O'Brien: Five women to watch

Print   Email   Font ResizeBy Chris O'Brien

Mercury News Columnist

Posted: 01/18/2011 04:41:06 PM PST
When I put together a list of the 10 most powerful women in Silicon Valley that the Mercury News published last weekend, there was inevitably a number of successful women whom I didn't include.

But of those who didn't make the cut, there were five names that came up repeatedly in my conversations and research that I found particularly intriguing. They're interesting not because of the power they wield today, but for the influence they might have tomorrow. Their careers, and their stars, are still ascending.

With that in mind, here are five women to watch in the coming years:

1. Mitchell Baker, 53, chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation: This nonprofit oversees the for-profit Mozilla Corporation that manages development of Firefox, the Web's hottest browser.

Baker was hired as a lawyer in the early days of Netscape Communications. The company was later sold to AOL when it began winding down its browser business in 2003. She helped rescue the browser's source code by creating the Mozilla Foundation, which led to the development of the Firefox browser.

Baker became one of the world's leading advocates of the open software movement. The growing prominence of Firefox means she's having more impact on technology discussions around the globe.

2. Aileen Lee, 40, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers: This former Gap executive and entrepreneur has

been at Kleiner since 1999, handling consumer-oriented digital investments. Although Kleiner's ranks of female partners has begun to grow recently, for a long time Lee was one of the few at the firm.

During her tenure, her work with a number of startups such as TellMe (bought by Microsoft) and Good Technology (bought by Motorola) earned her a strong reputation. But her profile is getting another bump now that she's going to be one of the Kleiner partners working on its new $250 million sFund, focused on social applications and services.

3. Anne Wojcicki, 37, co-founder of 23andme: She's got an impressive résumé that includes a decade in health care investment and starting this personal genetics testing company. Her work in this field has made her a notable leader in the push toward more personalized medicine.

While she's someone to watch in her own right, Wojcicki also is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. And her sister, Susan, is a Google executive who rented her garage to the Google founders way back when they were just getting started.

4. Leila Chirayath Janah, 28, founder and CEO, Samasource: This nonprofit acts as a kind of broker between companies that need low-level digital work done and people in developing companies to make sure the work is equitable and the wages fair.

Her road to Samasource stretches back more than a decade when she volunteered as a teacher in rural Ghana while in junior high school. Later, Janah cooked up the idea for Samasource while working as a consultant.

Janah has become an influential social entrepreneur by pointing the way toward how globalization can be more humane and dignified.

5. Ann Miura-Ko, 34, co-founder of super angel fund Floodgate: Last year, Mike Maples announced he was re-forming his investment fund as "Floodgate" with Miura-Ko as co-founder. Maples is a well-known valley investor. But the announcement vaulted the lesser known Miura-Ko into the spotlight.

On LinkedIn, she lists her title with Floodgate as "Investing Ninja Assassin" and she can boast of a Ph.D. in "quantitative modeling of computer security." While leading investments for Floodgate, she's still teaching entrepreneurship classes at Stanford University.

But with investments in companies such as Twitter, Gowalla and Formspring, Miura-Ko and Floodgate are already making a big splash.

Contact Chris O'Brien at 415-298-0207 or Follow him on Twitter at sjcobrien or on Facebook at ChrisOBrienJournalist.

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