#WomenWhoTech – Sara Chipps, Girl Develop It

#WomenWhoTech – Sara Chipps, Girl Develop It


Sara Chipps is a JavaScript developer, and in her spare time she starts things like Girl Develop It and Elizabeth & Clarke. She was formerly the CTO of Levo League, and she now spends her time focused on growing the Internet of Things.


Sara-Chipps-HeadshotWho inspires you?

I really look up to Marissa Mayer. For a while, she was the only female developer I had to look up to, so I’ve followed her for a long time.

What lessons did you learn during your childhood that you’ve carried into your career?

My mom taught me to always be curious and to try to learn new things. I was home-schooled when I was young, and if I ever wanted to learn more about a certain topic, my mom would take me to the library and we would spend the afternoon reading about that topic. I’ve definitely carried this mentality of curiosity and learning with me into my adulthood.

Why are you an entrepreneur?

I’m an entrepreneur because I tend to not be happy with the way things are usually done, and I get frustrated with institutions that have been in place for a long time.

What’s your cause?

I work on getting more women involved in tech and making sure they know that building software is really not that hard.

What led you to develop Girl Develop It?

There were always less girls in my math and science classes and if we had questions to ask, sometimes they would seem like stupid questions. We wanted to make a place where it was ok for people to ask stupid questions.

Why do you think girls should learn how to code?

There are two main reasons. The first is that diversity builds a better product and right now software is built by only one demographic. The second is that it’s a financial well-being issue. Tech is a super-high growth-rate field, and if women don’t focus on tech, they’re not going to be able to get jobs.

What led you to become interested in tech? Was there a certain opportunity/event/instance that convinced you, “I want to do this?”

When I was about 11 years old, I got really into computers, particularly BBS (what we had before the Internet) because it provided this great way to meet people. I remember being so amazed and inspired by what you could do with it.

What projects are you focusing on right now?

Girl Develop It. We’re growing very quickly. We just became a nonprofit and we have 17 different chapters.

How were Girl Develop It and Elizabeth & Clarke funded when they were at the early stage? (Self-funded, crowd-funded, Angel Investor, VC)

Both were bootstrapped.

What’s the worst mistake a founder can make?

It’s never easy, but it’s important to stay in the mindset of believing in what you’re doing. Lots of founders often get discouraged because people will constantly speak their opinions about a product, which can often be very different from the founder’s opinion.

When’s the right time to seek funding?

It depends on the company, but I definitely think it’s important to prove the value of a product first, before seeking funding. A great example is GitHub. They’re growing quickly and smartly. They asked for funding after they proved consumer revenue.

What should startups be focusing on in 2013?

They should focus on building hardware solutions. You can have different devices talking to each other to make your life so much easier. For example, I’m obsessed with Tile App—they’ve taken little tiles that you can attach to your personal belongings, such as your keys, bike, etc., and you can use these tiles to locate your personal belongings or share the location of your belongings with someone else by connecting to the tile on your phone, or another device.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Candy Crush. I held off for so long and the other night I couldn’t fall asleep so I tried playing it and now I can’t stop.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 16-year-old-awesome, techie-self?

I would tell myself not to get so caught up with hanging out with friends. I would also tell myself to stop having so much fun, and to focus on believing in myself more. I think we have a tendency to question if we’re right and when you’re that age, you’ll often think that what adults says is right—but that’s not always the case. It’s important to listen to yourself.

What is your favorite mobile app?

I love the Kindle app. I’m able to read books on my iPad and iPhone all the time.

What do you do to help focus?

I’ll often listen to music to get into the zone. I’ll also set little goals for myself, like not checking my email for thirty minutes. I think making little goals like that makes things a lot easier.

Best thing about being a woman in tech?

It’s a really exciting field to be in and everyone is very supportive of you growing and succeeding. It’s also really cool to be different and to feel that your opinion is valued because there aren’t that many of us.

Raine Dalton is WIM’s editorial and community innovation intern. Raine is passionate about finding creative ways to empower women globally through tech. In addition to WIM, Raine has written, tweeted, and posted for the Global Banking Alliance for Women, WITNESS, and 90.7 WFUV News. You can find her work at her website  or get in touch with her through Twitter.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Women Innovate Mobile

Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) is the first startup accelerator focused exclusively on launching and accelerating the growth of women-founded companies in mobile technology. Through its network of mobile experts, mentors and investors, WIM provides women entrepreneurs with the tools, feedback and connections needed to launch and scale their mobile ventures.

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