Kristen Cooper, the founder and CEO of The Startup Ladies, received the Community Champion of the Year award during TechPoint’s 19th annual Mira Awards gala honoring the best of tech in Indiana.

While working in the tech community herself, Kristen Cooper experienced a series of gender-related problems that she believed she could help to fix. After validating her own beliefs with others, she identified four critical areas for community improvement: 

  • Encouraging Risk-taking – more women need to start scalable tech or tech-enabled companies
  • Being Outnumbered – women don’t like going to networking events where there are hardly any other women
  • Building Infrastructure – women need access to structure, consistency, and accountability to go from idea, to market, to growth
  • Accessing Investors – very few women investors invest in startups because they need more awareness, education or connections



As CEO and Founder of The Startup Ladies, Kristen Cooper is identifying, educating, connecting, and increasing investment in women entrepreneurs who are starting and scaling companies in Central Indiana. The Startup Ladies developed educational programming as a solution to address the aforementioned challenges and is helping to remove the intimidation for women getting involved in a male-dominated field.

Since 2014, Kristen and The Startup Ladies have hosted more than 100 educational events (most of them free to the public) and filled more than 2,000 seats in an effort to encourage inclusiveness and to eliminate barriers for women founders. In May 2017, Kristen left her full-time job as the VP of Operations at software development firm to focus on growing the reach and impact of The Startup Ladies. In August 2017, she launched a paid membership model and now has more than 80 paid members with expansion chapters in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Bloomington.

Kristen Cooper, Founder and CEO, The Startup Ladies. Photo by Polina Osherov.

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The Mira Awards judges think Kristen and The Startup Ladies has filled a crucial role within the tech community in the Greater Indianapolis area that is bringing more women entrepreneurs to the forefront and providing the resources and access to capital that they need to be successful. The judges are impressed by the organization’s rapid growth and expansion into two other Indiana cities as well as the hopeful and approachable environment Kristen has modeled for all genders, races, ages and other identity groups that have traditionally not been closely associated with startup success. The judges also believe Kristen has played a key role in helping the tech community to recognize diversity as a competitive advantage.

The Startup Ladies educates first-time founders through “Startup Study Halls” and first-time funders through “Startup Investing 101” programming. Regular meetups allow attendees to connect with experienced executives and fellow budding entrepreneurs and pitch events increase investment in women-owned ventures by providing MVP micro grants, educating new investors, and making connections between founders and angel investors. Through its “She-Suite” program, The Startup Ladies is also providing a deliberate way to talk about mental health in a professional setting. The goal of this program is to promote emotional, psychological and social well-being for entrepreneurs.



TechPoint, the growth initiative for Indiana’s tech ecosystem, honored the successes and innovation of Indiana companies, entrepreneurs, educators, and other leaders at The JW Marriott Indianapolis during the 19th annual Mira Awards gala presented by Angie’s List, Infosys, and Salesforce.

A total of 15 award winners and two honorable mentions were chosen from the 100+ outstanding companies, organizations, and individuals who were selected as nominees this year out of the 205 applications received highlighting achievements during the 2017 calendar year.


Fifty-two independent, volunteer judges spent more than 850 total hours reviewing and ranking applications, interviewing nominees, and selecting this year’s winners. Judges included company founders, CEOs and presidents; CTOs, CIOs and software developers; professors and chancellors from Indiana universities; design, human resources and sales professionals, and a variety of other subject matter experts.

The Mira Awards are named after the first of the brilliant variable stars to be discovered – the Mira Star. It is also the Latin root meaning “worthy of admiration, wonderful, marvelous.” The awards represent the best of tech in Indiana each year.