Female Founders To Watch: Thriving Startup Leaders From Around the U.S. You Need to Know

Female founders have long struggled to raise startup funding compared to their male counterparts, and there have been a slew of new funds and initiatives launched in recent years to get more money in the hands of women-led startups.

Even with increased efforts to boost these startups, the amount of venture capital that makes its way to female founders has remained paltry. And when it comes to startups led by all-women founders, funding is declining. Startups led by all-women teams raised just 1.9% of all VC funding last year, down from 2.4% the year prior. Startups with at least one female founder raised 17% of all venture capital funding in 2022, the same percentage raised in 2021.

To spotlight some of the country’s promising women-led startups, American Inno has compiled its first national Female Founders to Watch list, a collection of startup leaders behind fast-growing young firms. With input from our startup reporters in more than 40 cities across the country, we’re providing a list of names that need to be on your radar — from founders leading artificial-intelligence unicorns to bootstrapped founders just getting started. 

Our Startups to Watch series, which also includes AI Startups to Watch and serial entrepreneurs to watch, is designed to give a snapshot of thriving founders and companies from across the country. Dive into our inaugural Female Founders to Watch list below:

Daniela Amodei, co-founder of Anthropic
Anthropic co-founder Daniela Amodei

Daniela Amodei, co-founder of Anthropic


HQ: San Francisco

Funding: $3.3 billion

Anthropic, an AI firm that’s become one of the most well-funded startups of 2023, is developing a generative AI chatbot rival to OpenAI’s ChatGPT that’s designed to be more attuned to safety and legal issues than its competitor, the company says. It’s led by Amodei and others who previously worked at OpenAI. Anthropic’s chatbot, named Claude, launched in September. Anthropic raised $450 million in May and raised an additional $1.25 billion in September from Amazon. Amazon’s deal with Anthropic could see it invest up to $4 billion in the two-year-old startup. Additionally, Google announced it plans to invest $2 billion in the startup.

Rehgan Avon, founder of AlignAI
Rehgan Avon

Rehgan Avon, founder of AlignAI

Courtesy Rehgan Avon

HQ: Columbus, Ohio

Funding: Bootstrapped

Avon is the founder of AlignAI, a startup that offers a set of templates organizations can use to set standards and documentation for data, enabling them to more quickly adopt machine learning or other AI tools. Its customers include the Central Ohio Transit Agency, which uses the startup to create the standards and processes for how it collects and documents data.

Jemma Barbarise-Kelley, founder of LifeBrand
Jemma Barbarise-Kelley

Jemma Barbarise-Kelley, founder of LifeBrand

Brandon Ballard

HQ: Philadelphia

Funding: $37 million

Barbarise-Kelley is the founder of LifeBrand, a tech startup that uses artificial intelligence to detect potentially harmful posts on social media. Working with both individuals and companies, LifeBrand has cleaned more than 8 million such posts across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Its clients include the Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers, Saint Joseph’s University, and law firm Blank Rome.

Maria Barrera, founder of Clayful
maria barrera clayful - Maria Barrera

Maria Barrera, founder of Clayful


HQ: Miami

Funding: $150,000

Barrera is the founder of Clayful, a Miami company that develops on-demand, text-based wellness support for students. The startup aims to address the youth mental-health crisis through its chat-based coaching. The company received a $150,000 investment from the Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund earlier this year.

Leslie Bateman, co-founder of Coblrshop
Leslie Bateman

Leslie Bateman, co-founder of Coblrshop

Lindsay Hite

HQ: Boston

Funding: Bootstrapped

Bateman, a former Uber executive, wants to help bring the shoe-cobbler industry into the 21st century with her startup, Coblrshop. The company lets users order repair service online and receive a bag in the mail to then ship their shoes to its cobblers. After shipping the shoes off, the refurbished pair will arrive back to them within two weeks.

Courtney Caldwell, co-founder of ShearShare

Courtney Caldwell, co-founder of ShearShare

HQ: Buffalo, New York and McKinney, Texas

Funding: $5.5 million

Caldwell is the co-founder of ShearShare, a marketplace that provides B2B tools for self-employed hair stylists and barbers. The startup helps users find space to work as well as obtain portable health care and continued education. It has more 53,000 users on its platform. In October, it landed a deal with JCPenney with plans to bring ShearShare to all 629 of its salon sites.

To see the rest of the list, go here.