The Women Startup Challenge announced the winners of the first-of-its-kind crowdfunding and pitch competition organized to help fund and showcase women-led tech startups.
The top prize in the competition, $50,000 in cash, went to On Second Thought . Co-founded by Maci Peterson and based in Washington, DC, On Second Thought is an innovative messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they are received on another person’s phone. Replacing the phone’s native messaging app, users can eliminate awkward or damaging text situations.
In 2015, Peterson was named “Tech’s Newest Innovator” by Essence Magazine and recognized among Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40”. On Second Thought also won First Place at SXSW’s annual pitch competition #StartupOasis in 2014, was named “The Texting Savior” by AT&T. Before launching On Second Thought, Peterson was a brand manager at Marriott International and a marketing strategist for The Root. She received her Bachelor of Arts in public relations and advertising from Chapman University.
Other prizes at the challenge included a one-on-one consultation with a partner from 500 Startups, pro-bono legal services, and other startupfriendly services.
Second place was Fam-ess, which stands for Family First, Earn Always, Save Often and Spend Wisely, founded by Michelle Salsberry, based in Upper Arlington, Ohio. Fam-ess is an app that teaches kids ages 3 to 15 the discipline to make spending decisions based on their willingness to earn and save, so that they are better equipped to sidestep debt as they grow.
Third place went to Kicker, an independent digital news startup co-founded by Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Lisa Vehrenkamp, based in Brooklyn, New York.
The Women Startup Challenge was organized as a series of rounds of fundraising and judging. First, more than 180 startups participated in a fundraising contest using the crowdfunding platform CrowdRise, and raised more than $315,000. From the top 30 fundraisers, a panel of tech industry investors picked the 12 most promising finalists. The final 12 pitched their startups to a panel of investors at General Assembly/1776 on June 30.
“This was our first year for the Women Startup Challenge and it was a runaway success,” said Allyson Kapin, Women Who Tech founder and chief executive. “It’s thrilling to see so many innovative ventures being led by women who are disrupting the texting, news and financial industries. Last night’s $50,000 award to On Second Thought was just the beginning of this global launch to help fund women startups.”
“Helping people build businesses should be about investing in women the same as men. That’s only fair, and it’s how we’ll find the best startups with the potential to change the world,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects, who sits on the Women Who Tech advisory board.