It has been an admittedly personal mission for Jessica Lawrence, executive director of the New York Tech Meetup, to encourage more gender diversity in the city’s tech scene.
She said when she first started working with New York Tech Meetup, women were scarce among the tech founders who sought to demo at the monthly gathering, which is now a prominent fixture in New York’s innovation community. “I reached out to women’s networks asking more women to apply, and still I really didn’t get more women applying to demo,” Lawrence said.
That eventually led to the launch of NYTM Women’s Demo Nights to change that imbalance—an effort that seems to be working. A record 90 female-founded companies applied for the upcoming February NYTM event, she said.
Thursday saw the latest of the Women’s Demo Nights, hosted once again at Bloomberg’s headquarters uptown, with demos from CottageClass, Shareablee, Ingredient1, Mental Canvas, Siren, RaceYa, and I’ll Go First (see slideshow above.) Their ideas ranged from new approaches in education to a way to turn two-dimensional sketches into 3D images. While some of the startups, such as CottageClass, were very new, there were also companies with experience to back up their demos.
Among the presenters was a familiar face: Tania Yuki, founder of Shareablee. In 2014, she was chosen as one of L’Oréal USA’s NEXT Generation Award winners, which is the culmination of the annual Women in Digital program.
Yuki’s company offers analytics and insights on social media for marketers and content creators. “We exist to measure every single moment shared between a person and a brand, publication, or celebrity,” she said.
That means collecting shares, comments, and interactions people have with 150,000 brands every day. Such information can be used by marketers for competitive benchmarking, to learn more about customers, and to create actionable insights, Yuki said.
Here is a rundown of the other demos from Thursday:
—CottageClass, said CEO and co-founder Minesha Snoyer, is a community marketplace for micro-schools. It is a sharing economy-style, independent learning alternative to private school or homeschooling. This may include schools run out of community centers, or classes on drawing taught at an ice cream shop.
At the CottageClass website, parents can review the listings of the independent classes taught in their area that might suit their kids. If they find something of interest, parents can request more information and apply online.
—Taryn Fixel’s Ingredient1 helps people make healthier food choices based on their personal diet, philosophy, and taste. That can include eliminating foods that a person must avoid because of allergies, digestive issues, and other reasons. “It’s very important not to just find things that you can eat, it’s also important to find things that you want to eat,” she said, which can be the key to remaining committed to a dietary choice or lifestyle.
—Mental Canvas is a software company developing a graphic and media design system that brings 3D features to 2D sketches, said CEO Julie Dorsey, a computer science professor at Yale.
The software, which came from technology developed in her lab, can make drawings interactive, with different points of view. Different elements of a drawing can be pulled out to show three-dimensional depth. For instance, the Mental Canvas team showed off part of an interactive tour of New York. “This type of graphical medium sits between two-dimensional drawing, 3D modeling, and an interactive video game,” Dorsey said.
—RaceYa uses the popularity of craft toys to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. “It’s a customizable [remote control] racecar that teaches kids about science and engineering using a platform they already understand, with a toy they already want,” said CEO Abigail Edgecliffe-Johnson.
—Kat Alexander, CEO and founder, said Siren was created to address a gap in personal safety for women. “Most protective resources that exist are inaccessible to many women, rely on third-party support, or can be used against you,” she said.
For two years she worked with engineers to develop a functional safety accessory that women can use during the first critical moments in a threatening encounter. “The Siren ring contains a powerful, directional, 114 decibel horn that activates instantly to overwhelm and disorient an assailant and to attract help,” she said.
—Jessica Minhas, CEO, demoed I’ll Go First, a platform which helps people find the right words to give voice to the issues they are dealing with. For instance, kids might not be able express to teachers or counselors if they are living in an abusive household. That could lead to not getting connected to the resources they need. Even as more light is shed on cases of abuse, Minhas said more needs to be done. “There just isn’t enough supply to meet this growing demand of trauma survivors.”
The presenters from last night have yet to make it to the NYTM main stage but given the ideas some of them are developing, it is plausible that may change sooner rather than later.