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Women Killing It In Virtual Reality

Nonny de la Pena, American journalist, documentary filmmaker and “Godmother of VR”

Good news, ladies: women are kind of killing it in virtual reality. This feels like a big deal not because it represents general progress in the tech industry, but because VR won’t really have to be corrected. Think about it: the entire world of gaming was perceived as a boys’ club pretty much until relatively recent data started to make it clear that girls like games too.

Case in point, one set of data found that “adult women” are the most active demographic in gaming – take that, stereotypical boys in basements! But in VR, the way things are looking, no such data sets are ever going to be needed, because women are making an impact from the start.

The way we see it, if we keep highlighting this fact, we’ll avoid ever falling into a misconception about VR being another tech boys’ club. With me? Good! So, as part of that effort, we wanted to point to a few specific women who are getting things done in virtual reality.

Jennifer Scheurle – Opaque Space Game Design Leader

Opaque Space isn’t a huge name in VR unless you pay attention – but once you take a look, it’s representative of some of the most exciting things about the technology. There was an article back in 2016 commenting on some of the potential for gaming in VR that had a lovely bit about exploring new environments, basically discussing how VR could put any ordinary activity into any space. Opaque Space, whose game design leader is  Jennifer Scheurle, exemplifies this basic but fundamental capability, most notably by taking users on a realistic journey to space.

Suzanne Leibrick – ARVR Academy Founder, VR Artist & Storyteller

As you can see from the title and job description above, Suzanne Leibrick does a little bit of everything in this industry. And what’s more, she does it with something of a humanitarian angle. ARVR Academy is a nonprofit whose primary function is to educate communities that might be a little bit behind on AR and VR in the technology. Basically, Leibrick – in addition to being able to put together her own VR experiences – is helping to ensure that there are more Suzanne Leibricks coming from all sides. Not a bad way to affect an industry in its infancy.

Pranee McKinlay – Future State Machine Creative Director, Game Developer

A Medium article from 2016 suggested that VR storytelling wasn’t working and might never work. The author claimed that storytelling itself is a retroactive art form and therefore difficult to carry out within the extraordinarily “present” nature of VR.  We get it, but it never quite rang like a fully damning observation.  And, to support the idea that VR storytelling can work, we have people like Pranee McKinlay.  McKinlay works as a creative director for a company, Future State Machine, that aims specifically to create narrative-driven VR experiences. They’re in the early going with VR, but based on some of their previous games, they’re on the right track.

Christina Heller – VR Playhouse CEO & Co-Founder

Christina Heller is a little bit of a different choice on this list because she’s effectively running a studio, rather than working on the creative or technical end of a gaming company. VR Playhouse produces cinematic experiences in VR and AR, and has already worked with people as big as Ken Burns, and won an award or two. Heller’s work is a nice reminder that VR and AR are important in the entertainment world, beyond pure gaming.

Nonny de la Pena – Emblematic CEO & VR Journalist

Last but certainly not least, we have to touch on the journalism side of things! Articles like this very one are hopefully going to do their part to promote the leading ladies of VR. But it helps to have female voices in the industry generally producing content as well. Nonny de la Pena is doing just that, while running a VR company and giving TED talks. Go get ‘em, Nonny.

Geek Girls Workin’ It Coast to Coast

Sam with Jamie Corley and Kristen Koh Goldstein

With Sam in the Bay Area and Heather in New York, Team GGR has been busy, busy, busy! We started off the week with a reading and panel in Sam’s neck of the woods: Book Passage Corte Madera. Friends and family enjoyed a discussion and a demo of some of the cool tech toys for girls we feature in Chapter 7 of the book. Speakers Sona Dolasia, UC Berkeley computer science student and founder of Reaching Out with Robotics, Jamie Corley, co-founder of TheBridge, and Kristen Koh Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of HireAthena, talked about the need for more women in the startup world, and strategies for inspiring the next generation of girls to pursue STEM studies and careers, particularly in computer science and engineeringSee more here.

Then, it was off to Nashville for Heather and a reunion with some of the managing partners of The JumpFund, the Chattanooga-based investment firm featured in Chapter 3.  The fund invests in women-led tech startups from across the Southeast. Heather had the pleasure of sharing the mission of the book at their “Women Investing in Women” cocktail party where she met female angel investors and entrepreneurs from Memphis, Knoxville and Atlanta.

Women Investing In Women

And the next morning, she moderated an incredible panel at Launch Tennessee’s 36:86 tech and startup conference, addressing the growth of tech and entrepreneurial hubs far away from Silicon Valley and WHY that can be a boon to diverse founders.  Among the rock star line up: Lori Feinsilver, head of corporate responsibility for the investment bank, UBS and the architect behind Rent the Runway Foundation’s Project Entrepreneur, the pitch competition, accelerator and summit for female founders; Leslie Miley, chief engineer of Slack, who also runs Venture for America’s program that matches tech execs with cities that have burgeoning startup hubs like Detroit and Baltimore; and Nick Smoot, founder of Mountain Man Ventures and the Innovation Collective, a boot camp to help communities stimulate local businesses and recruit local talent. Their advice to founders outside of the Valley? Don’t chase funding. First find champions in your own backyard who can help you build the fundamentals of your business first. And, recognize the distinct advantages to building a company outside of the “group think” of SV.  Lots of food for thought.

