List of Female Founded SaaS Companies or Enterprise Companies

Lets talk about female lead or female founded SaaS companies. Last year, Forbes released its list of the 100 Most Innovative Leaders, ranging from Jeff Bezos to Marc Benioff. A list of incredibly innovative men. That’s correct, there were exactly 99 men on that list and one, single, woman, Barbara Rentler, CEO of Ross coming in at number 75.  Yup, Forbes had a whoopsies – that they quickly acknowledged with a follow-up article:

If this isn’t an example of a systematic problem, then I don’t know what is. Now Forbes explained that they used a mathematical methodology to come up with that list. So let’s use some data and maths here to highlight why the example above is simply a poignant illustrative example of a much broader systematic problem.

Looking at the data, to no surprise the leaders of some of America’s oldest corporations like McDonald’s or Nike made the list. However, the large percentage of those innovative leaders were founders of the new generation of corporate America – the big tech companies . From Netflix, to Microsoft and Facebook – they were all listed. They’re the “unicorns” tech companies, the ones that made it beyond a $1B valuation and according to statistics, an accomplishment that only 1.07% of startups can proudly claim –  it’s really, really hard.

So the next question is, well, tech companies are “modern” and “progressive” in their cultures compared to more traditional corporate america, right?  Why aren’t we seeing more representation and diversity there? Do women and other minorities not start unicorn companies?

Nope. It’s a question of opportunity.

Why is it a question of Opportunity? Let’s take a look.

The road to unicorn for most involves a 5-10 year long challenging process which includes building a world-problem-solving technology from scratch, assembling a world-class team, iterating 1 million times on your messaging until you get it right and creating as much brand awareness as possible to find a repeatable way of selling to customers who love your company and your product to reach $50-100M in recurring revenue. But more importantly, it almost always requires financial backing from the start.

In fact, almost every Unicorn on that list was backed by large Venture Capital firms that took a financial bet on them early on while they were still operating at a loss funding expensive research and development hoping to make a gazillion dollars down the road.  Unfortunately, women receive less than 2% of venture funding.

Assuming equal probability of Unicorn status in men or women-led companies, at a 1.07% probability rate it takes 100 women-led companies to guarantee ONE unicorn. Meanwhile, given their current monetary slice of the funding pie, 4900 other male-led companies would have had their shot at it in the process too.

In fact, there weren’t even enough funded companies in 2019, only 2904 companies to be exact, to statistically guarantee that a women-led company makes it to unicorn status in the next 5-10 years from that batch.

That’s maths folks. That’s the systematic issue here.

Unfortunately, similar to the broader racism issue being highlighted across America right now, I can’t explain it. It’s definitely not a question of performance, since companies with diverse leadership have 10% higher EBIT Margin than those with below-average diversity in their leadership. It also can’t be because women-led startups, in a study of 350 startups, delivered higher revenue—more than 2 times as much per dollar invested that those founded by men.

So why might it be? I still don’t have an answer. But I do believe that it  is our responsibility, as leaders and future leaders, to start taking proactive steps within our organizations and beyond to increase the odds of seeing maybe one more woman or on that list in the coming years.

 

Female Founded SaaS Companies and Enterprise Comapnies

 

To support that effort, we’ve compiled a list below of women-led enterprise software companies in SaaS. That way, next time you’re evaluating two technology options with equal benefits, consider adding a checkbox to your RFP to check for diverse leadership. Of course, that should not be THE criteria to determine your selection, but adding a point for it is bringing awareness and encouraging your leaders and everyone in your organization to proactively remember the importance of this.

 

CATEGORY: Learning & Development

Spekit

Founders: Melanie Fellay and Zari Zahra

Company Description:

Spekit is the leading in-app digital enablement and learning platform that helps employees learn their tools and navigate process changes by accessing answers and enablement resources in real-time, everywhere they work. Located in Denver, CO, the company was founded in 2018 by Melanie Fellay and Zari Zahra.

