Tell us your story – How did you get here?
I was born and raised in Austria as the daughter of business owners and entrepreneurs. I always had this unexplainable talent to get excited about problems, finding innovative solutions and recognizing opportunities in my surroundings. During my time at university, I fell in love with innovation management and all the different applications to start-ups and established companies.
This was also the time I started working in the Austrian start-up scene advising and helping new founders. This allowed me to gain deep knowledge and experience in innovation and disruptive technologies. After a brief excursion into the aerospace sector with Lufthansa Technik I decided to book a one way ticket to San Francisco, the heart of Silicon Valley.
I knew that if I wanted to get a foot into the door of high-tech companies, learn from the best and be at the pulse of ingenuity I had to move to the epicenter of innovation. During my Master’s at the University of San Francisco I also co-founded Curah, an intelligent peer-to-peer marketplace for on-demand self-care and beauty services. I am also the co-founder of Global Women Innovate – GLOWIN a non-profit with the mission to empower and support underserved communities.
Tell us more about your startup?
My startup Curah falls into the marketplace and gig-economy category. Curah, latin for care, is the first intelligent peer-to-peer marketplace for on-demand self-care services, founded by a diverse female-lead team. We are revolutionizing the way independent freelancers interact and find clients as well as disrupting the gig economy and its current business model exploiting the service providers. Curah is making self-care affordable, accessible and convenient for everyone.
How are you disrupting the industry?
Our team built a gig-economy solution primarily around the freelancer needs and not the client. Current business models are leaving the freelancer with a fraction of the revenue they generated, which leads to a lack of loyalty and retention. On our platform the freelancers are their own entrepreneurs – we are the matchmaker and facilitator giving them all the tools to succeed. We built the marketplace in collaboration with the tight-knitted beautician, cosmetologists and stylist community. We recognize and celebrate the uniqueness, customized experience and personal relationship freelance artists have with their clients. Curah is anywhere, anytime, and addresses many diverse niche audiences.
What impact do you want to make in your field?
I definitely inspire to be a role model for other females to take the leap to founding their own startup and working on building their personal brand, especially in Europe.
Having moved to 4 different cities and 2 continents in the past 3 years I struggled with finding a community and purpose. It can be scary to take a leap into the unknown without a financial safety net or support and only relying on yourself to move forward. I spent my first year in San Francisco doing a one-year master degree, working as an intern at a big tech company and doing several side gigs from event coordination to marketing in order to afford rent.
This is when I met my co-founder Ikram Mansori, who reminded me that I was taking care of a million things but actually not taking enough care of myself. Through this journey I learnt more and more about the beauty industry, how passionate service providers are about the art they create but also about their challenges of not having enough income and flexibility in their work schedule.
As a woman who pays for those services I want the majority of the money to go to the women who perform the services! This is why I care so much about solving the problem and working on a solution to level the playing field.
I want to be an empowering force for all girls and women who are reluctant to start working in tech without necessarily having a technical degree or education. I want to be the person to tell them, yes you can do it! If you want to be a product manager, engineer and a founder – guess what – you can be one. There are so many alternative paths into tech and so many problems we still need to solve which require a female perspective. I am excited to see what else we women can disrupt and innovate.
I know you are deeply passionate about female founders and women-lead companies. Can you please discuss this a bit?
Yes, I am deeply passionate about advancing women in technology on all fronts. It is unacceptable that female founders have only raised 2.2% of all Venture Capital worldwide, yet over 35% of businesses in the United States are women-owned. This is what motivates me to raise my own Venture Fund that supports other female founders to cross the bridge from Silicon Valley to Europe.
The more I dive into the high tech and Venture Capital, I find myself to be one of the few women around a table of men. Diversity, inclusion and the representation of minorities are one of our core values as we build out our team. Moreover, in building our own company we purposefully created partnerships with other female-founded startups for back-end marketing, AI and security integrations. By leveraging each other and establishing this ecosystem this rising tide will not only lift many companies but also disrupt the current way of doing business. We all still have a long way to go until the playing field is truly leveled. Bottom line we women need to create opportunities for each other and truly support our endeavours.
I would like to encourage women to invest in and support other women. This can be financially but also by consciously taking a look at the products you buy and if you could potentially support a female founder instead.
Special thanks to Barbara Janczer for taking the time to interview with us!