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Featured on Jun 28, 2012

Jovena Whatmoor

"/* don’t quote me */"


Jovena is the founder of Skillfer, a company that helps web developers discover and learn about the innovative startups of NYC. She started an event series called Startup Tours. She and Kevin Bluer select their favorite startups and bring developers to their offices for technical presentations and demos. They get an inside peek at the offices and hang out with the internal technical teams for dinner, drinks and conversation. The events are a blast and allow developers outside of the startup community (like those that work at boring banks, gag) to get to know the way of life for startup techies. It's fascinating to see how much the cultures vary from one startup to the next.

She also organizes classes to help developers gain skills that are relevant to startup jobs. And, she helps Jenn Shaw run NY Tech Women, one of the fastest growing women's tech groups in New York.

Before founding Skillfer, she spent a couple years working for Quirky, her favorite startup in the city.

  • Title: Founder, Skillfer
  • Location: Flatiron District
  • Contact: @skillfer

Skillfer sounds like a great way to connect developers to the startup industry. How have the reactions been from tech teams that work in more conventional jobs after having a taste of startup culture? Have your dinners ever converted people to make the switch from either side?

Thanks! The excitement of NYC's thriving startup culture is alluring.

Most of the developers that join us for the Startup Tours have a sense that they want more excitement, an opportunity to work with current technology and a fuller range of responsibilities. Those that haven't had exposure to startups are incredibly captivated by the energy the startup tech teams have and the cool technology products they're building.

During the few months I've been running these events, I've seen several developers make the switch from a financial institution to a startup. They'll probably never go back!

Having worked with startups on both the west and the east, why did you choose to settle in the city? What's your favorite product that Quirky has helped make a reality?

There is so much diversity and excitement here. It's helpful that our city's tech community is intertwined with the rest of the industries in the city. The creative talent here is rich, which lends to captivating marketing campaigns to grow startups quickly. And, when we are not at work on a tech startup, we can be at a Broadway show, in line at a food-truck, or at an art opening. Plus, New Yorkers have a hustle to them and startups are all about speed.

My favorite product by Quirky is Pivot Power. It's a power strip with pivoting joints so you can fit all your power bricks and no outlet goes unused. It was invented by a RISD student. He is now a wealthy young graduate.

I noticed that you also run a women's tech group in the city. It's long been known that the startup industry has a disproportional amount of men to women. How do you think we can even the playing field?

Luckily, tech isn't dominated by an old boys club. The technical thought leaders I follow and talk to would love to see the ratio evened. When the occasional brogrammer slander hits Twitter, a hackathon, or a conference, there is an instant backlash led by men, usually followed by a swift apology. Many tech companies have programs to recruit women and a few support training and have career advancement programs for technical women.

So why do we still have this low "Dave-to-woman" ratio? There is an obvious explanation to how my sister and I fell into the tech field. My mother is a talented software engineer and business owner with an advanced degree in mathematics. She would come home from work and tell my sister and me about rocket trajectory calculations. She brought our math homework to life by relating it to physics. If we really want to substantially change the ratio, we need to provide the kind of childhood exposure I had.

While we're waiting for the next generation of tech-savvy girls to grow up, feel free to reach out to me and NYTechWomen to help improve the ratio at your events and companies. We can help make introductions to some of the brilliant technical women in the city.