Skilljar

Founder(s): Sandi Lin and Jason Stewart

Company Description:

Skilljar is an LMS company that provides tools and resources for companies to onboard and retain customers. Located in Seattle, WA, the company was founded in 2013 by Sandi Lin and Jason Stewart.

Landit

Founder(s): Lisa Skeete Tatum

Company Description:

Landit is a digital platform that is designed to enable and engage women in the workplace. Located in New York, NY, the company was founded in 2014 by Lisa Skeete Tatum.

CATEGORY: FINANCIAL 

BlackLine

Founder(s): Therese Tucker

Company Description:

BlackLine is an enterprise financial software company that provides a solution for the entire financial close process. Located in Woodland Hills, CA, BlackLine was founded in 2001 by Therese Tucker who heads up the company as the current CEO.

Company Name:

Hearsay Systems

Founder(s):Clara Shih

Company Description:

Hearsay Systems allows financial advisors to connect compliantly through email, text, social media, web, etc with clients. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2009 by current CEO Clara Shih

Cledara 

Founder(s): Cristina Vila

Company Description:

Cledara allows businesses to manage all of the subscriptions they have in one place. Located in London, the company was founded in 2018 by Cristina Vila.

CATEGORY: MARKETING

Company Name:

CallTrackingMetrics

Founder(s): Laure Fisher and Todd Fisher

Company Description:

Call Tracking Metrics is a SaaS company that allows businesses to track their tools and analytics across platforms. Located in Severna Park, MD, the company was founded in 2011 by Laure and Todd Fisher.

Allocadia

Founder(s): Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry

Company Description:

Allocadia is a marketing solution that helps marketing professionals focus their budget and time to maximise their efforts and impacts for their organizations. Located in Vancouver, BC, the company was founded in 2010 by twin sisters Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry.

Branch.io

Founder(s): Mada Seghete

Company Description:

Branch bridges the gap between web and applications and allows developers to build links between the two. It provides marketers better insight into campaign analytics and metrics. Located in Redwood, CA, the company was founded in 2014 by Mada Seghete.

CATEGORY: RECRUITING 

Power to Fly 

Founder(s): Milena Berry and Katharine Zaleski

Company Description:

Power to fly places women in tech in remote positions. It allows businesses to find incredible remote talent to add to their team. Located in New York, NY, the company was founded in 2014 by Milena Berry and Katharine Zaleski.

Blendoor

Founder(s): Stephanie Lampkin

Company Description:

Blendoor was created to help companies find, recruit and hire diverse talent. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2015 by Stephanie Lampkin.

CATEGORY: EVENT MANAGEMENT 

Eventbrite 

Founder(s): Julia Hartz, Renaud Visage and Kevin Hartz

Company Description:

Eventbrite is an event organization platform that easily allows businesses and organizations to coordinate events on their online platform. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2006 by Julia Hartz, Renaud Visage and Kevin Hartz. Julia Hartz is the current CEO.

CATEGORY: COMMUNICATION 

Front

Founder(s): Mathilde Collin and Laurent Perrin

Company Description:

Front allows businesses to streamline their communication both internally and externally and avoid the problems that often pop up on other messaging and communication platforms. Located in San Francisco and Paris, the company was founded in 2013 by Mathilde Collin and Laurent Perrin.

CATEGORY: DESIGN

Canva 

Founder(s): Melanie Perkins, Clifford Obrecht and Cameron Adams

Company Description:

Canva is an online platform that allows users to easily create graphic design level graphics, images, etc. Located in Sydney Australia, the company was founded in 2012 by Melanie Perkins, Clifford Obrecht and Cameron Adams.

CATEGORY: OTHER

Deployed 

Founder(s): Emma Rees and Kayleigh Kuptz

Company Description:

Deployed is a digital scoping tool that provides guidance through the SoW (statement of work) process. Located in London, the company was founded in 2018 by Emma Rees and Kayleigh Kuptz.

