Diversity & Inclusion
Events / Women in tech

Vinetta Project DC wants to help founders solve problems

The organization helping female founders get funding and grow businesses is launching Problem Hacking this summer. Plus, its first two Venture Challenge finalists were named.

Danya Sherman pitches KnoNap. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

The Vinetta Project’s D.C. chapter kicked off the 2018 edition of its Venture Challenge pitch series on April 9 at Social Tables.

It was the first round of the semifinals for the event that seeks to connect female founders and investors, and provide some funding in the end. Startups that pitched included:

  • Crystal Icenhour of Aperiomics, a startup that makes medical tests for every known disease pathogen, making it more likely that a diagnosis is right. The tests create a genetic fingerprint of diseases through analytics on DNA and comparison against a database of microbes.
  • Erin Janklow of Entrada ESL, a startup helping employees of hotels and other service businesses learn English while working with a device and Talkback method of teaching.
  • Kelsey Lents of Hatch Workspace, a coworking company providing onsite childcare. Along with offering licensed childcare, Lents said the company is specifically looking to create a community of parents.
  • Danya Sherman of Knonap, a venture seeking to combat drug-facilitated assault. The company makes napkins that can detect the presence of rape drugs. The test is designed to done discretely by placing a drop of the drink on a corner of the napkin.

In the end, Icenhour and Sherman were selected to move onto September’s finals. A second semifinal event will be held in June, and applications are currently open.

Vinetta’s focus is on helping its community of female founders get funded and scale businesses, so it also looks to provide resources. The event itself provided space for the panel of judges to talk about the investments they offer, as well as offer advice to the founders after asking questions.

Separate from the Venture Challenge, the local chapter of the organization is also looking to add more to mentorship with a new program this summer. Called Problem Hacking, the 12-week program will pair female founders with an investor or business leader to tackle one big issue.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have had many members of the DC Vinetta community raise their hands and offer their time and expertise to female founders,” said Kelly O’Malley, Vinetta Project’s D.C. City Fellow. “We wanted to develop a way to add more structure around how we make those connections and foster the building of those relationships, while allowing us to measure our impact within the community.”

Inspired by learnings from First Round Capital’s mentorship programs and shared learnings, Vinetta sought to create an “action-oriented” program. It will be open to female founders in the D.C. area running a startup that has a working product, and is able to be venture backed.

While the problem has to be tackled in a few months, it could include a wide variety of challenges like hiring a CTO, negotiating a deal, closing a customer or developing an enterprise sales strategy, O’Malley said.


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