We’re thrilled to announce the five finalists for the upcoming Female Founders Pitch Contest. This showcase spans diverse backgrounds and multiple industries, celebrating women doing amazing things. While women are still a minority in the technology industry, Brooklyn is home to more female-founded startups than any other city in the US, and we are bringing the best of them together.
On Tuesday, April 4th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at NYU’s 370 Jay Street, the finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges for the chance to win a $5,000 cash prize, a Coworking 10-pack from Orchard Workspace by JLL, and in-kind legal services from BLIP at Brooklyn Law School to support participants in taking their companies to the next level. With an emphasis on pre seed, seed stage and round A funded companies, the Pitch Contest will propel participants and their products to the next level. The finalists are:
Founder: Sam Lee
Meili Technologies is a cutting-edge startup with a bold mission: to build the health and safety data layer for fleet and passenger vehicles. Meili is harnessing the power of advanced technologies to detect and respond to health emergencies that may occur while driving. By doing so, Meili aims to dramatically reduce the number of accidents caused by driver incapacitation. With Meili’s solution, drivers can feel confident that they and those around them are protected on the road, no matter what their health status may be.
Sam Lee’s background is in data science, electrical engineering, and computer science with degrees from Princeton and Cornell. Her personal experiences inspired her to establish Meili Technologies and develop technology that can make our roads safer as well as help people with health issues, like her father, regain their freedom of mobility. Sam’s commitment to making a positive impact on the world is what drives her to build Meili towards the goal of creating a safer and more accessible world for everyone.
Founder: Joy Fan
Re/tell is a micro-retail booking platform bringing the best online brands to the physical world. They diversify the products and brands represented in our neighborhoods via shared retail space inside cafes, coworking spaces, fitness studios, and other retail spaces. Brands can expand their reach and community without the hefty investment needed for traditional retail. Their space partners get to delight in new traffic, offset their operating costs, and activate underutilized space
Joy Fan is a 2x founder, operator, and urbanist — democratizing access to affordable real estate. Joy spent her early career in environmental design, brand marketing, and real estate asset management and has since disrupted the traditional commercial lease model into license agreements and popularized the global strategy of pop-ups as a founding member of Storefront — the largest marketplace for short-term retail (acquired). She is known for creating the “retail-as-a-service” model adopted by hundreds of DTC brands, REITS, mall operators, developers, and landlords; and unlocked prop-tech playbooks for the masses as a contributor to the Ultimate Popup Guide. She is also an active committee advisor for Women in Proptech and a part of Mayor Eric Adam’s NYC Small Business Advisory Commission.
Founder: Joy Arrington-Hurd
Joyfriends is a virtual and in-person service that will enhance the world’s view of platonic support systems as a tool for mental well-being for women and GNC/NB people. The platform helps members achieve this through peer mental services, friendship matchmaking, events, workshops, social impact digital campaigns, and more. In-person services will be offered throughout NYC. Online services are available for everyone everywhere all at once. BIPOC MaGs and allies deserve culturally competent mental health care that understands the obstacles we encounter. Joyfriends is on a mission to serve 1 million+ members and cultivate their joy and mental well-being by 2028.
Founder, Naajia “Joy” Arrington Hurd, is fusing her two career paths into one business, with eight years of experience in peer mental health support as well as marketing, events and community engagement for corporations, NYC museums, NYC universities, etc. She has volunteered with nonprofits and community groups for the past eight years to achieve successful social impact campaigns with a focus on championing marginalized communities. Joy also previously founded a 2-year COVID-19 rapid response community project based in Brooklyn, NY which served over 2,000+ Women and GNC/NB people across the USA and globally. For her outstanding contributions to her community Joy was acknowledged with the “2021 Rising Star Award” at The Center’s Women’s Event Gala.
Founder: Tess Guttières
Landmark is a platform that connects the people in government who shape cities with the people who live in them. Landmark centralizes information making it accessible to all New Yorkers who want to be involved in civic and community processes. Landmark is redefining the civic engagement process in a way that’s new, fun, and accessible.
Tess Guttières (MUP) is an urban planner and brand strategist based in Brooklyn with a passion for making city planning decisions accessible to all. Like most New Yorkers, she has lots of questions. What are they building on my corner? When is this pothole going to be fixed? How can I get involved in creating safer streets? These questions and the opaque process of receiving answers inspired her to create Landmark.
Founder: Vandra Thorburn
Vokashi is an award winning, innovative green service to help households, small businesses and catering companies recycle their organic kitchen waste using the Japanese method of fermenting organic matter called “bokashi”. Using this innovative technology, Vokashi provides its subscribers with the necessary microbial inoculant (EM-1) to ferment their food waste. It is a door-to-garden service. Vokashi collects the fermented food scraps and guarantee to process at public and private green spaces to create a variety of mulches, composts and nutrient enriched organic soils.