Arista

CEO: Jayshree Ullal

Company Description:

Arista is a computer networking company specializing in cognitive cloud networking. It’s platform is an “extensible operating system” that provides networking solutions for large data driven corporations or data centers. Located in Santa Clara, CA, the company was founded in 2004 and is currently led by current CEO Jayshree Ullal.

Company Name:

PagerDuty

CEO: Jennifer Tejada

Company Description:

PagerDuty is a SaaS incident response platform that helps companies provide an uninterrupted experience for their customers and end users. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2009 and is currently led by CEO Jennifer Tejada.

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Spekit raises $2.5M to change the way employees learn and adopt technology.

  “The only thing that is constant is change” – Hericlatus

This age-old philosophical quote holds important meaning for me. The first time I heard it was as a teenager fighting my family’s move across the Atlantic. But now, as I’ve grown in my career, it’s taken on a different kind of significance. Observing several organizations transition to remote and SaaS-led workplaces, I can’t help but think of this quote – and it leads me to a burning question I can’t get out of my head:

If change is constantly happening across an organization’s processes and applications, why hasn’t someone made it easier to manage and enable employees to learn these changes?

Spekit was born to answer this question.

Today, it’s my pleasure to announce that Spekit has finalized our Seed Round financing to help accelerate our path to making this vision a reality. We are now one step closer to removing the friction that employees face, at organizations big and small, learning new applications and keeping track of the constant change that comes with today’s innovative workplace.

Spekit has been a key part of every new feature or business process we deploy. It has dramatically reduced our onboarding and ramp-up time and is an outstanding way to support your users, drive adoption and improve data quality.

Marshall King, SVP IT Solutions, JLL

Read the Case Study

This is the “uncut” version, check out this official Press Release here for the quick read.

WHERE WE CAME FROM

It all started on a gloomy October afternoon in 2017 with a cryptic slack message I sent Zari:

“Meet me by the elevators”

I’d reached a breaking point at my job. I was leaving our leadership meeting infinitely frustrated by a discussion that had centered around replacing our million-dollar CRM investment in Salesforce

Tasked with regaining the trust of our employees, I had inherited the project just a few months prior. A lot had gone wrong along the way but it was our adoption problem that was the most frustrating to me. It was frustrating because it’s not that we hadn’t tried: Each end user received a 2-hour training session, took several painful-to-create LMS courses and we had built a comprehensive 50-page PDF of need-to-knows to put at their disposal as they learn the platform.

Despite our best efforts and sizeable investment in training, our support team was overloaded with help tickets, our pipeline was unreliable and our overall data was a disaster because everyone had their own understanding of the process.

Coming out of that meeting, there was only one person that I knew felt the pain more than me and our CEO – and that was Zari. Zari was our brilliant product manager (tech guru) that worked closest to our data teams. 

So that’s when I slack’d her and we met downstairs and had this conversation:  

Mel: “Zari – wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t spend all of your time cleaning up bad data, and instead, all of that data that you rely on was actually entered correctly and everyone had the same understanding of what it meant? And what if our team members had instant access to answers when they got stuck, when and where they needed to know them, in all of these applications we make them use? 

Zari: “Yeah. And it’d be even nicer if we could just create the documentation and training directly from these applications, so we didn’t need to manually keep track of all these constant process changes and new fields. What if a solution could just tell us what has changed in our applications so we could document these changes in a centralized place and then easily communicate them employees? 

Mel: “You’re speaking my language.”

Zari: “Yep. Let’s build it.”

And just like that, we were off to the races. Less than on year later, we launched with a booth at Dreamforce,  Salesforce’s largest SaaS conference, in front of 170,000 attendees.

HOW ARE WE DIFFERENT?

Well, to start, it’s not every day that two young women, one who grew up in Switzerland and the other who grew up in Pakistan, meet working at a startup in San Francisco and decide to take the leap into entrepreneurship together.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. What we’re excited about is our baby: Spekit. 

HOW IS THE PRODUCT DIFFERENT?

