PITCH NYC 2012: Women Entrepreneurs Talk Disruption In Cleantech, Music And Healthcare With High-Growth Startups

Live from PITCH NYC 2012 Conference & Competition –

By Angie Chang (Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Women 2.0)

At the 2012 PITCH NYC Conference, serial entrepreneur David Weekly moderated a panel of women entrepreneurs who have started ventures in a variety of interesting sectors, from music to health and cleantech.

Vanessa Stewart (Co-Founder & COO, Soltage) started a renewable energy provider for commercial and industrial clients, putting solar panels on warehouses and manufacturing facilities. They just have to agree that there will be no upfront capital costs and to purchase electricity generated at a set low rate for a set number of years. This has proved to be a popular model, with a financial services model.

Michelle You (Co-Founder & CPO, Songkick) started a music startup which is number two only to Livenation. The company does something very simple – lets you know when your favorite bands are coming to town. Sequoia-funded and located in London’s Silicon Roundabout, Songkick has recently launched a new product to help artists crowdsource locations for their concerts.

Cheryl Swirnow (Co-Founder & COO, Sherpaa) is making healthcare affordable, starting in Brooklyn. The former HR director at the Barbarian Group talks about the value of delivering the experience in healthcare in a disruptive way, delivering a good user experience in healthcare.

The Art Of The Start

Cheryl Swirnow’s co-founder is a doctor, Jay. His patient emailed him and listed his symptoms via an email. Jay then forwarded the email to another doctor, who ordered a scan. A few hours later and couple blocks away, a laparoscopic removal of a man’s appendix occurred. Cheryl Swirnow exclaimed, “In the scope of about six hours of this guy emailing Jay, my co-founder, he was back home without an appendix. We thought there could be a business in this!”

“Who profits from health?” she asked – and answered her rhetorical question: “The employers.” Sherpaa helps employers handle healthcare for their employees with cost-cutting, accessibility and affordability. Who wouldn’t want a healthcare experience that is easy to navigate and use, with no waste or extra costs added in? Solving problems is an entrepreneur’s bread and butter.

Songkick co-founder Michelle You talked about checking out the existing music solutions and realizing that the problem was still not being solved correctly – so they built Songkick.

The CPO stressed that to be a successful company, your customers must be able to understand your value proposition in 30 seconds – “What is your one sentence proposition?” This means tweaking the user experience and lots of user testing, from a data-driven product management perspective.

Competition: A Good Thing

“I think we could use more competition,” said Soltage’s Vanessa Stewart. “When we were cold calling clients, we were explaining the whole concept. First, what is solar and how does it work. Second, you don’t have to pay for this and explain the whole structure. We would spend a lot of time explaining the whole new structure. Now, when we do have competition on sales, it’s just down to ‘how fast can you execute’, the quality of the installation, ‘how quick can you finance this’, ‘how much can you optimize the incentive’, ‘what’s the bottom line’..”

David Weekly commended Michelle You for Songkick’s recent investment from Sequoia Capital of $10 million. He asked how such funding changes an entrepreneur and the product, to which she answered, “with every new round, your ambition level is raised dramatically.” She spoke about keeping the burn rate low and “having more time to do what we want to do and forcing us to think a lot bigger on what we want to achieve.”

Michelle You talked about the $40 billion live music market and the reason why they raised such a large round of venture capital investment. “Nothing has changed… especially with touring, there is a lot of inefficiency and waste. We are in a great place to do something about that. We have millions of users and we know who they want to see, so we can go to the artists where their fans are and de-risk their tour dates.” The new Songkick product Detour helps artists crowdsource their new tour venues.

Women 2.0 readers: What was your biggest takeaway from David Weekly-moderated panel at PITCH NYC Conference? Let us know in the comments.

Angie Chang is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Women 2.0, a media company offering content, community and conferences for aspiring and current women innovators in technology. Our mission is to increase the number of female founders of technology startups with inspiration, information and education through our platform. Previously, Angie held roles in product management and web UI design. Angie holds a B.A. in English and Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. Follow her on Twitter at @thisgirlangie.

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