8 Harvard Business School Women Who Founded Great Startups | TopMBA.com

8 Harvard Business School Women Who Founded Great Startups

By QS Contributor

Updated November 20, 2019 Updated November 20, 2019

While some people say that women startups are hard to find, they are out there and many of them are receiving an increasing amount of media attention. Many of the women-run startups highlighted in the media are Harvard startups run by MBA graduates, mostly in the area of fashion (as mentioned in a recent xConomy article). In addition to fashion, however, Harvard Business School women have created a wide range of web startups that address a range of everyday problems such as finding the right babysitter, and finding the right employees for your business.

1. Angie Hicks, Chief Marketing Officer and Founder, Angie's List

You may have seen Angie Hicks in TV ads for Angie's List, but did you know that she has a Harvard MBA? Or that Angie's List began as a door-to-door business? Long before Yelp, Angie's List allowed consumers to review local service companies and health providers back in the days of web 1.0. While Hicks didn't get her Harvard MBA until 2000 (5 years after Angie's list was founded), her Harvard MBA has helped Hicks keep Angie's list going in a down economy. In 2008, Angie's list received $18 million in VC funding to fuel their expansion plan. With an average of 40,000 reviews a month, Angie's list is still going strong.




2. Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder and CEO Care.com

Sheila Lirio Marcelo founded Care.com, a website that allows you to easily find babysitters and caretakers. Lirio Marcelo told USA Today that she got the idea for Care.com because of how difficult it was finding quality care for her family while attending college as a young mother. According to Crunchbase, Care.com raised a total of $58.5 million in VC funding. Before forming Care.com, Lirio Marcelo held executive level positions at upromise and The Ladders. Judging from Sheila Lirio Marcelo's MBA activities, it's no surprise she went on to be a successful entrepreneur. Not only did she get a JD/MBA from Harvard Business School, but she also spent 30 hours a week on community activities, revitalized a group of campus businesses, and provided consulting services for the design of Harvard's Spangler Center.


3. Alexis Maybank, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Gilt Groupe

Of Gilt Groupe's four co-founders, two are female MBAs from Harvard. Maybank and her Harvard MBA classmate, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, came up with the idea for Gilt in order to improve the sample sale experience. Alexis Maybank left investment banking for ecommerce when she went to work at eBay in 1998. While at eBay, Maybank launched eBay Canada as well as eBay Motors. She started Gilt in 2007 after getting her Harvard MBA. Three years later in 2010, Gilt grew to include 2 million members and 700 brands. Maybank is responsible for building the Gilt website so that purchases can be made in a matter of minutes.



4. Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Gilt Groupe

Alexandra Wilkis Wilson is responsible for getting some of the most desirable luxury brands to sell their merchandise on Gilt. Her entrepreneurial efforts began during her childhood, when she started a lemonade stand in front of NYC apartment buildings and later expanded her business into selling hand-made rope bracelets. Before getting her MBA from Harvard, she oversaw retail operations at BVLGARI and managed Leather Goods Sales Planning for Louis Vuitton North America.


5. Jennifer Hyman, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway is like Netflix for clothes, allowing women to rent designer dresses for special occasions. Jennifer Hyman came up with the concept for Rent the Runway after watching her sister struggle to find an affordable outfit to wear to an upcoming wedding. Since she was getting her Harvard MBA at the time, she told her classmate Jenny Fleiss about her idea and Rent the Runway was born. Hyman was able to convince high-end designers such as Badgely Mishka that signing on to Rent the Runway would not hurt their business. Rent the Runway has recently built a 40,000 square foot warehouse in New Jersey, with another one planned for Los Angeles. In addition, a Rent the Runway pop-up shop has recently opened in LA.


6. Katia Beauchamp, Co-Founder, Birchbox

Birchbox is a monthly subscription service that allows women to receive premium beauty samples and buy the full-sized versions of those products at a discount. Katia Beauchamp and her Harvard Business School classmate Hayley Barna came up with the idea for Birchbox in response to how difficult it is for women to wade through the overwhelming number of beauty products on the market today. Beauchamp worked at Estee Lauder during college, and noticed that samples, while nice, were not making cosmetic companies any money. After tossing around business ideas (including men's leggings) with Barna, Beauchamp began sending a three-sentence email to ten beauty executives. She got an immediate response from Gurwitch Products (the distributor for Laura Mercier) as well as the CEO of Benefit Cosmetics. Benefit signed on soon after. Birchbox now has over 100 women's brands and a subscription service for men that is currently in beta.


7. Alexa von Tobel, Founder and Cheif Executive Officer, LearnVest

LearnVest provides customized financial plans on a subscription basis. LearnVest's founder, Alexa von Tobel, was recently declared the Suze Orman for a new generation in a recent Today Show piece. LearnVest connects its users to financial experts. von Tobel came up with the idea for LearnVest before she began working at Morgan Stanley in 2006. She realized that while she would be managing Morgan Stanley's investments, she didn't have a clear understanding of her own finances. As a result, she wrote up an 80-page business plan and founded LearnVest with $75,000 of her own money. LearnVest received $1.1 million in seed funding from Goldman Sachs in 2009, and now has 100,000 members.


8. Danielle Weinblatt, Founder, Take the Interview

Take the Interview is a cloud-based video interviewing website that makes it cheaper and faster to screen job candidates. Danielle Weinblatt got the idea for Take the Interview in response to the experiences she had when leading job interviews. While the candidates had been phone-screened, many of them were unable to answer simple questions such as why they would want to work for that particular company. Take the Interview allows job candidates to use their webcams to record answers to questions from potential employers who then decide if that candidate is worth meeting in person. Take the Interview launched in August 2011 and had 350 customers by November, including Boston University, Kaplan, and Living Social.

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This article was originally published in August 2013 . It was last updated in November 2019

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