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Seven Finalists Advance to Pitch at Women’s Venture Summit

MBE Magazine Staff

From a massaging bra for breastfeeding mothers to a virtual reality system for physical therapy, innovative startups take the stage at Women’s Venture Summit, hosted by Stella Labs, Stella Angels, and Ad Astra Ventures.

Girls just wanna have funding and that’s what’s on the table at Women’s Venture Summit, an annual event focused on helping women-led startups get to even. On Saturday, September 18, 2021, seven finalists will compete during Day 2 of the Summit for a $10,000 investment plus $35,000 in business services. One finalist will take home the top prize and be a part of the Summit’s growing impact which sits at $18 million—and counting—in funds flowing into women-owned businesses.

To earn their spots, the finalists won regional contests during a six-week, six-region pitch competition held across the United States this summer. The final spot was claimed on August 31 in the city where Women’s Venture Summit was born eight years ago: San Diego. Other regions include the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northwest, Southwest, plus a wildcard category. Co-hosts of the pitch competition and the Summit, Stella Labs, Stella Angels and Ad Astra Ventures, intentionally included overlooked markets like the Midwest which Crunchbase reported received the lowest amount of VC funding in 2020.

“To provide women founders with equal footing, we must meet them where they are and that means looking beyond traditional startup hotbeds and tech to include other industries like consumer goods and services,” says executive director of Stella Labs Raven O’Neal. “Innovation is everywhere and we are stretching our net of inclusion to give people a stage to tell their stories, solve problems and design the future.”

The 2021 Fast Pitch Contest finalists are:

  • Northeast: Adriana Vazquez of Lilu, massaging bras for breastfeeding mothers, New York City, 
  • Southeast: Anastasia Mikhalochkina of Lean Orb, compostable food packaging company, Miami 
  • Midwest: Alexa Jones of TheraB Medical, holistic jaundice treatment that fosters maternal-infant bonding, Lansing, Michigan. 
  • Northwest: Laura Oden of Pandere Shoes, stylish and adjustable shoes for swollen feet, Anchorage, Alaska 
  • Southwest: Veena Somareddy of Neuro Rehab VR, virtual reality system for physical therapy, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas 
  • San Diego: Pree Walia of Preemadonna, the maker of Nailbot, an intelligent at-home manicure, San Diego, California
  • Wildcard: Melissa Kiguwa of Obanj, subscription platform for borrowing high-end designer jewelry, Scottsdale, Arizona 

Spurred to transcend boundaries during the global pandemic, Stella Labs took its annual summertime pitch competition and Summit to a virtual and national stage in 2020. The Summit will return to a virtual stage on September 17-18, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and offer an in-person viewing option at The Well – Community for Women in La Mesa, California. 

The Summit will provide new founders and seasoned entrepreneurs and investors with expert advice on identifying funding opportunities, spotting and neutralizing bias, investor trends mid-pandemic, accountable womanhood and more. Vanessa Johansson of RainShadow Labs, Jane Schwartzberg of UBS Global Wealth Management, Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest and Allison Robinson, founder of The Mom Project, are featured presenters, and closing speakers include Megan MacDonald, Elizabeth Gore and Danielle Telleria of Hello Alice. 

The pitch competition is sponsored by title sponsor Cooley, as well as Next Wave Impact Network and The Impact Seat. Stella Labs and Stella Angels worked simultaneously to activate more female investors and structure funding opportunities for the event. The title sponsor for Women’s Venture Summit is UBS Global Wealth Management, and other sponsors include DLA Piper, C3 Insurance, The Impact Seat, UC San Diego Extension, UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Sapphire Ventures, TAGit, OCA Ventures and UC San Diego Office of Innovation and Commercialization.

To view the full speaker lineup for the two-day event, please visit  www.womensventuresummit.org. Founder tickets start at $99.00 and investor tickets start at $149.00. 

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