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List of Women Founders, CEOs, and Board Directors in American Unicorn Startups

LEGO Unicorn Kitty GIF Imgur Tumblr

This Lego Movie unicorn kitty gif was made by my friend @matt01ss.

This page is informed by these Unicorn Boards notes:

This page was tweeted by Erica Swallow:

This page was tweeted by Mattermark:

For the list of American startup unicorn women founders, CEOs, and Board Directors, please scroll down.

But first, I'd like to share some notes about this research.

Stashed in: Founders, 106 Miles, Business Facts, Women, CEOs, @ifindkarma, Awesome, @sherylsandberg, Boards, inequality, startup, @marissamayer, @jessicaalba, Give and Take, Theranos, Ellen Pao, Women, Change the Ratio, Women in Tech, Corporate Diversity

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Private billion dollar startups go by many names, such as unicorns and dragons and black swans.

Sam Altman observes that no one knows which seed companies will become black swans.

Tod Francis agrees. It's impossible to predict which companies will be unicorns later.

There are currently 55 American unicorn startups, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and Fortune:

WSJ Unicorns page:

Fortune Unicorns page:

On this page I am going to list all of the women who are leaders of unicorn startups.

That means I will look for any women at unicorn companies who are founders, CEOs, or on the Board of Directors.

I was going to include CTOs too, but there are presently no female CTOs in unicorn startups.

Please let me know if I'm missing anyone. I'd like to make this list as complete as possible.

Thank you Ellen Pao and Erica Swallow for helping me with the research for this page. 

Very much appreciated!!

Actually, there is a unicorn with a woman CTO: Survey Monkey.

Their President and CTO is Selina Tobaccowala.

Total value of unicorns is $371 billion according to CB Insights.

Aileen Lee and Cowboy Ventures wrote a follow-up post about Unicorns:

Only 1 in 714 venture backed companies becomes a unicorn. 

My favorite paragraph:

History suggests the 2010s will give rise to a super-unicorn or two that reflect the key tech wave of the decade, the mobile web.  Whichever company (or companies) comes to represent this key innovation (Uber?) will likely continue to accelerate in value as FB, Google and Amzn have over the past decade.

I especially liked the paragraph around that 1 in 714 number, too:

Despite the doubling, building one of these companies is still ridiculously difficult and rare.  If 60,000 software and Internet companies were funded in the past decade, that means only .14% have become unicorns– or one in every 714. The odds of building, working for or backing one are worse than catching a ball at a major league game; but, better than the chance of dying by shark attack – so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

More notes:

By the way, this page was inspired by Erica Swallow's Fortune article on Women on Unicorn Boards:

Just 6.2% of board seats are held by women within U.S.-based “unicorn” companies, that rare breed of private firms whose value is more than $1 billion, based on fundraising. America’s 55 unicorn companies collectively represent 354 board director seats, the Fortune analysis shows, and only 22 are held by women.

A full 60% — or 33 — of the U.S. unicorn companies have all-male boards, as compared with nearly 5% of Fortune 500 companies. The startups with all-male boards include some of the most celebrated brands, such as Uber, Snapchat, Tinder and Airbnb.

None of the 55 companies have more than one woman on their board. Some research suggests that boards need at least three women in order to achieve the effective critical mass that leads to improved performance and governance.

That article inspired me to make a page of notes in mid-March.

I'm organizing this page: Founders, CEOs, Funder Board Members, and Outside Board Members.

During my research I found this great TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee in 2012 about why your next Board member should be a woman:

If you’re not aware, studies also show companies with gender diversity at the top drive better financial performance on multiple measures – for example, 36% better stock price growth and 46% better return on equity. And, studies show the more women, the better the results.

Having women in leadership positions makes great business sense. 

Women Founders of American Unicorns

  • Adi Tatarko*, Houzz (notes)
  • Elizabeth Holmes*, Theranos
  • Holly Liu, Kabam
  • Jessica Alba*, Honest Co (board)
  • Julia Hartz, Eventbrite
  • Lynda Weinman*, Lynda (board, notes)
  • Lynn Jurich*, Sunrun
  • Michelle Zatlyn*, CloudFlare (board, notes)
  • Sarah Leary, Nextdoor
  • Whitney Wolfe, Tinder

Note that Lynda is no longer a unicorn because it sold to LinkedIn in April 2015.

The founders with asterisks next to their names are also current members of their Boards of Directors.

Women CEOs of American Unicorns

  • Adi Tatarko, Houzz
  • Christy Wyatt, Good Technology (not a founder)
  • Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos
  • Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX (President/COO)
  • Lynn Jurich, Sunrun
  • Michelle Peluso, Gilt (not a founder)

All of these women are also currently members of their Boards of Directors.

Women Funder Board Directors of American Unicorns

Note that Lending Club is no longer a unicorn because it went public in December 2014, and Box is no longer a unicorn because it went public in January 2015.

Also note that I did not include Jenny Lee of Xiaomi because Xiaomi is a Chinese company, and I decided to stick with American unicorns for this list. While researching Chinese unicorns I discovered that Alibaba founder Jack Ma attributes Alibaba's success in part to hiring many women.

Also, Lorrie Norrington is a board observer (but not Director) of Living Social.

And, according to the KPCB website, Mary Meeker is involved with (but not on the Board of Directors of) Jawbone, Nextdoor, and Spotify, so I think Crunchbase has that information wrong. In addition, Mary Meeker is a board observer (but not Director) of Instacart.

I'm actually not sure if Nancy Pfund is on SpaceX's board, but this article says she is an investor, and she served on Tesla's Board of Directors before they went public, so I'm guessing that she is.

Women Outside Board Directors of American Unicorns

Note that Etsy is no longer a unicorn because it went public in April 2015, and Box is no longer a unicorn because it went public in January 2015.

Also, I have heard that Diane Greene is a board observer for Pure Storage, but I find nothing about her involvement with Pure Storage on their website other than that she's an investor.

The important takeaway from this for all entrepreneurs is that these are the only 4 paths to joining a board: be a founder, be a CEO, be a VC that leads rounds, or be an outside board member -- usually someone with domain expertise.

And in all four cases I was surprised by how few women there are.

Way fewer than I would have thought.

I also note that Facebook and Twitter did not add a woman to their boards until after they were public companies. 

How do the biggest companies in the tech industry currently compare? 

Presently Amazon has 3 women directors, Google 3, Yahoo 3, Apple 2, Microsoft 2, Facebook 2, LinkedIn 1, and Twitter 1.

Cool stash.  Surprising realities... thought more women were involved.

That's why I thought it was important to publish this research. I had thought so too.  :)

I recently read this interview with Redfin CTO Bridget Frey about women in technology.

What is the future for women in technology?

I think we’re going to see a few companies emerge as especially great places for female engineers. Talent is scarce, so these companies will have a competitive advantage in recruiting, and that will drive other companies to adopt female- and family-friendly policies.

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