#BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge @ Twitter HQ

Friday, 4 November 2016

On September 9th, Twitter Women (@TwitterWomen) and Womeng (@Womeng) hosted AOL’s #BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge for the second year in a row. A pitch competition for tech-based projects built by girls and judged by girls #BUILTBYGIRLS (@BUILTBYGIRLS) equips today’s young woman with the necessary skills to excel e in the technology sector..

Young women ages 15-18 from around the country were asked to submit a project that served one of two below tracks:

Future Founders: for girls building a technology product that has the potential to succeed and scale effectively in the business world. These girls are the next generation of founders.
Let Girls Build: a newly added track in support of Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative. For girls whose mission is to provide real solutions to tackle the issue of #62milliongirls not in school globally.

Finalists were flown to San Francisco for the Pitch Day at Twitter HQ. The judges were five 17-18 year old girls, who spent the summer in an apprenticeship with BBG Ventures learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and venture capital. They were mentored by some of Silicon Valley’s most established VCs and Twitter’s very own Anne Phan (@annep), Director of Corporate Development & Strategy.

The winners received $10k in funding and mentorship to take their project to the next level, plus the opportunity to demo their project at the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley. All finalist teams took home $1,000 to continue their work and were afforded the opportunity to participate in the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, building new products to present overnight. The winners were:

Future Founders: Erin Smith (16) built FacePrint, an early and accurate telemedicine Parkinson’s diagnosis system using facial recognition software from Affectiva, an MIT Media Lab spinoff.

Let Girls Build: Kathy Kong (17) and Lillian Yuan (17) created TARA, a project geared toward ensuring the safety and education of in-migrant girls in Cambodia using SMS messaging.

You can read about the experiences of all the #BUILTBYGIRLS participants below:

Kathy Kong, TARA Co-Founder

Takeaway #1:
Getting to know all of the other girls was absolutely amazing. Through conversations and watching them present, I realized that all of our ideas shared one common theme: they were all created by asking better questions. We questioned what is currently being done, and then created something to fix the problem. This way of thinking, the pattern of questioning and then creating, was a common theme among all of the finalists.

Takeaway #2:
Everyone we met was so generous. One of my favorite moments from the trip was being invited to go visit Niantic, Inc. with Megan Smith, the Chief Technology Officer of their American operations. Megan Smith is an example of a hugely successful woman who also happens to be the kindest, most down-to-earth, and inspirational people I know. I was so grateful to meet Megan, and all of the #BUILTBYGIRLS staff and participants, as well as everyone else who helped guide me along the way.

Erin Smith, FacePrint Founder

Takeaway #1
This challenge has made me think of technology in so many different ways. How can technology be used on a global scale? How do we use it to eliminate poverty, hunger, and gender inequality? These are all questions we asked ourselves – important questions that have made me realize how technology is connected to other parts of the world. Before coming here, I always thought of the tech industry in a purely technological sense. Meaning, the only words that I associated with tech were coding, hardware, etc. Now I realize that technology is everything and everywhere as its applications in our world are far and wide. At the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, the startup companies that pitched their ideas all used technology to improve various aspects of life. By being able to see and experience this myself, I have gained a greater understanding of what technology is and how it can be used to improve the lives of others.

Takeaway #2
This entire experience has made me realize that there is a community out there for us; a community united in creating a world where technology is not bound to a certain gender, race, or geographic location. By being immersed in such an encouraging community of girls, #BUILTBYGIRLS staff, and business professionals, I’ve realized that I’m not alone in my journey. The tech industry now seems more accessible; with one single idea, we were able to immerse ourselves into this rich world filled with knowledge. By participating in the Disrupt Hackathon and Conference, I’ve learned so much about technology in such a short time – so much so I am now motivated to further pursue a career in this industry in the future.

Lillian Yuan, TARA Co-founder

Takeaway #1
It’s never too late to try something new and make a difference. For me, #BUILTBYGIRLS was an experience literally like no other - I had very little coding experience and even less experience in the tech world, so pitching at Twitter HQ in front of so many venture capitalists, hacking at TechCrunch Disrupt, and meeting so many amazingly accomplished people at the TechCrunch Conference was so surreal (and a little intimidating, I’ll be honest). But the fact that something so small, just an idea and a hope I had for improving education for girls through technology, turned into something so large is a testament to the power of one person. More than that, it’s testament to the power of trying and throwing yourself into something that may be unfamiliar, but that’s intriguing nonetheless. You never know what power you have or what interests you’ll find until you try!

Takeaway #2:
People are amazing. The event really reminded me of how awesome humanity is. Meeting so many ambitious people who were all doing or hoping to do big things was incredible. Whether it’s creating virtual reality simulations, apps that make traveling easier, and social media platforms that utilize the power of voice, or being a role model for the entire industry, the experience really gave me hope for our future generation. Not only that, it also inspired me to want to become one of those role models or forward thinkers so I too can leave my mark too.