Newstands are plastered with pictures of Hollywood starlets, pop stars and sexy supermodels. Young teen girls and parents seeking role models for their daughters have few avenues to turn to -- but this coming month, the October cover of Seventeen magazine features 21-year old college dropout Stacey Ferreira, who sold her company this year to Reputation.com. She's currently working on her second startup right now, and she looks nothing like Mark Zuckerberg and 90% of the entrepreneurs currently being funded by VCs in the Silicon Valley.
"My brother and I started MySocialCloud the summer after I graduated high school," said Stacey Ferreira. "Our parents gave us one more summer of, 'you guys go and do whatever you want to do,' and we decided that we wanted to start an online password manager simply because my brother had an Excel spreadsheet with all his names and passwords and his computer crashed and he lost all of that."
Stacey is a self-taught programmer and helped start the tech startup My Social Cloud with her brother and friend, building the product from the ground up. She is also the one who saw a tweet from billionaire Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson where he promoted a charity event which he would be attending. The entrance fee -- a steep $2,000 price tag per person.
Spying a rare opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with a potential angel investor for their early-stage startup, Stacey and her brother convinced their parents to loan them the money to attend the event. They flew cross-country to meet Sir Richard Branson, and Stacey pitched him the startup. She then asked for his contact information, which he gave her. The siblings flew home and continued building their company, frequently emailing him updates on their progress and vision for the business they were building.
"He loved our ambition and our willingness to just go and build this product," said Stacey, and eventually Sir Richard Branson brought two more investors in with him for the first $1 million investment in Stacey's company -- her first VC investment, which started with just a 140-character tweet from @richardbranson.
Startup success stories are a dime a dozen in the Silicon Valley, but Stacey and her brother were in Los Angeles and didn't fit the mold of Silicon Valley startup entrepreneurs. In the United States, four to nine percent of venture capital is raised by female entrepreneurs like Stacey. This means a dramatically smaller ratio of women to men are running high-tech, high-growth startups that aim to be the next tech giant like Facebook or Google.
Seventeen magazine should be applauded for putting a business-minded technologist like Stacey on the cover of the national magazine instead of Miley Cyrus.
This fall, I'm excited to see Skye, a female computer hacker, on Joss Whedon's latest television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (based on the Marvel comics). I haven't been this excited since MIT-educated electrical engineer and Adafruit Industries founder Limor Fried graced the cover of Wired magazine two years ago in a smart "We Can Do It!" pose - holding a power drill. This summer, HP chief executive Meg Whitman went to war on the cover of Forbes magazine and Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Mayer got plenty of attention for her reclining pose in Vogue.
I'm happy for the power women of Silicon Valley getting more media coverage and inspiring young working women everywhere to become a chief executive of a Fortune 500 company, too. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has worked tirelessly in urging women to lean in. But getting more women interested in technology and leadership has to start at a younger age, and thank god for Seventeen magazine for putting Internet entrepreneur Stacey Ferreira on the cover of the October issue of Seventeen.
Here's to more female programmers, fascinating scientists, inspiring inventors and leaders in tech being featured in magazine cover stories -- and the mainstream media in general!