Women and Entrepreneurship

Draper University Alum and Ex-Skyper Launches Virtual Whiteboard Tool Deekit

May 12, 2015 — Kaili Kleemeier, member of the Draper University Fall 2014 online class, just launched Deekit: a virtual whiteboard to aid remote teams with research and development. Kaili is a former operations manager at Skype, and she drew from her experience there to design Deekit. Kaili recalls the struggle to collaborate with coworkers in different offices. After the unsuccessful search for a virtual tool that would allow them a visual brainstorm session, Kaili and her cofounders created exactly that product.

Deekit is a virtual whiteboard with screen sharing capabilities where users can sketch, chat, and build models together all in real time. Deekit comes with sophisticated templates for projects like blueprints or flowcharts, and boards can be shared or saved for future reference. Kaili claims that the standout element of Deekit is its simplicity. Deekit is formulated for ease of use with intuitive features and straightforward tools.

The Deekit team hopes to revolutionize online education with the platform. With extensive interactive capabilities, Deekit allows students to participate in lectures rather than simply listen to them, and already they've had success using the tool to teach 7-10 year olds programming. Deekit has been in private beta for over a year, and launched publicly on the 7th of May. With over 350 users in 21 countries, they are sure to see rapid growth in a market where global collaboration is increasingly commonplace.

Read the TechCrunch profile on Deekit here, and an interview with the team on Wired UK, where Deekit was featured as startup of the week!


From Latin American Oil Rigs to Silicon Valley

Student Post — March 18, 2015 — Can you imagine a young Pakistani lady working on oil rigs in the middle of nowhere in amazon jungles in Latin America? It’s hard, but it’s even harder to imagine her transition from that world to a magical place called Silicon Valley. Graduation and Oil and Gas Industry

Rig photo

My name is Maha and I was part of Draper University's Winter 2015 class. I graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree from National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan and the University of Mississippi, US in 2013. As a fresh graduate, I was swamped with opportunities, and if you ask me today, I still don’t understand why I chose working as a field engineer on international mobile for Schlumberger. I left my family, everything I had, and took a plane to Brazil. After a week of training in Rio de Janeiro, I flew to Colombia and started working on oil rigs. My job was running measurements and logging while drilling tools to provide data such as gamma ray, resistivity, neutron porosity, bulk density and others to client companies (Ecopetrol, Petrobras, Equion, etc). I was part of the drilling group and had to be on the rig from the moment drilling starts till the time it ends. After working for 5 months, I was sent to the Training Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates where I was fortunate to be first in my class of 40 engineers from all over the world - and I was the only woman in my class!

After the training, I went back to Colombia to resume my work. I felt frustrated and tried to figure out why. Was it family, work rotation (I used to go to the rig for 40 days and come back for 3 days off), jungles or what?

It was during the Society of Women Engineers annual conference in Los Angeles a month later that I could see patterns. I realized that I was passionate about research, technologies, and startups.

After conducting a 26-hour long fishing operation in the rig, I stumbled on an e-mail from YouNoodle. The e-mail mentioned something about an entrepreneurship program in Silicon Valley, and that e-mail ended up changing my life!

I applied to Draper University of Heroes, was accepted, and immediately packed my bags and came to Silicon Valley.

Draper University and Silicon Valley

I can neither summarize my time at Draper nor at Silicon Valley in one blog post! It’s an experience, a learning, and a feeling that can only be experienced, learnt, and felt.

But for all the prospective students and avid parents out there, I would jot down some of the key workshops I completed: Vision of the future, Agility, Evangelism, Survival, Resource Acquisition, Incorporation, and the Art of Pitching.

Draper University is not a traditional university. Neither it’s an accelerator nor an incubator. It’s something more than that. It challenges one to think beyond her limits, believe that everything is possible, and be ready to embrace failure. The university leaves no stone unturned by bringing in speakers from Facebook to Twitter to SpaceX to Khosla Ventures to Founder’s Fund to Stanford University. It would take me another 3 hours to compile a list of the incredible speakers who came to speak to our class.

Another significant thing about Draper University is the mentorship the program provides. The university inundates a student with mentors. From famous Silicon Valley VC mentors to Entrepreneurs in Residence to Alumni mentors to personal female mentors, I felt overwhelmed. But mentorship played a very crucial role in helping me build relationships which I’ll cherish forever!

To summarize, I feel completely transformed today. I feel blessed to have gone through the program and built a network of friends, mentors, and people who want to help me succeed. I feel fortunate to have explored the magical Disneyland they call ‘Silicon Valley’ and 10x more excited to begin my PhD in Chemical Engineering at Stanford University this Fall.

As Tim Draper says – the world needs superheroes and I’m going to be one of those superwomen!

Women and Entrepreneurship: Thoughts on Closing the Startup Gender Gap

Women EntrepreneurNovember 24, 2014 – It’s an open secret that Silicon Valley, despite its success as an incubator of innovation, is not getting an A+ for its encouragement of women as entrepreneurs. A recent rash of bad press has hit the Valley, with prestigious companies like Google and Facebook taking a hit vis-a-vis their gender inequities. A recent Senate Report painted a rather grim picture of how far Silicon Valley needs to go to close the Startup Gap. One focus: access to venture capital and funding.

Is Education on Entrepreneurship the Answer?

Education is often positioned as the answer to discrimination, and it certainly is part of the solution. But the puzzling fact is that women now compete quite well, thank you very much, in the educational arena with many top schools like Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley reporting sharp increases in their female populations (admittedly not as much in key areas like computer science, programming and other STEP areas).

But education isn’t an end in itself, and at Draper University our philosophy is very hands-on, very practical. Which brings us back to funding. Are women taught how to present to Venture Capitalists? Are women taught how to “pitch” their ideas for capital? This isn’t a skill widely taught in business and marketing programs across the country, and in fact, many women entrepreneurs may be out of college, or have majored in a subject that wasn’t business. Draper University is focused on addressing that gap: providing a gender equal, equal access, “crash course” in entrepreneurship, which includes the mysterious topic of how to pitch one’s ideas to venture capitalists. Practical training is certainly part of the solution to closing the female gender gap.

Famous Draper University Female Alumni Entrepreneurs

In fact, we at Draper University can proudly point to some very famous alumni. For example, there’s Surbhi Sarna, whose start up nVision Medical focuses on early detection of ovarian cancer.

Collete Davis of TechDrive, a startup focusing on the intersection of technology and transportation and Kerstin Karu, of BlastBuzz, which is a social media service to amplify "buzz." So we have quite a diversity in former alumni... But what's even more important is the future alumni, both male and female, that we are "growing" at Draper University. The first step towards closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship starts with education, especially education that is open to anyone - before, during, or after - their "formal" education. Practicality knows no sex, and the point is to teach women to pitch their ideas (among other things to learn) in such a way that their ideas gain equal footing with their male counterparts. Success in the marketplace, after all, should be gender neutral.