Why you should care
These companies are cool, but the women behind them are even cooler.
Wildfang launched as an e-tailer in April after managing to secure $650,000 in seed funding led by VegasTechFund, the venture firm of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. It takes its name from the German word for tomboy, which also has connotations of rascal, scamp or boisterous child.
Selling clothing for the “confident, independent, bold, fun-loving, cheeky girl who has a free spirit,” the Portland-based company signed up 20,000 members within weeks and quickly established itself as a go-to for guy-inspired style that’s made for women. It expanded from its online-only status to a brick-and-mortar Portland storefront that opened in July, complete with a carving wall that invites fans to leave their mark.
There’s a fairy godmother up in Harlem named Kathryn Finney. These days, she’s wont to describe herself like this: “Big hair, even bigger ideas.”
What’s the big idea? It’s to take on the dirty white secret of a tech industry headquartered in Silicon Valley: It might pretend to be colorblind, gender neutral and meritocratic, but really it’s very male, very white, rather Asian and hardly at all black or female.
Finney’s remedy is to create networks and pathways to guide outsiders, especially women, into tech. You want a pipeline of kick-ass, black women techies? Finney began building one last year.
Ayah Bdeir talks a lot about building blocks. Give people concrete blocks, they’ll make buildings. Give them LEGOs, they’ll make artful toys. So how about the building blocks of modular electronics? What will people make from those?
That’s the big idea behind littleBits, the New York start-up Bdeir, 31, founded in September 2011: an open-source library of pre-engineered circuit-board components — with lights, sounds and sensors — that snap together via mini-magnets. Use them to build … well, whatever you might want to build, be it an interactive piggy bank, a unicorn bike helmet with a glowing horn, a servo-motor-powered DIY electric toothbrush or all manner of robo-gadget.