Heather with Nick Smoot, Lori Feinsilver and Leslie Miley at 36:86 in Nashville

Later in the week,  Heather was honored to be featured in a live interview with Grown and Flown‘s Mary Dell Harrington while Sam was interviewed on Femgineer, the web interview show hosted by its founder Poornima Vijayashanker. We kicked off our Coach of the Month series with ELLE, CSPAN’s Book TV featured GGR and our very first book talk and finally, GGR capped off a fun week with Heather’s fireside chat at the Rye Free Reading Room on Thursday night!

And there’s more to come! Heather will be speaking at the BooksNJ Festival on Sunday, June 11th at the Paramus Public Library. Team GGR will reunite on the West Coast next week with events at Visa, Google and Facebook!  It’s been whirlwind and we are ever so grateful to our friends and family for all of your support.

Thank you!

Heather and Sam

 

What a Launch!

 

Well, our book celebrated its birthday this week and we were overwhelmed by all of the love you sent our way. Thank you for making this occasion a special one for us co-authors and for all of the people who helped make the project a reality.

With Sam in from San Francisco, our big week in New York was packed with events and media interviews. One of the coolest things that happened was getting to listen to the new Geek Girl Rising trivia game on the Google Home, powered by Google Assistant!  Check out the video above.

Fireside chat with Jane Francisco, Editor-in-Chief, Good Housekeeping

We also had the honor to speak to dozens and dozens of women in technology, entrepreneurship and law this week. From a book talk at IAC Apps and Vimeo to a Lean In lunch with the women’s organization at law firm Simpson Thacher& Barlett to our fireside chat with the amazing Jane Francisco, Editor-in-Chief of Good Housekeeping at our book party (co-hosted by GH, Perkins Coie, Civic Hall and Sofia Coppola Rose),  the reaction to our message and mission was energizing.

Our culminating NYC event,  presenting at Google on Thursday afternoon to a crowd of Googlers and members of the Harvard Business School Women’s Alumni Association of Greater New York, could not have been more exciting.

Fireside chat at Google
Fireside chat at Google

In addition to a fireside chat about GGR, we also were honored to host a dynamite panel of leading women in entrepreneurship and venture finance. Tiffany Pham, founder and CEO of Mogul; Kay Koplovitz, cofounder and managing director of Springboard Accelerator and Springboard Fund; and Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, weighed in on the ups and downs of leading a startup and what it takes to be successful. Persistence, focus on solving a problem and always being open to learning new things were key takeaways and we are grateful for their willingness to share their wisdom with the packed audience.

We had some cool media coverage this week, including a great interview on Yahoo Finance and were featured in Glamour magazine! WATCH US on Good Morning America on MONDAY 5/29 in the 8:30 half hour when we unveil the top toys to inspire a new generation of Geek Girls!!

Thanks again to everyone who helped us get to this point – especially our husbands and children. It was a long road and we are grateful!

LISTEN: Preview the GGR Audio Book!

One of the fun things we got to do to prepare for the publication on May 23 was to narrate the audio book. We have just a few days left until Geek Girl Rising hits the streets and along with Kindle and hard cover options, we are psyched to let you know about the audio version. We just got the chance to take a listen and are excited to share it here with you.  Enjoy!

Launching A Book is Like Launching a Startup

Hot off the press!

Writing a book is an entrepreneurial endeavor but promoting it and pushing it out into the world is truly like running an early stage venture.  There’s too much to do and not enough time and resources and yet so much passion for this project on our team. It’s all hands on deck 24/7 East Coast and West.  Our families are feeling it so please let us take this opportunity to say thank you to our husbands and children for supporting us in this crunch time. Please know we love you even if we are still answering email at 11pm.

The good news is that the hard work is paying off and this was a HUGE week for us at Geek Girl Rising.

First off, the physical books arrived at the St. Martin’s Press offices! Editor Vicki Lame snapped this photo as soon as they arrived. Thank you!!

Next, Heather spent the bulk of her week narrating the audio book in Manhattan and happily reliving her broadcaster days in the booth.  

Reading the book aloud actually felt more reminiscent of the years she competed on the speech team in high school rather than reading a news story.  Heather spent her teen years competing in the “serious prose” category in which she had to change her intonation to make the voices of the “characters” come to life and that’s a bit like what narrating the book entailed. Coached along by supportive producer and engineer Matie Agiropolous, Heather found that recording a book takes a tremendous amount of focus and work.  After the first day,  and reading 100 pages, she was told to rest her voice and drink tea with honey.

Heather and Matie worked on it over three days and in about 12 hours (with breaks) they managed to get through all seven chapters. The audio book will be released on May 23 with all other editions of GGR.   We hope you like it!

And if narrating the audio book wasn’t thrilling enough, we were humbled to receive two fantastic shout outs in the press this week.  The Wall Street Journal named GGR one of the books to read for geeks this spring and Marie Claire dedicated a whole page to some of the female tech bosses in the book.

Finally, we got serious about our pre-order campaign and kicked off a fun bonus giveaway to anyone who pre-orders the book.  We’ll send you an autographed book plate and two adorable laptop decals.  Please pre-order and help us spread the word! Thank you!

Preorder Giveaway Decals & Book Plate

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