The company is not only a graduate of Y Combinator, but was conceived of behind the scenes of the San Francisco accelerator program. Cadran Cowansage, the co-founder and chief executive officer of the startup, was a software engineer at YC from 2016 to early 2019. It was during that stint that she created Leap, a tool meant to help her and her colleagues communicate. Soon enough, she'd granted the entire YC network of female founders access to the tool. Then earlier this year, she decided to spin the company out of YC entirely, rebrand and relaunch as Elpha.
“There’s a velocity that comes with building a startup and the pressure of funding that keeps you moving very fast,” Cowansage, who counts Kuan Luo as a co-founder, said of her decision to make Elpha an independent business.
“I had the idea for a long time,” she told TechCrunch. “I didn’t feel like I really had a big enough network of women who were at my level or a bit further along than I could go to for advice. Things like how do I get this promotion? Or my male peers, they are being paid more than me, what do I do about that? The conversations that are difficult that you really want a woman's perspective on.”
A hybrid social and professional network, Elpha is meant to offer women in tech a dedicated space to communicate via public forums and direct messages, foster relationships and build their careers. The company, which completed YC this summer, is today announcing a $1.1 million round with participation from Y Combinator, the accelerator’s co-founder, CEO and president (Jessica Livingston, Michael Siebel and Geoff Ralston, respectively), as well as Maveron, Moxxie Ventures, JaneVC, Friale, Kabam co-founder and visiting YC partner Holly Liu, Block Party founder Tracy Chou and Breaker co-founder Leah Culver.
The “LinkedIn for women” charges $12,000 in annual subscription fees to companies who use Elpha to identity potential hires. Cowansage said the company currently has 20 paying customers, many of which are venture-backed startups like Lambda School and Webflow. The Elpha team plans to use the seed investment to hire, host events and continue the development of new products, including a mobile app expected out next year.
Ultimately, Cowansage hopes Elpha will bring together women in media, science, medicine and more.
“There's a huge opportunity to bring women together across different industries and also create those sub-communities,” she said. “There’s a ton we can do from here.”