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Business

May 26, 2013

Female tech entrepreneurs flourish outside of Silicon Valley

It seemed like a typical dinner party for the well-heeled set: eight women, some dressed in stilettos and skinny jeans, gabbing over glasses of wine and endive spears with goat cheese at a lavish West Hollywood, Calif., home.

But amid the Kate Middleton pregnancy chatter and a debate on the best mascara brands, the conversation turned to mobile app strategies and the latest tech companies to score millions of dollars in venture capital funding.

Not too long ago, such meet-ups among tech-savvy women — or men, for that matter — were a rarity in Los Angeles. Entrepreneurs who wanted to launch a startup headed to Silicon Valley.

Now, L.A.’s tech scene is exploding with new firms, a number of them founded by women. Unimpeded by the San Francisco Bay Area’s cliquish male programmer culture, they’re using their expertise in retail, entertainment, advertising and media to build digital companies whose products and services are often aimed at other women.

There’s Tradesy, a fashion website and iPhone application that enables women to buy and sell pre-owned clothing. Big Frame is a digital media company that helps budding YouTube stars grow their audiences and attract advertisers. DogVacay is a pet-sitting site that connects dog owners with people willing to watch their pets for a fee.

“The Internet and mobile devices have evolved from being tech-centric products to being more consumer-oriented products,” said Dana Settle, a venture capitalist with Greycroft Partners in Santa Monica, Calif. “And now I think a lot of the businesses that are being built on top of that are actually targeting women and therefore are being built by women.”

Settle was among the diners meeting recently in West Hollywood, an informal sisterhood dubbed Women in Tech. Although she remains something of an oddity in the male-dominated world of venture capitalists, Settle said she has seen a “pretty dramatic” shift in the number of women-run startups since opening Greycroft’s West Coast office seven years ago. These days she can rattle off a string of firms with at least one female founder, including Nasty Gal, Who What Wear, Maker Studios, NuOrder and Shop Hers.

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