These are Amsterdam’s powerhouse female entrepreneurs to watch in 2021

Time and time again, it is proven that as a female entrepreneur there are several extra hurdles to take. Despite Amsterdam being known for its tolerance and inclusiveness, starting a business is largely a men’s thing. The City of Amsterdam is now actively investing in promoting female entrepreneurship. These are examples to follow.

Amsterdam supports RISE – Female Hub

The City of Amsterdam recently announced its financial support for the RISE – Female Hub Amsterdam. With an investment of €750k in the programme, it aims to give women a fair shake in the startup ecosystem. RISE unites twenty Amsterdam organisations to create a three-year program for ambitious women at different stages of their career. 

That is necessary. Only a tiny sliver of capital flows to women-led startups as recently came out. It even worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which female entrepreneurs were hit harder than their male colleagues. With training courses, workshops, mentor sessions and tailor-made advice with financing issues for women, the municipality hopes to turn the tide.

What also helps, is to look for inspiring examples. Role models, that lead the way. Female entrepreneurs may be a minority and they may face an uphill battle. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Together with StartupAmsterdam, we made a selection of powerhouse female entrepreneurs totally kicking it. You should really know about:

Christina Caljé – Autheos

Caljé grew up in the East Village in New York, where she worked her way up the ranks at Goldman Sachs. But she left to pursue the startup life in Amsterdam. As CEO she turned the video distribution platform Autheos into a smart video platform for e-commerce, allowing brands to make more accurate decisions on what to spend their marketing budget on. Now she’s ready to take the company internationally.

But it’s not just her business acumen that puts Caljé (pictured above) in the spotlights. It’s also her tireless advocacy for more leadership roles for minorities. As a director at Goldman Sachs and a CEO at a tech company, Caljé has always been ‘one of the few’ in the room. It’s why she’s often booked as an advisor, mentor and speaker and held talks at The Next Web, Founders Summit and Google Cloud Summit. Last year, she was chosen as one of the Inspiring Fifty of most influential women in business, more recently she was one of the few joining the Google for Startups Immersion: Black Founders programme, allowing her to expand her network and influence even further.

Willemijn Schneyder-Valbracht – Swipeguide

In 2018, we called Schneyder one the ‘badass female founders to watch‘. And if you haven’t been keeping an eye on her, you’ve been missing out. Her startup Swipeguide, which she founded together with Daan Assen has been moving fast ever since, bagging 1 million in funding and expanding to the USA. One of the key factors for Swipeguide’s success is the inclusive organisation Scheyder has been building.

With Swipeguide, Schneyder eliminates the need for binders full of manuals on the work floor. Instead, workers, repairmen, specialists can rely on their smartphone to find instructions or leave feedback. Their product not only got them big-name clients such as Heineken, PepsiCo or ABB but also landed them on virtually every innovation list available, including the Deloitte Fast 50. Her most recent accomplishment is winning the EIT Digital Challenge, sealing the deal as one of Europe’s hottest deeptech startups.

Eline Leijten – Plugify

If you’re Dutch, you’ve heard her. And if you follow the startup scene, you’ve heard of her. Eline Leijten made a claim to fame as the singer of the popular Hermes House Band but eventually turned her showbiz experience into an innovative startup. Plugify was an online platform to book artists and bands. It thrust Leijten into the spotlight as a figurehead of female entrepreneurship in The Netherlands.

Unfortunately, Plugify seemingly succumbed to the woes of COVID and declared bankruptcy recently. That doesn’t mean Leijten won’t have a lasting effect on the startup scene. She is always eager to take the stage, not only to pitch her startup (which won her multiple pitching competitions) but also to advocate for more diversity and equality in the startup world. Leijten was one of the co-founders of Fundright, that aims to improve diversity in the tech and startup scene.

Deepti Sahi – LessonLeap

Deepti Sahi, Deskbookers CEO
Image credit: Deepti Sahi/Deskbookers

Launching and scaling online marketplaces and SaaS-businesses is what Deepti Sahi does best. After coming to Amsterdam from the UK, she took up the role as CEO at Deskbookers, which let you find and book flexible office space. In that role, she brokered the deal which led to the Amsterdam-based startup being acquired by its German counterpart Spacebase.