There are three core things that make Spekit stand apart.

1. Your training is built from your applications

First, I truly believe that our novel approach and architectural design with Spekit leaves us uniquely positioned to solve an age-old problem:

How does an organization centralize and keep its documentation up to date?  

For context, I managed our operations teams at my last company. In our Servicing Department, there was no room for error – so we lived by our process manual. Yet, even with the best measures in place to keep it up to date, this hallowed document would still regularly fail us. Why? Because a human on my team had to manually remember to update it if a change took place. 

The “remember to update” part is where all documentation goes to die.

So, our idea to solve this problem was simple: to remove the manual effort required around creating and updating documentation, and automatically create it from the underlying processes.

To put it in slightly more technical terms, the vision was to connect your documentation to your systems at a data-model level in order to track processes, dependencies and changes that take place.

And that’s how we designed Spekit — to be a documentation platform that connects via APIs to a businesses’ core systems and creates documentation from existing metadata.

We’re proud to have partnered with Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM platform, to build our first integration.

 

 2. Your training is available in your applications

Second, we deeply believe that just-in-time learning isn’t just a “nice-to-have” option, it’s mission critical to the future of corporate learning.

Zari and I are both big product nerds, so we tested just about every LMS, walkthrough or contextual knowledge solution under the sun before designing Spekit. We also did a ton of research to understand how humans learn and why the recent trends around remote work, SaaS proliferation and the “noise” that we must endure today as humans affect the modern worker. The collisions of these forces make just-in-time learning an absolute necessity.  

That’s why Spekit has a suite of extensions that surface your training intelligently, right when and where employees need to access it, directly in your applications.

And yes, we’ve automated this part too. With Spekit, there’s no need to manually create a walkthrough that will break as soon as you make a change to the underlying process. Instead, our Salesforce integration will automatically display your training right where it belongs, on your behalf.

 

 

 

3. It’s created by people like you and me, for you and me.  

Lastly, this is the part we take the most pride in.

From the start, Zari and I agreed that if we were going to solve this “unsexy” problem together and leave our jobs, we’d have to create a solution that we would actually want to use every day. It couldn’t be another necessary (but boring) documentation or training solution that makes every employee want to roll their eyes at it. 

No, we believe a successful product needs to be sticky. Sticky, because users love that our light-weight solution has finally removed some of the frustration they feel when processes change out-of-their-control. Sticky, because it has become a natural part of their workflow. 

Spekit is always there for me as an employee. It’s easy to set up. It’s easy and natural to update from where I’m working if I need to update it as a trainer. It’s easy and natural to consume where I need to learn it as a new hire. It’s fun to interact with if I have a question or feedback. It’s easy to identify what’s working and what’s not.    

Simply put: we knew our product needed to be easy – across the board. It had to be a natural layer of consistency, a your layer of tribal knowledge across all of your applications. 

 

WHY DID WE DECIDE TO FUNDRAISE?  

When Zari and I went all-in on Spekit in December 2018, we signed a Founders Agreement. While the nature of this conversation was a bit uncomfortable at first, it helped us establish core values that we would carry with us into the company: vulnerability and transparency. 

 

 

We agreed on the following:

  1. We’d be thoughtful about growth: We wanted to prove it to ourselves that there was a “unicorn” opportunity here before proving it to anyone else. That’s why we decided to invest in it ourselves and eventually raised some angel funding to get started.
  2. We’d keep our eyes on the problem: We both cared more about the problem than the solution. We were both open to being wrong about our hypotheses and adapting/pivoting the solution as needed to solve the real problem, one that we might not have even yet considered. 
  3. We’d enjoy the journey and stay open-minded: Most importantly, we were committed to learning and exploring the possibilities in front of us as the company grew. 

We started seriously considering fundraising in July this year. And just nine months post-launch, we were incredibly proud of what we had built:

We had thousands of active users across companies of all shapes and sizes. We were bringing real change to the way that customers (ranging from Fortune 500 institutions to scaling startups) were training their employees, we had some super-fan users of the product, we had built an amazing partnership with Salesforce and our brand was starting to get some recognition.

