In an industry where women are still significantly underrepresented with women representing just 8.6% of all venture capitalists and 8% of firm partners across the country, and VC-backed startups founded solely by women still coming in at a paltry 2%, Women’s History Month is an excellent opportunity to highlight the incredible work of some of our female founders in the Midcontinent. Data over the past decade shows that women-founded and –led companies consistently outperform. A 2018 BCG study found that over a 5-year period, women-led startups generated 78 cents of revenue per dollar invested, whereas male-founded startups generated less than half that, just 31 cents. Additionally, some VC investors have seen their companies with female founders outperform all-male founding teams by as much as 63%.

Within the cohort of female founders, even more underrepresented are those founders innovating in legacy sectors like manufacturing and supply chain — industries that have historically been almost exclusively male-dominated. For example, in 2021 only 1.1% of female-founded companies were in the materials and resources sector. At Cortado, we love femtech founders (see our previous blogs about Watkins Conti Products and Myri Health). Still, this month, we want to give extra credit to a few outstanding female founders in industrial sectors.

Haley Marie Keith, CEO and Founder of Mito Material Solutions

Haley Keith first interacted with the technology that would become the first iteration of Mito Materials when she was an MBA student at Oklahoma State University. Working with the university-based inventor and a team of engineers, Haley identified the exciting commercial potential for a novel graphene additive. Eventually, she worked to secure an NSF grant and a license agreement with the university to form Mito Material Solutions. Originally founded in Stillwater, OK, the company now calls Indianapolis, IN home and has 10 full time employees hard at work building the company.

The technology can functionalize substances like graphene oxide and biomaterials, creating hybrid additives that improve fiber-reinforced composites and thermoplastics in strength, durability, flexibility, and sustainability. In layman’s terms, tech allows industries like aerospace, transportation, and sporting goods to increase the quality of their materials through MITO additives without any other change to their manufacturing process.

Haley was a 2021 Forbes 30 under 30 honoree in the “Manufacturing & Industry” category for her work on Mito.

Lisa Mullen, CEO of Drov Technologies

Oklahoma City-based Drov Technologies has developed a novel “smart trailer” IoT device for the trucking industry. Their AirBoxOne product uses camera and sensor technology placed on trailers and tankers to give drivers and fleet managers rich data and insight into what’s happening with their trailers on the road in real time. With trucking responsible for 72.6% (or over 11 billion tons) of US overland freight, the value proposition in monitoring and protecting these goods and the trailers/tankers that transport them is enormous. Flash forward a decade or two to a future of autonomous trucking, and this value proposition becomes even more pronounced; without solutions like Drov, how will you monitor the safety and security of goods in a trailer when there is no driver?

When Lisa, a former Bain and Company consultant, joined the team at Drov in 2015 and eventually became CEO in 2020, she helped identify the company’s potential to develop and leverage their AirBoxOne product to reset its trajectory as a high-growth technology company. Now, the company is signing enterprise truck and tanker fleets at a tremendous rate and exhibiting at truck and trailer shows nationwide.

Charu Thomas, CEO and Founder of Ox

Charu Thomas started working with wearables and researching the potential for augmented reality technologies to improve supply chain operations when she was in school at the Georgia Institute of Technology. When she graduated, she moved to Bentonville, AR (a US supply chain and logistics hub) to launch her company, Ox.

Ox is pioneering “human-centered automation,” making front-line supply chain workers more efficient by optimizing their warehouse tasks (think pallet picking, restocking, order picking, etc.) through software and wearables. Ox is gaining traction with 3PLs (third-party logistics companies) and has made a name for themselves in the supply chain tech space under Charu’s leadership.

Charu was named to Forbes 30 under 30 in the “Manufacturing & Industry” category in 2020 and has been featured in several national publications as an up-and-coming entrepreneur to watch in the supply chain space.

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Thank you to these outstanding women for being a part of Cortado’s portfolio, and cheers to continuing to invest in women.

At Cortado Ventures, we’re backing a new generation of economic prosperity in the Midcontinent by investing in pre-seed and seed startups with a focus on energy, logistics, life sciences, and the future of work. If you are a Midcontinent startup or investor, contact us to learn more.