Three years ago, Shaherose Charania left Vancouver for Silicon Valley with two backpacks and no job contacts, just a passion for making a difference in technology. Now, at age 27, she’s doing exactly that as co-founder of Women 2.0, a networking group aiming to increase the number of female tech entrepreneurs. It holds monthly mixers, quarterly conferences, and an annual business-plan competition, all designed so that aspiring CEOs can mingle with other women in the industry.
Women 2.0’s other goal is to increase the stock of female role models, Charania says. “As a woman, how can you relate to Bill Gates? There are so many women who have great ideas but aren’t making them realities. To do that, they need capital and inspiration from peers.”
After arriving in Silicon Valley, Charania worked at several start-ups, focusing on product development and marketing. She boosted her profile through networking events but was alarmed at the lack of women. Along with three other twenty-something women, she hosted a conference in 2006 where female founders of tech companies gave business advice; the event attracted 100 women. When Charania and friends were presented with an award for their efforts to increase female leadership, that event drew 600. Women 2.0 was born. The four women officially share the CEO role, with Charania responsible for seeking corporate sponsorships, soliciting venture capitalists and angel investors, and managing operations.
Women 2.0’s monthly, women-only mixers help attendees make professional connections. The quarterly panel discussions address practical topics such as raising money and scaling up start-ups. Women 2.0 branches are being launched in New York, San Diego, and Vancouver.
When not working on Women 2.0, Charania holds down a day job as marketing head for Jajah, a global telecom start-up in Mountain View, California, and moonlights as a consultant for consumer-focused tech companies. She has no plans to slow down. “If you have an idea and a passion but don’t pursue it, that’s a waste of your life. I want other women to find their passion and live it up.”