Not one to sit still for too long, Sahi recently co-founded a new edtech startup together with fellow Harvard-graduate Anusha Mahalingam. The online platform LessonLeap offers holistic learning and a wide range of courses for children around the world.  

Mayke Nagtegaal – MessageBird

Very few of us know what it takes to create a unicorn, but since this year Mayke Nagtegaal is one of the lucky few. As Chief Operations Officer she takes up a fundamental role within MessageBird, making her one of the leading women in European technology. The company, founded in Amsterdam, raised €169 million in funding at a valuation of €2.5 billion just this year. 

Never one to aim low, Nagtegaal used to do speed skating on an international level while going through law school. She started her career as an international tax lawyer with some of the largest corporates. Since 2015 she joined the cloud communication platform Messagebird and helped build it into the billion-dollar company it currently is. No wonder Nagtegaal is featured on European Women in Technology as a leading example.

Jantien Herfst – SuperFlow

Image credit: Superflow

Here’s something we should see more of: a female CTO. Jantien Herfst takes up the role of Chief Technology Officer at SuperFlow, the startup she recently co-founded. SuperFlow aims to bring personal shopping to large e-commerce platforms. Their ambition is clearly stated on the website: to become the global market leader in subscription technology.

SuperFlow is founded in 2019 by Herfst and Mei Ling Tan. Together they previously founded the startup House of Einstein, which offers a subscription-based personal shopping service for men’s clothes and is currently a ‘seven-digit business’ if their website is to believed. Not surprising then that both women claimed a spot on The Next Women top 100 of female entrepreneurs to watch in 2020.

Marieke de Ruyter de Wildt – The New Fork

Image credit: The New Fork

Agritech is a male-dominated world. Same goes for anything involving blockchain. Those two combined? Well, that’s where Marieke de Ruyter de Wildt is the one to look up to. As founder and CEO of The New Fork, she aims to make certification and administration of agricultural products easier by way of blockchain.

The Fork, based in Amsterdam, offers training, masterclasses and events like Strike Two Summit to help agri-food companies implement blockchain technology. It’s the latest endeavour of De Ruyter De Wildt, who has built an impressive resume of modernising the agricultural sector all over the world. She also happens to be the owner of the most badass Twitter handle out there: find her at @BlockchainBitch.

Loes Daniels – ExperienceGift

Image credit: ExperienceGift

If Loes Daniels forgets to buy you a gift, she might make a rapidly growing business out of it. Just like she did with ExperienceGift, of which she got the idea after hastily looking for a gift card for someone. Her startup offers unique gift cards for notable experiences, such as an overnight stay in any of the rooms in 200,000 hotels from 140 hotel brands. There are also gift cards for flights, cruises, and activities. 

Her company ended up in the top 10 of this years’ Deloitte Fast 50, reporting a turnover growth of 2364 per cent over the past four years. Daniels is also featured in The Next Women 100 for three years in a row now, this year snagging the title of ‘fastest grower’. All without raising funds, as the operation is still bootstrapped. Daniels is not satisfied yet, as she is poised to make ExperienceGifts the worlds’ largest experience gift card company. 

Elvire Jaspers – WeAreBrain

Image credit: WeAreBrain

As co-founder and CEO, Elvire Jaspers is the brains behind WeAreBrain, which offers a full-service solution to help companies through the all-important digital transformation. Her globally operating company is a technology partner to both international organisations, like Heineken or NOC*NSF, and innovative scale-ups.

To get a feel of the broad scope Jaspers’ company is covering, have a look at their product page. With AI solutions for enterprises, AR for retailers, workforce management for the gig economy, chatbots and streaming services, Jaspers seems to cover every important tech trend. As a tech leader, she actively aims to create a broader space in the industry for women to showcase their talent and skill. No wonder she is included in The Next Women 100 as a Bronze winner, while also being part of the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women Europe programme. 

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