"A Woman Can Do Anything:" Single Mom Tackles Tech and Raising Daughter - NBC Bay Area
Growing Up Silicon Valley Archive

Growing Up Silicon Valley Archive

"A Woman Can Do Anything:" Single Mom Tackles Tech and Raising Daughter

Silicon Valley is the land of tech start ups, yet many women trying to become a CEO struggle for financial support. That struggle is even more pronounced for single moms and their children. A mom and her daughter share what they've had to sacrifice in order to compete in Silicon Valley. (Published Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016)

Sheri Atwood steals moments with her daughter when she can. Usually she's behind a computer screen.

"Like we'll go to the pool but I'll sit there and work while she's swimming. Or I'll take her to the movies with her friends and I'll sit right outside the movie theater and work while she's in the movie theater," said Atwood.

She is CEO of her start up Support Pay, an app that makes child support payments easy for parents.

As a single mom over the age of 30 without a tech degree, Atwood calls herself the "most unidealistic entrepreneur in Silicon valley." Her daughter calls her busy.

"Sometimes she can be a little bit annoying because she works all the time," said Janicya Atwood, Sheri's 12-year-old daughter.

Sheri self-funded her company when she began seven years ago. She left a six-figure job, sold a home, and liquidated stocks. She went to venture capitalists for funding but many weren't sold.

"We target a very different generation," said Atwood. "I think in the beginning investors were really standoffish as far as investing because I didn't look like the typical entrepreneur and this wasn't a typical start up type of company."

Women CEOs do have a harder time receiving funding than men. Only 8  percent of all Bay Area startups that received at least $3 million in funding last year were led by women, according to the Female Founders Fund, a VC fund for women.

Sheri says money ran so low she was a day away from applying for food stamps and a week away from quitting. But the day after, she received a call from Tim Draper and Salesforce expressing interest in investing.

"So ultimately at that round we got a million dollars and now we've gotten over $3 million in investments and we're about to close another $5 million," said Atwood.

She now has seven employees and a little more time, thanks to the money. But perhaps her greatest investment is what she's given her daughter.

"My mom is a woman over the age of 30. No one believed in her at first. And she kept believing that her business would eventually make it," said Janicya. "That just taught me that a woman can do anything."

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