How The Women’s March Inspired An Entrepreneur To Create A Female-Only Community App

For many of us, the Women’s March held on January 21st 2017 was a turning point politically and socially. It marked the start of a wave of activism not just in regard to elections, but also seen in art, business and entertainment. The election of Trump was a wake-up call that progress and freedoms should never be taken for granted, and are ALWAYS worth fighting for.

Living in the digital world also means technology can be a powerful ally in this movement, as one San Francisco-based entrepreneur is proving. Janete Perez is the founder of a new app called Present, the idea of which came about from her personal experience as well as what transpired among women after the Women’s March, as well as the more recent Women’s Convention in Detroit.

In a profile feature on Fast Company, the former Microsoft manager explained how moving from Seattle to San Fran made her realize how difficult it can be to make friends. Although we are so connected digitally these days, making connections IRL are not always that easy, yet having a social network is a vital part of feeling at “home” in a city.

“We are very much connected digitally to people we already know. But it’s hard to make new friends with existing services,” Janete told FC’s Lydia Dishman.

The proliferation of dating apps have become very problematic in terms of making meaningful and lasting connections. Viral stories about aggressive behavior from men don’t exactly make this landscape an easy one to navigate at times. Janete says the idea for utilizing technology to form female-only social circles around common interests came about while she was working at Facebook for its Messenger app.

It was at that job she realized what a great opportunity there was to create community, and teamed up with a fellow tech executive to help bring her vision to reality. Bob Lee is the former CTO for Square, and together the duo decided that helping women form and join community groups based on their location was their best starting point.

The app still allows for protection of privacy by only showing the user how close a group or event is to them. It is free to download and a simple verification step via Facebook syncs your location and interests, prompting circles and discussion groups in proximity to you.

Janete also explained that the female-only focus was entirely intentional, and said it is something very important of late given what we have been seeing in the news regarding workplace sexual misconduct allegations that are being reported en masse due to women feeling like their voices and experiences are supported by others. In the Present app, fostering a positive and supportive environment means women are able to share information about supporting women-run businesses and non-profits that align with their personal interests, for example.

Present is run by a majority-female team and is available to users in The Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Portland, Seattle, St Louis, and Birmingham, with plans for expansion in the future as it grows. When asked whether it is unusual to have a co-founder who can’t even use the app himself, Bob Lee explains a bit about his background (he has two daughters) and why he sees himself as an ally for this endeavor.

He grew up with a mom who was a feminist and a newspaper editor who instilled in him how important it was to empower women. At Square, he helped build a piece of technology that has revolutionized the way especially female small business owners conducted business. Square allows you to accept credit cards wherever you are, and bypasses any bias that may exist for women in other financial systems. But his work empowering women didn’t end there.

With black women being the fast-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States, initiatives and products geared to increase their success is just smart business.

“I prioritized recruiting women engineers and helped start Code Camp, Square’s program for female high school and college students. Today, I’m setting an example and building a brighter future for my daughters through Present,” he told Fast Company.

If you are interested in learning more about Present, check out their blog which shares profiles about a number of women-run businesses and non-profits that could be of interest. Finding and creating positive communities of support across a range of interests and life activities is so important right now. Reading the news can be overwhelming and anger-inducing, but social groups can be a place to feel a little less alone in our fast-paced, digitally-dominated world.

Janete says she hopes the app can be a source of empowerment for women looking to find this kind of community.

“How can you be more Present? It’s all about the here and now,” she said.

Present is available on both the App Store and Google Play.



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