Vandra Thorburn is the founder and president of Vokashi. Vandra served on the board of the New York City Community Garden Coalition from 2010 to 2014 and has been a member of the BklynSWAB since 2010. She is also an active member of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.
Five finalists will pitch to a panel of expert judges who will provide high level insight. The event will be emceed by Natasha Anderson, owner of Natasha Knows Consulting and freelance writer for BK Reader, who is an active member of the Brooklyn entrepreneurial community. The finalists are:
The judges panel includes:
• Adrianna Samaniego, Principal, Female Founders Fund
Adrianna Samaniego is the Principal Investor at Female Founders Fund, an early-stage fund investing in female-founded technology companies across B2B, Consumer, Healthcare, and Fintech. Female Founders Fund has invested in some of the fastest-growing female-led start-ups including Zola, Billie, Co–Star, Eloquii, Maven Clinic, Rent the Runway, Peanut, Tala, WinkyLux, and more.
Prior to joining Female Founders Fund, Adrianna worked at JetBlue Ventures, Harlem Capital Partners, and New Media Ventures. Adrianna also spent eight years in tech, as Co-founder and Co-CEO at Area 120 Google’s Startup Incubator, and also led and created Google’s Global Supplier Diversity Program, which created over $2B in opportunities for diverse-owned businesses.
Adrianna is originally from a small border town in Arizona. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs).
• Eastin Rossell, Venture Associate, HearstLab
Eastin Rossell is an Investment Associate for HearstLab, which funds female-founded and female-led startups in the pre-seed and seed stage with an industry focus on enterprise software, healthcare, media, and transportation.
At HearstLab, Eastin focuses primarily on sourcing and evaluating startups. As a member of the portfolio support team, she also advises on fundraising and financial analysis.
Eastin brings extensive experience in market research, financial analysis and due diligence across asset classes. She has held several roles outside of venture capital, including quantitative analyst at a startup hedge fund, buy-side equity analyst, and business development associate within private equity.
• Faye Penn, Executive Vice President, NYC EDC
Faye Penn serves as Executive Vice President for NYCEDC’s Initiatives division, overseeing efforts to catalyze growth and innovation in sectors including offshore wind, life sciences, tech and climate tech, and venture capital. She is also Executive Director of women.nyc, an initiative designed to help New York City women succeed as workers and business owners in those industries.
Previously, Faye was a Brooklyn small business owner, a freelance writer and a top editor for publications including New York Magazine, The New York Post, The New York Observer, Lifetime, and InStyle, where she launched a partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama’s office and seven leading American fashion designers to benefit international girls’ education. She is an alumna of Smith College and the University of California. Faye lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.
She is extremely passionate about increasing diversity and inclusion within finance. Outside of work, she is an avid reader, traveler, athlete, and life-long learner.
• Shivika Arora, Product Manager, JP Morgan Chase
Shivika Arora is a Product Manager for Tech Center at JP Morgan Chase in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Silicon Valley, Seattle. In this capacity she advises senior tech managing directors in each of these locations for both the tech agenda and the experience agenda. She is also responsible for driving modernization and innovation in each of these locations. Additionally, Shivika runs the global implementation of the global technology product operations model as well as Developer Experience Workshops across the tech hubs.
Prior to her role in tech, Shivika was the Product and Solutions lead for Trusts and Estates under Asset Wealth Management at JP Morgan Chase, where she was responsible for executing both brokerage op models as well as lending framework for the ultra-high net worth clients.
Outside of work, Shivika is Google’s WomenTechmaker Ambassador for NYC, Champion Coach for JPM’s Women On The Move Network, and Fast Forward Small Business Mentor.
She lives in New York with her husband and two young kids, and loves to read, dance to any good music, and go on food tours around various cities.
• Erica Roseman, Founder and CEO, Concrete Communications
Erica Roseman is CEO of Concrete Communications, a Brooklyn-based marketing and events firm, where she spearheads campaigns for clients, including City Point, the largest mixed-use development in Brooklyn. Over the past five years, Erica has worked closely with City Point management, leading events, social media, and marketing. Additionally, she launched and operates BKLYN STUDIOS, a large event venue at the center. Erica started her career working in the public relations department of Barneys New York.
Prior to founding Concrete Communications, she was Director of Special Projects for Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, and a founding partner at Company Agenda, a public relations firm specializing in art, fashion, and events. Additionally, Erica serves as president of the High School of Fashion Industries Advisory Board and on the board of GLAM4GOOD.
The event will be emceed by
• Natasha Anderson, Founder and CEO, Natasha Knows
Natasha Anderson is the CEO and founder of Natasha Knows, LLC, a business strategy and advisory company. She is passionate about engaging in community partnerships to connect underserved communities to vital resources. She has spent over a decade of her career across the art, tech, and cultural sectors, and is currently on the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs Hannibal Cox Jr. grant review board. The Brooklyn native is a freelance reporter and enjoys keeping her pulse on all things that drive innovation forward.