At the Monty Summit: Women-in-Tech

February 24, 2015

By Dennis Kneale

 

Women-in-tech will be much in abundance at the upcoming Montgomery Summit. They hold roles as founders and senior executives in up to 20 of the 145 early-stage firms presenting at the Summit, sponsored by Macquarie Capital and slated for March 10-11 in Santa Monica, Calif.

“The one thing I’d say to the VC’s of the world: Investing in things that target women is good business,” says Jess Lee, CEO of Polyvore, a global fashion site presenting at the Monty Summit. She came to Polyvore by way of a fan letter. Lee was a product engineer for Google at the time, after growing up in Hong Kong and moving to the U.S. at age 17 to study computer science. She was a fan of the site.

“I was super-addicted, two to three hours at a time,” so she wrote an email suggesting improvements to one of the three Polyvore founders.

Bingo! She soon joined them, “doing a little of everything, from writing code to selling ads to washing dishes.” By 2012 they had named her CEO and co-founder. “Polyvore is a product right now targeted at women, and the market is huge,” she says. “The lifestyle category of shopping is larger than electronics and needs to be solved differently.”

Most online shopping is “very geared around UPC goods: cameras, electronics, books, Amazon. Search and find it, in and out,” Lee says. Online, lifestyle/fashion is a bigger category than electronics (over $100B a year vs $70B), but the shopping experience has to be better. “You want to spend more time, it should be visually entertaining.”

Polyvore lets women around the world share their fashion sense by creating collages and “mood boards” online—three million a month, in fact. Its algorithm understands how these items and looks go together and recommends personalized products and styles based on what a user has liked or used in a collage.

Members then are directed to the sites that sell the goods (Polyvore takes a small cut). The firm says it is the second-largest driver of traffic and fashion sales in the social-network world, after #1 Facebook and ahead of Pinterest (#3) and Twitter (#4). Polyvore has 13 million registered users and 20 million visitors each month, half of them outside the U.S. For every $1 an advertiser spends on Polyvore, it gets $6 in sales referred by the site.

Another Monty presenter, Context Media, aims to be the Google of health information, says president Shradha Agarwal. It provides pertinent, life-changing health tips to chronic-care patients in prime sponge-time: as they wait in a doctor’s office. Average wait: 34 minutes, average face-time: 12 minutes.

“Media is a powerful platform based on the curation of the right content targeted to the right audience,” she says. “That’s the power of media: Match the patient with the messaging that most resonates with them.” Diabetes patients who see Context content end up ordering their insulin prescriptions at a 32% higher rate than patients who don’t view it, she says. Ads embedded in the videos return $7 in sales for every $1 spent.

That could save us billions of dollars. Some 21 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Estimates are that 80% of the nation’s health-care costs result from the failure to treat chronic illness, Agarwal says.

Context Media streams clips (85% of the content is from medical firms) to some 9,000 flat-screens and 20,000 tablets it provides, free of charge, to 8,000 medical offices, reaching 10.1 million patient visits per month.  Different sets of content are matched to doctor offices by zip code, local demographics and a clinic’s specialty.  Content shown on the South Side of Chicago differs from what runs on the North Side, same goes for content in northeast and southwest Texas.

Meanwhile, at ClearSky Data in Boston, CEO Ellen Rubin wants to help businesses wracked by a data disorder: hoarding. Plunging storage costs have made it cheap to store most everything and delete almost nothing. The corporate data hoard is growing 50% a year, every year. Terabytes, even petabytes, “nothing big about that any more,” she says.

Storage in the cloud is cheap—3 cents per gigabyte per month at Amazon, a fraction of the cost of disk-based storage at a company’s data center, Rubin says. But companies have moved less than 1% of their data into the cloud, because of the pain and hassle of retrieving a chunk of it later. Finding it is difficult, and response times slow enormously.

Awash in this data deluge, businesses struggle to delineate which data sets they need to access a lot, which ones should be available a little, and what portion can be socked away forever yet still be made accessible, just in case. Figuring all that out is laborious and complex.

“Storage is like the rock that doesn’t move,” Rubin says. She wants to ease “how unpleasant and complicated and painful all that is for the customers, and how much time they spend thinking about it.” She is in stealth mode until next fall, so for now, that’s all she can say about the sitch. ClearSky’s clarion call: “Enterprise storage is about to change forever.”

So is the market for apps, if CEO Alexandra Keating of DWNLD Media gets her way. She vows to fill the glaring gap between the old and new digital worlds: between suddenly old-fashioned websites and newfangled apps.

We now have more than a billion websites on the Net—but only a million apps. That presents a huge conversion market. DWNLD has made it amazingly simple and unbelievably cheap to transform any website into an app that works in native mode on Apple or Android mobile phones. It can “appify” even the content you post to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo and still more sites. You can choose from different themes, colors and artwork.

The cost: a subscription starting at $15 a month, the cost of lunch at a deli.

Thousands of YouTube channels have used DWNLD software to convert to apps. In addition, 7,500 accounts have subscribed to Dwnld since it went live in September, from individual bloggers to media titans to app designers who resell their DWNLD-converted apps to ad agencies “for a huge amount of money,” she says, declining to name any names. “That would be wrong.”

“I actually love that, it’s an interesting case study that proves the diversity of the platform,” Keating adds. She says she is too busy to notice, but “I am the only female in the company,” among 22 employees total, 18 of them engineers. “I’m not allowed to push code anymore, no one will let me,” she jokes, but adds, “I’m one of the boys.”