With ‘boot camp,’ TechGirlz seeks to build future startup leaders

 The three

The three "TechGirlz" behind Famil-E. From left to right: Taylor Feld, 15, Sara Syed, 12, and Angel Bird, 14. (Zack Seward/NewsWorks)

Just 3 percent of tech startups are launched by women.

That stat motivates TechGirlz, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that aims to upend current statistics by getting a really early start.

That’s why 19 girls, ages 11 to 15, spent last week in a tech entrepreneurship “boot camp.”

“At the end of the day, what we are trying to show them is the possibilities of what they can do,” said TechGirlz founder Tracey Welson-Rossman.

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Making their pitch

The weeklong day camp concluded Friday with a demo day at the University City Science Center.

After hatching tech-based business ideas and working with coaches to build prototypes, five teams made their pitches in front of a room packed with family, friends and outside mentors.

Welson-Rossman says the goal of demo day wasn’t to launch actual businesses, but to teach the skills for maybe doing so down the road.

“The marketing and the messaging that is being done to get these girls into tech is falling flat on its face,” said Welson-Rossman. “We’ve got to talk to the girls and let them understand how it works for them.” 

“Don’t knock it”

Taylor Feld, 15, helped pitch Famil-E, an app that syncs calendars for busy families.

“Part of the reason TechGirlz is so cool is because I definitely feel like we’re, not necessarily an endangered species, but kind of few and far between,” Feld said of girls interested in tech.

Feld wants to work in video game design. Sara Syed, 12, who originally conceived the Famil-E concept, says she’s “pretty positive” she’ll work in technology one day. A third Famil-E team member, Angel Bird, wants to be an entrepreneur. As for sending a message to other girls out there, the 14-year-old Bird wants people to know there’s more to tech than just coding.

“Don’t knock it till you try it,” said Bird. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about technology and it’s really not explained well. Be open to every field, just see what’s out there, and you’ll eventually find where you need to be.”

The four other businesses pitched at the TechGirlz demo day were also mobile apps. They included one for locating fresh water for dogs to drink while on walks, a scheduling app for young athletes and a shopping app for finding clothes on sale.

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