We were proud because for the most part , we had bootstrapped this. We had grown with the help of our incredible team of engineers. We had grown almost exclusively from inbound leads and conferences. We hadn’t yet heavily invested in Sales or Marketing which made our traction feel even more exciting.

Yet, Zari and I both saw a much greater opportunity. And after closing our biggest deal yet, we decided to lean into the possibilities and the incredible team members that this fundraise could unlock for us and found some incredible partners in the process.

WHO DID WE PARTNER WITH?

Brett Queener, Partner Bonfire Ventures 

After our first conversation with Brett, Zari and I looked at each other in awe: if someone knew this problem better than we did, it was Brett.

Not only has he made numerous successful early-stage investments in companies like Outreach.io, Pendo.io, Guru and others solving for inefficiencies in the workplace, but had also written Salesforce’s go-to-market playbook in the platform’s early go-to-market days.

In fact, Brett spent a decade at Salesforce where he served in a variety of senior leadership roles in Sales, R&D, and Operations including SVP Products, EVP/GM of Data Cloud, and EVP/GM of Marketing. He knows this ecosystem, he knows this problem and we know his deep experience scaling B2B SaaS startups would be incredibly valuable to us.

Equally important, we felt like the team at Bonfire Ventures, including Jim, Mark and Tyler, have a unique blend of operational and institutional experience that we knew would make them terrific partners for us as we scaled.

Dan Scheinman – Angel Investor 

Our story with Dan feels like it belongs in season six of HBO’s Silicon Valley, one of a modern-day founder/investor love story where Twitter is at the center of it all.

And it’s true, Dan and I met on Twitter and then we connected on Linkedin – and his three-word response to our deck was the little boost of confidence we needed:

Why was it a boost of confidence? Because for the third time in a portfolio of only fourteen angel investments, another one of his investments had gone public with a multi-billion dollar IPO that month. It was Zoom Communications — a solution that we used every day at Spekit and whose S1 was every SaaS founder’s dream.

In other words, Dan knows how to identify big, promising opportunities and knows SaaS. He’s seen what it takes from the inside to scale consumerized, enterprise software and how to attract top investors. So if what we’d sent him was enough to truly get his interest, Zari and I were determined to get him onboard. 

Matchstick Ventures

When I moved back to CO in late fall 2018 to build our go-to-market team in Denver, not a month had passed before three different people had mentioned the name “Natty Zola” to me.

I knew this was a sign I needed to meet him. And I quickly found out that the reason why everyone in the startup scene here in the Denver/Boulder area knows Natty is that he runs TechStars Boulder, one of the nations top accelerator programs. He is also a partner at Matchstick Ventures.  

 

Zari and I were bullish on Colorado and the potential it has to offer an early-stage SaaS company likes ours.  And after getting to know Natty and his team, that feeling is amplified. We’re so excited to have partnered with Natty and Ryan to deepen our roots here in beautiful Colorado.

SO, WHAT’S NEXT?

It’s game time. While we are incredibly proud of where Spekit is as a product today, we’re even more excited about what we have planned on the roadmap to make Spekit the easiest, most intuitive and fun way to train employees on applications.

To that end, we’re so excited to be building out our Sales, Marketing and Operations teams here in Denver while we continue to scale our Product team in San Francisco and engineering team in Karachi. Please check out our careers site for all open job postings.

THANK YOU

It’s an exciting time for Spekit, and we’re at this moment in large part thanks to all of our early supporters. To the team at JLL — Ann-Renee, Marshall and Nana– thanks for taking an early bet on us. Thank you to Todd, Kris and Lindsay at Hobsons for believing in us. Thank you to Bryan and Chris at Bluewater Learning,  and to the rest of our community, friends and family who have supported us along this journey.  We’re so excited to continue to grow with you!

Happy Speking!

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