and plus sizes. After its IPO, it released its first financial filings showing gross revenue at $977 million. As of February 2018, Stitch Fix was valued at nearly $2 billion.
The company is personal styling platform that delivers personal and curated apparel and accessory items for both men and women. It’s headquarters is in San Francisco, California.
Previously, Flynn was a J. Crew buyer. Lake is a graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Business School. She utilized her skills in data science and marketing to grow Stitch Fix. Flynn and Lake were the first women to take an internet company public.
A conflict arose between the two co-founders, which was settled out of court, leaving Lake the sole owner of the company.
Iris Ramos – Justworks
Justworks is an online platform handling payroll and payment procedures, compliance issues, and benefits facilities. The company makes it affordable and easy for business to hire and take care of people giving them freedom to invest their time in more important matters. The company allows clients access to enterprise-level services and benefits.
Isaac Oates and Iris Ramos founded Justworks in 2012. Its headquarters is in New York City. Ramos is a graduate of Management Science/Economics from the University of California, San Diego and MA in International Relations from the University of Westminster. It has secured a total of $93 million in funding.
Oates worked at Etsy before co-founding Justworks.
Linda Abraham – comScore
comScore is a media measurement and analytics company that provides analytics and marketing data to media, enterprise, advertising agencies, and publishers.
comScore was founded in Reston, Virginia in July 1999 by Gian Fulgoni, who for many years was the CEO of Information Resources, Inc., Magid Abraham, an ex IRI employee, and Linda Abraham who co-founded Paragen Technologies. Linda Abraham helped guide comScore’s growth to become the global leader in digital measurement and analytics. It has a total equity funding of $82 million.
Leah Busque – TaskRabbit
TaskRabbit is a web marketplace for mobile users, matching local freelance labor with demand. The company allows consumers to immediately find help for everyday tasks such as cleaning, delivery, moving and handyman work. The company founded by Leah Busque in 2008, has received $37.7 million funding and boasts thousands of background-checked and vetted “Taskers” who can help consumers in a wide range of categories.
Busque founded TaskRabbit after she realized it was difficult to buy dog food. She based the company on the concept of neighbors helping one another.
Busque earned a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Sweet Briar College in 2001.
There are countless challenges women encounter on their way to the top. Some of them have sacrificed personal relationships in exchange for success. Every day, women have to redefine gender roles to be treated as equals to their male counterparts. But more and more women are being recognized as successful leaders and global influencers.
To say that these women entrepreneurs made bold moves to get to where they are today is a massive understatement. Their courage and bold spirit continue to serve as an inspiration to other women who have yet to find their true calling.
Their stories are proof that women have what it takes to launch, grow and run some of the best companies in the world.