Meet 500 Startups’s Female-Led Startup from the Middle East: Silkroad Images

This woman is so savvy. I love that she went full on and incorporated in Delaware, went to Silicon Valley and got into 500Startups. She's found a perfect niche, offering stunning stock photography to meet the needs of the Arab world. She's now back in Turkey where 38% of entrepreneurs are women while we're only 10%. 

Here's her story reported by Kira M. Newman for the San Francisco Edition.

Mahafzah first heard of 500 Startups when she was in Silicon Valley, on the heels of winning the MIT Arab Startup Competition. Scheduled for a month of incubation from Google for Entrepreneurs and TechWadi, she ended up staying six months and learned more about the US startup scene.

So she did what any self-respecting entrepreneur in the US does: incorporate in Delaware and apply for an accelerator. 500 Startups rejected her the first time, but she was in for batch 10.

Jordan has accelerators that Mahafzah could have applied for, but Silicon Valley has something that’s lacking in Jordan: early-stage investment. 

The startup scene in Jordan is not that late behind the Silicon Valley,” says Mahafzah. “We have smart entrepreneurs, great startups, and good accelerators with almost Silicon Valley standards – but what we lack back home or the whole [Middle East and North Africa] region is the right seed funding.”

(And if you’re wondering, Mahafzah didn’t find Jordan lacking in opportunities for women. While Silicon Valley has 10% women entrepreneurs, she says that almost 38% of startups in Jordan have female founders.)

Mahafzah, who spent 13 years in advertising, sees beyond the Middle East market: she imagines expanding first into Turkey and then into Asia as well. And she knows that, while her clients are advertisers and media, she has a broader purpose.

We are aiming to digitally archive the heritage and the image of the East,” she says."

Foundry Funds Nix Hydra, Mobile Game Maker for Girls

Brad Feld (Foundry co-founder) loves women. He has been active with several non-profit organizations and currently is chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology. 

NCWIT is actually based right here in beautiful Boulder Colorado. They believe the people who build technology should represent the people who use it.

NCWIT says, "Although women today comprise half the world’s population and more than half of the U.S. professional workforce, they play only a small role in inventing the technology of tomorrow. The lack of girls and women in computing and technology represents a failure to capitalize on the benefits of diverse perspectives: in a world dependent on innovation, it can bring the best and broadest problem-solvers to the table; and at a time when technology drives economic growth, it can yield a larger and more competitive workforce."

Experiential play is how we learn and until now, most games and toys were set up to teach certain principles. Walk down any toy aisle in Target and you'll see pink, dolls and more pink.

That's why DisruptHER Productions, NCWIT, & Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media created the first annual DevelopHer Challenge to design toys and games that engage girls ages 3-12 in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Brad and Foundry Group know that women are the next big win.  And, now they've awarded $5 Mil in funding to two women who know how to create mobile games women (9 million of them so far!) will play. 

Nix Hydra Scores $5M to Make Mobile Games for Girls, Not ‘Tech Dudes’

Nix Hydra Co-founders Lina Chen and Naomi Ladizinsky

Nix Hydra Co-founders Lina Chen and Naomi Ladizinsky

By Lizette Chapman

Striking a rare win in the male-dominated gaming sector, female-focused mobile gaming startup Nix Hydra Inc. has raised $5 million from Foundry Group to expand its hit game “Egg Baby” and launch new ones.

Co-founded in 2012 by former Yale classmates and startup vets Naomi Ladizinsky and Lina Chen, the Los Angeles-based startup is unapologetically focused on creating games by women and for women.

“This [mobile gaming] market is new, but so far we’ve seen a lot of repeats with the same ideas iterated on over and over again,” said Ms. Ladizinsky, referring to so-called runner, quest, battle and other genres. “It’s a tech dude’s perspective.”

To that end, Nix Hydra will use the fresh funding to build new games based on strong characters with complexity and consequences for irresponsibility, similar to “Egg Baby.”
The game launched last year, inspired by a school experiment entrusting students with a raw egg to experience the responsibilities of parenthood. The initial version of the game was rough, but it quickly gained favor among teenage girls and women despite no marketing.

With just one other employee to help, Ms. Ladizinsky and Ms. Chen scrambled to add more content and continue improving the game or risk losing momentum. The two had experience at startups–Ms. Li previously negotiated international mobile deals for streaming music startup Grooveshark Inc. while Ms. Ladizinsky directed, produced and edited digital content for gaming channel Machinima Inc.–but scaling a mobile game was new.

“We didn’t think it was going to be that popular,” said Ms. Chen of the game that has now been downloaded nine million times.
In “Egg Baby,” players each get an egg, which hatches into a unique gift-giving creature based on how the game-players wash, feed, tickle, dress, and otherwise interact with the eggs. Players like to show off the results of their work, with most new users finding the game because a friend shared their creature. If players forget to put their egg to bed or feed it, it dies.

Roughly 85% of players are women and most are under the age of 25, Ms. Chen said.

Raising the round happened fast and came following an introduction by the startup’s angel investors to Foundry Group.

“It was two phone calls and one in person,” said Ms. Chen of the 10-day process. “Foundry Group really got us.”

Nix Hydra expects to hire another 20 people during the next year, and it will use the funding to build a franchise around “Egg Baby” and launch two still-unnamed games.

Foundry Group led the Series A round with participation from Buddy Media co-founder Mike Lazerow and other individuals, at a valuation around $20 million.

Individual investors including Gyft Inc. co-founder Vinny Lingham, Mry Inc. co-founder Matt Britton and Riot Games investor Brad Schwartz previously invested around $600,000.

Write to Lizette Chapman at lizette.chapman@wsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at@zettewil