Folks, you know I’m a big supporter of women in tech and great nonprofit initiatives like the Women Startup Challenge. This is important stuff because, even today, only 7% of investor money goes to women-led startups. Businesses owned by women perform just as well as and even better than those owned by men, and we’re still not investing in these ventures as much as we should be.
The thing is, virtual reality is the new tech frontier, and we’ve gotta make sure that there’s equitable footing across all tech sectors regardless of demographic. To that point, we should all be paying more attention to the game-changing work happening in these emerging fields. And speaking of, if you’re a woman-led VR, AR, or AI startup, make sure to apply for the Women Startup Challenge, which will be hosted at Google in NYC on February 15th. I’ve partnered with Women Who Tech and investors Fred and Joanne Wilson to provide a $50,000 grant to the winning startup.
Here are 5 women to watch in the VR field:
- Nonny de la Peña is the Founder of Emblematic Group. She created a VR Experience called Hunger in Los Angeles that tries to foster empathy by immersing people in the experience of what it feels like to be hungry and on the streets of LA. Her question is, what if you could experience a story with your entire body, not just with your mind? de la Peña is working on a new form of journalism that combines traditional reporting with emerging virtual reality technology to put the audience inside the story. Hunger’s just one example of a problem in this country that doesn’t get nearly enough resources. Using the latest VR technology, Hunger in Los Angeles, puts the participant in the First Unitarian Church, allowing them to become witnesses to the problem first-hand. This is really one way to use tech for social good.
- Elizabeth L. Reede is the Cofounder and CEO of WoofbertVR, a platform that creates immersive experiences and enriched content to promote art education. Woofbert VR allows people to view art and cultural institutions from anywhere and harnesses the best of VR to promote cross-cultural exchange. Reede’s really got her boots on the ground democratizing access to the arts through virtual reality.
- Christina Heller is the Cofounder and CEO of VR Playhouse, an LA-based studio and production company that focuses on VR and AR. Heller’s company has worked with brands like Red Bull, Honda, Discovery, Time Inc., and Toyota. In collaboration with cutting-edge artists and thinkers, they’re developing stories and building worlds that capture the tremendous potential of virtual and augmented realities across many verticals.
- Liv Erickson is a VR Developer at Microsoft, where she helped build the Oculus Rift and Meta Glass. She’s also the Cofounder of the ARVR academy, where she’s working to empower a next generation of VR developers. Erickson’s focused on immersive computing, getting kids interested in programming, and bringing virtual reality to everyone.
- Alisha Seam is a Robotics Engineer at AT&T Foundry. Seam works with the Silicon Valley startup community. She’s done research on everything from virtual reality to robotics and artificial intelligence. A lot of Seams’s focus is on emerging technologies and their applications in automation and immersive visualization.