Accel Partners

Inside the connected world of female web moguls

June 16, 2011: 1:16 PM ET

Female web entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to each other for funding tips and business advice, marking the beginnings of a new chapter for women in e-commerce.

By Pamela Ryckman, contributor

FORTUNE -- Platform heels and designer dresses are not sartorial standards at most Internet Week events in New York, which wrapped up earlier this week. With their bursts of colorful high-fashion, the 50 women in technology who gathered in midtown last week for a Calliope Group networking breakfast could have easily come across as an affront to stereotypical techies.

But make no mistake: this was a room full of geeks. These women, who are mostly in their twenties and thirties, have launched what they hope will be high-growth online companies. And, more and more, they are turning to their peers to exchange funding tips, run their businesses, and ultimately, create wealth.

"These women are now friends. We all hang out and support each other and recommend each other for panels," says Dina Kaplan, co-founder of, a site that features original web video, and Calliope Group's organizer. "It's a very serious, solid base from which business deals are forming."

So Alexa Hirschfeld, co-founder of Paperless Post, a purveyor of online stationery, knows Laurel Touby, who sold her company, Mediabistro, for $23 million in 2007; who knows Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Foodspotting, an Internet food guide; who knows Brooke Moreland, co-founder of Fashism, a fashion advice site.

An informal female-owned business incubator

These young female CEOs have a shared set of common experiences, and they talk non-stop about work. While the companies that these women are developing (or have already launched) span the industries -- from finance to real estate to fashion to art -- they are almost all web-based. As a result, these women founders have become each other's strategic advisers. Their informal interactions function as de facto incubators and, increasingly, money is flowing their way.

"Any time there's been the equivalent of an 'Arab spring' in some industry, it's because people are communicating and sharing," says Susan Lyne, the chairman of Gilt Groupe, who is among the experienced female executives who speak and circulate at Calliope Group events. More

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