12 Women Tech Entrepreneurs in the Windy City

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By Marian Mangoubi (Founder & CEO, Sassy CEO) Across the nation, you can see and feel the rise of the entrepreneurial spirit. Companies are blooming, many started by women, and public/private partnerships are being created to help new entrepreneurs maneuver the path to success.

What kind of startups depends on where you live. The West Coast has a lot of software and app development, and the East Coast fashion and media. But where does that leave us in the Midwest? Interestingly enough, in a good position.

Here in the Windy City you’ll find healthcare, clean energy, media, consumer-oriented, and software companies. We have the full-gamut. And yes, there are women tech entrepreneurs in that mix.

Why haven't we heard of these rockstar women entrepreneurs before? Well, truth-be-told, we’re often working heads down on creating and building out our businesses that we forget to market ourselves outside of the Windy City.

But that is all changing. There is a movement building amongst many gals in tech here to make our voices be known. We don’t want to just be at the table. Rather, we want to be leading the discussions.

Here are 12 Midwest Superstar Women Entrepreneurs: Betsy Huigens (Founder, BlueLight App) The BlueLight app, an iPhone safety app, is a must have for everyone. It offers the user a way to feel safe without having to compromise privacy or independence. It has been dubbed the “call me when you get there 2.0” and received venture capital funding from Sandbox Industries. Follow her startup on Twitter at @BlueLightApp.

Hallie Steube (Founder, BookYap) Hallie Steube is an avid reader who was always looking for a new book to read and wanted to find a way to emulate the offline book browsing experience online. When she couldn’t find a site that offered this experience, she decided to create BookYap, a web-based application that offers smart book recommendations based on your interests. She received venture capital funding from Sandbox Industries, a Chicago-based venture capital and incubator firm. Follow her on Twitter at @HallieSteube and her startup at @BookYap. Katie Hill (Founder, Commuter Advertising) Commuter Advertising recently hit some major milestones, securing a contract with PACE to serve the Chicago area and receiving venture funds in the range of $1-3M. We're just kicking ourselves for being unable to keep her here in Chicago! As many in the marketing industry know, location and relevancy are important to the success of any brand’s marketing campaign. Katie’s idea of creating and serving location-based relevant ads to commuters riding public transportation has success written all-over-it. Read her full story here on Women 2.0. Follow her startup on Twitter at @CommuterAds.

Genevieve Thiers (Co-Founder & President, ContactKarma) Serial entrepreneur Genevieve recently launched ContactKarma, a social recommendation engine to help visitors find top rate service professionals, contractors, plumbers, etc that their friends have used and or recommend. Prior to that, she served as CEO of Sittercity, a hub that helps parents easily find babysitters. Sittercity recently received $22.6M in financing to continue to grow domestically and to launch internationally. Follow her on Twitter at @GenevieveThiers and her startup at @ContactKarma.

Suyeon Khim (Founder, Edulender) Edulender, a college financial comparison search engine, is taking on the student loan industry and winning. While in college navigating the school loan industry herself, she realized that there was no place to find accurate, up-to-date information on student loan products and the rates they charged. So she decided to change that, and began building out the site in 2008 Recently, Edulender received $1M in funding from such notable angel investors and venture capitalists as Hyde Park Angels, Kapor Capital, Sandbox Ventures, New World Ventures, Excelerate, and Sam Yagan (OKCupid / SparkNotes). They plan to use it for business development and marketing expenses. Follow her startup on Twitter at @EduLender.

Desiree Vargas Wrigley (Co-Founder, GiveForward) GiveForward, a fundraising platform for individuals, is taking the fundraising world by storm. Their platform enables individuals to set up a free web-page for the purpose of raising funds for anything, although the majority of fundraising projects that flow through them tend to be for medical expenses. They have raised over $4M, have 10k+ users, and written 3k checks, mostly for medical-related expenses. GiveForward also recently received $500K in funding from New World Ventures, Excelerate, Social Leverage, Tim Krauskopf, David Cohen, and Ed Chandler. Follow her startup on Twitter at @GiveForward.

Brittany Laughlin (Co-Founder, Gtrot) Gtrot is a Facebook application that lets friends share their travel plans, experiences and advice with each another. The company recently extended its brand to include Gtrot Deals, a messaging system that provides deals and offers to travelers based on their intended destination. Finally, they received just under $1M in funding from Lightbank, an early-stage venture capital firm started by Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky of Groupon. Follow her on Twitter at @br_ttany and her startup at @Gtrot.

Jodi Marchewitz (Founder & CEO, iGuiders) iGuiders is an interactive, decision-making application that mimics an offline shopping experience via an embedded link added to any digital marketing initiative (ads, email, websites, social media), increasing conversions 350-400%. iGuiders works with large reseller partners including ValueClick Media, Modern Living Media, Moms Media, AdRX Media, Pepperjam and TrueAction. iGuiders received $1.5M in angel funding from JumpStart Ventures. Follow her startup at @iGuiders.

Ambar Frausto (Founder, Posy) Ambar came up with the idea for Posy while perusing the wedding aisle at a local book store. She was struck by how much information could be found in wedding planning books, and thought there had to be a better way to provide the information. So she set to work on creating a web-based wedding and event planning software program that includes streamlined and easy floor plans, contact organization and online collaboration tools. Follow her startup on Twitter at @getposy. Charisse Conanan (Founder & CEO, Smarteys) and Adrissha Wimberly (Founder & COO, Smarteys) Smarteys, a personalized and automated online money management software program geared to helping people with student load debt manage their money, launched late last year and is growing. Charisse and Adrissha had to leave their Wall Street jobs and attend the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in order to meet their future business partner.Follow their startup on Twitter at @smarteys.

Sarah Gray (Co-Founder, Mercury App) Mercury App is a change-management decision-making tool for individuals and businesses. Follow her on Twitter at @fablednet and @Mercury_app.

Here is just a short list of the some of the superstar women starting tech companies here in the Midwest. I am excited to be introducing these wonderful women to you and sharing with you what they are doing. Some of them may look familiar as they have been profiled here on Women 2.0 in the past, while others are making their debut.

For any other Midwest tech gals out there, please drop me a line to let me know what you’re up to as well.

About the guest blogger: Marian Mangoubi is the Founder and CEO of Sassy CEO, an online media site for and about women tech entrepreneur. She shines a light on the innovative businesses women start in this space as well as provide a female perspective on the space. Prior to Sassy CEO, Marian worked in digital and traditional marketing. Marian holds a B.A. in Sociology from Saint Mary’s College and an MBA from Indiana University Northwest. Follow her on Twitter at @SassyCEOs.