Women create only 3% of tech startups, receive less than 10% of venture capital funding, and run only 4% of Fortune 500 companies.
Those are the opening words to the trailer for the upcoming documentary She Started It by French journalist Nora Poggi and Insiyah Saeed, a journalist and documentary producer based in Silicon Valley. The film will focus on women tech founders in the U.S. and Europe and aims to highlight successful role models for young women, to encourage more girls toward entrepreneurship in the technology industry.
Now enter Sheena Allen, founder of Sheena Allen Apps. Despite her eponymously-named app, when it comes to tech founders, she’s completely off the radar. She says so herself.
“I am a triple–whammy when it comes to tech. I’m female, I’m black, and I’m southern,” says Allen, 26, who double majored in film and psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. “I have a southern accent so just imagine—when I’m in Silicon Valley they are like ‘Who are you and where are you from?’ [I guess] you are just not supposed to be from Mississippi and create a tech company with 2 million downloads.”
But while she doesn’t fit the mold of the average tech founder, she’s also breaking barriers outside of being a black founder. Black Enterprise host Paul Brunson said it best on his #MentorMonday Spreecast: “Sheena Allen is the exception to EVERY rule when it comes to creating a tech company.”
First, she’s a woman in a world of companies founded by men. Next, she’s a solo founder when most tech companies have two or more. She’s nontechnical, when most tech founders have a background in computer science or some type of coding experience. She hasn’t raised any money from investors and she didn’t attend an Ivy League school.
But what she has done is launch a company, which has been profitable right out the gate. The filmmakers saw her speaking at the Lean Startup conference and asked if she would be willing to be a part of the film. Even though they were wrapping everything up, they decided to add Allen after hearing her story and learning about her six apps and millions of downloads.
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