In a world where women make up roughly half of the world’s population—although they are historically less present in major industries— those on the Cloud 100 list dominate a heavily male-dominated space: enterprise technology.
This year’s list has eight female-led startups out of 100, up from six last year, which focus on edtech (educational technology), e-commerce, SaaS (software as a service), and more. However, it is still a lower percentage than the total number of female founders across all unicorns, which according to Crunchbase data is 12%. A 2021 analysis of Pitchbook data pegged the number of enterprise technology companies with at least one female founder at just 2%.
For Mathilde Collin, CEO of Front, one of the newcomers to the 2022 Cloud 100 list who ranks 100th, the dearth of women in the space is shocking.. Collin tells Forbes that when Front announced its recent $6.5 million fundraiser, his team turned to Crunchbase to find other SaaS companies founded and run by women that were also valued at $1 billion or more. They only found another 10 of 13,160, Collin says.
«I was impressed. I always knew it was bad enough,” she says. «I have never played the gender card because my fight is not to make a difference between men and women. But I think it’s worth noting, because that can inspire other people«. Collin has pushed for gender equality at Front, and women now make up more than 50% of Front’s managers and 80% of its executive team.
The highest-ranked female-led company on this year’s list is Canva, which is at number three. CEO Melanie Perkins launched Canva with Cameron Adams and her now-husband Cliff Obrecht in 2013. The company started out as a small yearbook design company and has since grown into a $40 billion powerhouse. The online graphic design tool has helped school organizations, social media managers, students, and businesses create attractive images. “Our company mission is to empower the world to design. And we really mean everyone,” Perkins explained to Forbes in 2019.
At number 32 is Guild Education, an educational platform committed to helping the nation’s largest employers design benefits programs that allow employees to attend university for free. The woman behind the $553 million machine is Colorado native Rachel Carlson. Carlson has a long history with Forbes, as a member of the Hall of Fame of Forbes 30 Under 30 and 2017 list alumna 30 Under 30. She also holds a place in the list of the richest self-made women in the United States. After having a difficult professional experience in which she said no one had told her how fairness and compensation work hand in hand, Carlson decided to do things differently when she founded Guild Education in 2015. “I felt like I could do something different in my own company and teach everyone the value of equity,” he told Forbes in 2021. “Now every employee has a position of $15,000 or more.”
“I felt this real sense of charge, like I had to do things right.”
Karen Peacock, CEO of Intercom.
Not far behind, at number 34, is LaunchDarkly, co-founded by Edith Harbaugh in 2014. Harbaugh has established himself as a leader in his industry, having previously served as a judge for the list. Forbes 30 Under 30 Enterprise Technology by 2022. The company is valued at $3 billion, something the co-founder and CEO attributes to LaunchDarkly’s ability to meet the needs of its customers and employees. “How we got there was delighting our customers, making our customers huge fans of what we were doing and also taking care of the team,” Harbaugh explained to Forbes earlier this year. With 532 employees and big-name clients like IBM and Grubhub, the software feature management company has proven it can grow year after year.
Karen Peacock had a passion for technology from a young age, taking STEM tutoring jobs as a high school student. She is now the CEO of one of the largest technology companies in the US. Intercom, ranked 35th on this year’s list, is a $1.2 billion communications platform with high-profile clients like Meta, Contentful, and Microsoft. During a 2019 SXSW panel, she talked about being the only woman in male-dominated spaces. “In a lot of the settings I was in, especially at the time, I was the only woman. I felt this real sense of charge, like I had to do the right thing,” explains Peacock. “Otherwise, I would be letting my gender down.” Peacock is proud to support women in technology and create a space for more women to occupy.
Bernadette Nixon is the CEO of Algolia, a company newcomer to the Cloud 100. The API discovery and search platform is at number 40 on this year’s list. In addition to being run by women, more than 50% of its employees identify as female, according to a company-wide survey, something unheard of in the tech industry. Nixon explains that Algolia was built with the user in mind and hopes its 12,500 customers will use the platform for inspiration. “It’s driving search across apps and websites, but it’s also inspiring people on that journey of discovery,” she says.
Israeli-born Eynat Guez has over 20 years of global workforce management experience that she put to good use when she founded Papaya Global in 2016.. The company is one of Israel’s fastest growing startups, with a valuation of $3.7 billion and a 300% annual revenue growth rate. The company moved up 24 places from last year’s list, reaching 74th place. As CEO, Eynat sees diversity as a core value of the company, with half of her 200 employees identifying as women.
Co-founder and CEO, Laura Behren Wu, founded Shippo in 2014 together with a classmate as a store on-line. But the two transitioned to shipping once they noticed that their peers with other online stores were facing challenges getting their products to customers. “It was such an obvious problem when we started running our business online. When it comes to shipping, it’s still quite difficult to understand,” says Behrens Wu. This year, the billion-dollar e-commerce shipping platform jumped to 85th place, up nine places from 2021. Born in Germany, Behren Wu attended university in Switzerland. He came to the US in 2013 for an internship and has stayed ever since, with Shippo’s headquarters in San Francisco.
Although this year’s list features more women-led businesses than in previous years, there are still stumbling blocks within the startup space that need to be addressed, particularly the funding gap. According to Pitchbook, companies founded solely by women only amassed 2% of all venture capital-backed funding between 2020 and 2021, while companies with at least one female founder received 15.6% of funding. Women only make up 2.4% of startup founders, and there are also fewer women in the venture capital space, with women making up just 12% of executives at venture capital firms.
Another problem faced by women leading startups is the pay gap.. According to Kruze Consulting, in 2022, the average salary of the CEOs of a company startup It’s $150,000. Male CEOs average about $3,000 more than that, while female CEOs average more than $17,000 below average. Fewer dollars in endorsement means female CEOs are likely to take home lower salaries.
However, there is reason for hope: Pitchbook found that venture capital funding for female-led startups increased by 83% between 2020 and 2021. “The B2B space seems to be really male-dominated,” said Behren Wu. “I’m excited to be on this list because it’s nice to show other future female founders that the B2B space is a great place to start businesses.”.
Alex Konrad and Michaella Huck contributed reporting.
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