An ongoing focus on women entrepreneurs

Written by
Wright Seneres
Feb. 14, 2022

The challenges around funding for startups founded by women are long-standing. Even though a record $6.4 billion went to women-founded startups in 2021, this represented just two percent of venture investment in the U.S. for the year. To help address this gap and other inequities faced by underfunded and underrepresented founders, Princeton Entrepreneurship Council implemented a number of initiatives in 2020, starting with the inaugural Princeton Women Founders Startup Showcase.

Through the Princeton Women Founders Startup Showcase series, PEC is elevating companies founded and/or led by Princeton women from a wide range of sectors and strengthening their connections to the larger Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem. (A similar Startup Showcase series focused on Princeton underrepresented minority founders also launched in 2020.)

In late January, PEC hosted two events to shine more light on women entrepreneurs: the second annual Princeton Women Founders Startup Showcase, and a TigerTalks Digital: Women Founders Roundtable. 

Six Princeton entrepreneurs presented at the Startup Showcase: Maryam Elfeki, postdoctoral researcher and co-founder of Cryptyx Bioscience, a drug discovery platform accessing therapeutics from nature, aiming to treat Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in older adults as their first clinical indication; Eugenia Steingold *00, co-founder of JelikaLite, a precision autism company that is developing an intelligent medical device to reduce symptoms of autism in children, enabling integration into society and reducing lifelong costs; Arna Ionescu Stoll ’00, CEO of Wavely Diagnostics, which makes healthcare more accessible to kids with a smartphone-based diagnostics platform, starting with a solution to enable at-home ear infection diagnosis; Eleanor Meegoda ’12, CEO of JobStep, which automatically finds and applies to jobs on behalf of job seekers to get them into better jobs 2X faster than they can on their own; Amina Olajide ’15, founder of Pronos, a science-based approach to recovering smell blindness, which has implications for quality of life, safety and brain health, and is meaningful for Long Covid, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases; and Amy Hua ’17, co-founder of Marmalade Labs, a platform that helps the world discover “amazing small brands” that bring joy to their customers and communities, bringing equity to the way web platforms direct digital traffic to online storefronts.

Attendees on Zoom voted Wavely Diagnostics as “best of the best”, with JelikaLite as a close runner-up. If you missed the showcase, you can watch the recording:

The day before the showcase, five dynamic Princeton alumnae who are experienced founders engaged in a lively roundtable discussion on their entrepreneurial journeys. Daphne Hoppenot ’10, founder of event planning professionals marketplace The Vendry, moderated a discussion among four entrepreneurs from a wide range of industry sectors: Angel Brunner *97, founder and CEO of EB5 Capital, which raises capital from foreign investors to finance job-creating projects across the United States under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program; Genevieve Bellaire ’11, founder and CEO of “adulthood simplified” platform Realworld, which helps young adults to learn how to navigate life as adults; Steph Speirs *14, co-founder and CEO of community solar startup Solstice which helps people who cannot install solar panels on their own roof to still access renewable energy; and Catherine Dennig ’15, co-founder and CEO of pet insurance marketplace startup Fursure, “audience choice” winner at the 2020 Princeton Women Founders Startup Showcase, and recent winner of the Tiger Entrepreneur Award. 

The panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities they have faced, key learnings, and near-term milestones as CEOs of their companies, and they shared stories such as finding their first hires. Watch recording:

The 2022 Showcase and Roundtable were just two events in what is shaping up to be a year of events focused on women entrepreneurs. On March 31, PEC will team up with counterparts at Yale University to host the inaugural Princeton-Yale Innovators Ignite pitch event online. This event will feature researchers working on the top emerging technologies at Princeton and Yale. Applications are due March 6. Princeton women academic entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply. Registration to attend Innovators Ignite is now open.

PEC is also planning more events focused on women academic entrepreneurs for later in the year. To be notified when registration opens for these events and more, subscribe to our newsletter.

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