Why New York Is a Good Place for Women Tech Entrepreneurs
Heather Marie’s New York-based startup, 72Lux, is a universal checkout SaaS company that began as a response to what she saw as a big problem in e-commerce. Retailers simply weren’t capitalizing on the power of the Internet in creating their online presence, she says. “As a consumer, I knew there could be improvements. There were opportunities to not just provide a service, but to simplify the entire shopping experience.” Today, 72Lux provides an e-commerce and multi-retailer checkout solution through the company’s platform, Shoppable.
In starting her company, Marie capitalized on her background in client services from Polo Ralph Lauren and her tech skills honed as a founding team member at Affinity Labs, a digital media organization that became the largest collection of online professional communities. Affinity Labs was eventually acquired by Monster in 2008. Marie then worked on the company’s online lead generation analytics and client success team as director before founding 72Lux in 2011.
Calling NYC Home
While 72Lux is now firmly entrenched in the New York City tech scene, it didn’t start out that way, Marie says. The company began on the West Coast, but she quickly rethought the location and moved the business to the Big Apple. “When I started the company, I was in San Francisco, and I knew I needed to be in New York,” she says. “It’s the middle of the retail, as well as the digital media and advertising world.”
The move’s been one that Marie doesn’t regret. “I was actually very surprised by how well NYC embraced me, and just how good the city is at highlighting women entrepreneurs and women-led startups. The New York tech community is incredibly supportive of each other, too. Maybe it’s because we’re seen as the underdogs compared to the Valley.”
The VCs’ View on NYC
According to Peggy Wallace, managing partner of Golden Seeds, a New York-based investment firm and one of the largest angel networks in the country, the city’s tech scene for women is “vibrant and getting stronger.” Golden Seeds focuses its investment activity on female entrepreneurs, and Wallace believes that the New York City tech community is more supportive of its women tech professionals and entrepreneurs than most areas.
Much of that support she attributes to the waves women have made in many other industries in the city. Wallace says, “I think New York City has a natural openness, and we are a city that’s created many industries where women could build successful high-earning careers — media, Wall Street, marketing, fashion.” That same sort of aplomb has bled over into the tech community, she believes. “This is a town that is used to powerful, successful career women, and I think that is helping our tech women to be taken seriously.”
While mentoring and support from the city and its technology community are essential to women tech entrepreneurs getting ahead, access to funding is probably even more critical. However, women tech entrepreneurs are still a small percentage of the leaders on the New York startup scene and among those getting funded. Still, there’s a growing emphasis on funneling angel and venture capital money to woman-led tech firms. “I think everyone wants to see more women get funded,” says Wallace. “There is really goodwill. There are still a lot of subtle biases, but I think the openness and intention is strong here.”