Last year amidst a post-pandemic economic downturn, widespread tech layoffs, and an international war crisis, groups of dedicated people worked hard to pitch their ideas for world-changing startups. The annual Girls in Tech Startup Challenge attracted hundreds of teams in 2022, with an impressive $35,000 prize pool to be shared among three finalists.

We truly love seeing the creativity, business acumen and passion that comes out of this event! It goes to show what a strong case there is for increasing funding to female founded startups.

Be inspired, celebrate with our community, and support these female founders by learning more about our Startup Challenge winning submissions below.

1st place: Courtney Pettway, Kidvestors

CEO, Courtney, her COO Darius Pettway and her senior engineer Kweku Martin developed the Kidvestors financial curriculum software for underserved students after learning that black wealth is projected to be zero by 2053 if current trends continue. With black and Hispanic students scoring significantly lower on financial literacy tests than white and Asian students, it’s clear that there’s a racial discrepancy around wealth even from early years.

Kidvestors is a fun and gamified way for children to learn about personal finance and investing, suitable for K-12th students. It’s specifically designed to be culturally relevant for black and brown kids, so they see characters that look like them and engage more fully with the content.

Students progress through a series of lessons that cover five core areas: money management, stock market investing, real estate, crypto, and entrepreneurship.

Along the way they learn about financial topics and take quizzes and tests to assess their learning. They’re also able to implement what they’re learning by using virtual cash to pay bills and build their virtual stock, real estate, and crypto portfolios. Plus, students can even earn while they learn by converting their virtual cash into actual dollars which can be used to open up real checking, savings, and investment accounts.

Our first place winner has done an incredible job of locating a real community need and applying tech knowledge to address it! Read a quote from CEO Courtney below;

“When I learned about Girls in Tech and their mission to create more equitable opportunities for women founders of color, I was drawn in immediately. Our mission at KidVestors is ‘Financial Inclusion For All’, so our team is truly grateful to be acknowledged by another mission driven organization who shares our passion for helping the underserved.”

Check out the Kidvestors website, and view the pitch video here.

2nd place: Nivedita Biyani, Omnivor

Dr Nivedita Biyani and her team have found a way to make waste management more traceable, organized and consumer friendly, because in her words it’s currently quite ‘ugly’. Their software solution, Omnivor, allows consumers and companies to have more control over how waste is diverted from landfill and back into supply chains for reuse.

A mobile phone app enables consumers to scan any product and understand if it’s recyclable in the local area. Next, the waste that leaves consumers is bagged in barcoded bags that are processed at various checkpoints to establish and maintain the chain of custody.

Once the bagged waste is received in Omnivor centers, it’s recognized by machine vision systems, then opened, and the contents separated and grouped within their respective categories. This two-step process allows for separating mixed waste efficiently – before chemical reactions permanently alter the recoverable materials.

Consumers can track where their waste ends up and what it’s turned into, and can even be rewarded for their recycling efforts with vouchers and credits.

Dr Biyani and her team did a wonderful job of identifying the current trend towards sustainability tech, and said, “We loved participating in this challenge!”

Take a look at Omnivor’s concept website, and learn more by watching the pitch video here!

3rd place: Chidalu Onyenso and Julia Conrad, Earthbond

The rising cost of fossil fuels has made energy prices a sore point in most areas of the world. But our 3rd place finalist team wanted to specifically look at the impact on Nigeria, a country where only half the population has access to the public grid – and only for 6 sporadic hours of the day at best!

As a result, they’ve founded Earthbond, a system that helps urban Nigerians find affordable solar products to power their businesses and lifestyles.

Customers use a mobile app to enter their energy demand and financial history, and the platform then matches them with the right solar energy setup and the maximum price they should be paying per month based on their debt-to-income ratio. By transitioning users off of personal generators onto solar power, they can cut costs further by generating carbon credits.

The idea behind Earthbond is to take advantage of the drop in solar installation costs to create more affordable and reliable energy infrastructure in Nigeria, boosting the local economy and quality of life. Team member Julia Conrad said, “What a great chance to show that women-run tech startups can also be successful in Africa.”

You can learn more by reviewing the Earthbond website.

A bright future awaits female founders

The Girls in Tech Startup Challenge was sponsored by McKinsey & Company, Nike and TIAA this year, and our judges were highly impressed by the quality of submissions.

McKinsey’s Scott Wolinsky said, “Evaluating all the submissions truly inspired me, seeing all the great work people have already achieved and will continue to achieve with their novel ideas.”

And TIAA’s Regina Warga added to the positive sentiment by saying, “I was so impressed by all the candidates in this challenge.  Seeing this wealth of innovation has given me great optimism about the future!”

Our mission at Girls in Tech is to eradicate the gender gap in tech – including the brutally low representation of female founded companies backed by venture capital. Rest assured, each of these winning teams was led by a female founder, and we’re thrilled to have helped them on their startup journey by providing exposure, experience, connections, and much needed capital!

TIAA judge Tieisha Smith perfectly summarised how great it feels to be a part of something like this:

“Knowing that I have played a part in helping women start, progress or scale their business is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had.”

If you’d like to be involved in our next Startup Challenge, keep an eye on our Events page for when it launches in late 2023!