Growing up in a small town in the industrial heart of Germany, Bettina Hein, SM ’07, always wanted to be an engineer. “But in Europe it was not something a girl would do,” she says. So Hein went into business instead. All four of her grandparents had been entrepreneurs; she followed in their footsteps, studying business at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.
It was in Switzerland that she met the founders of the text-to-speech company SVOX. She signed on as CFO/COO in 2001, and over the next five years she raised $8 million to help put SVOX technology in cars from Audis to Volkswagens. For her second act, Hein became a Sloan Fellow at MIT—where she was finally able to take engineering classes—and conceived the idea for her new company, Pixability.
“I saw what was happening in video … with the cost of bandwidth, editing, and equipment all going down, and the amount of content going up,” says Hein. “I saw an opportunity.” She founded a company at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) and started developing software to place advertising on YouTube for brands including L’Oreal and Puma.
“I didn’t know anyone when I came here, and I found people who were willing to listen and support me and put up money for my ideas,” she says. Most important, she found people like her. “I didn’t know a single female tech entrepreneur in the whole country of Switzerland,” she says. Here, she bumped into them wherever she went. “Boston is Disneyland for female entrepreneurs,” she says. To capitalize on that, she founded a networking group for female CEOs, called SheEOs, whose members include Care.com’s Sheila Marcelo and the Startup Institute’s Diane Hessan.
When her company grew too big for CIC but still couldn’t afford its own space in Kendall Square, Hein reluctantly moved across the river to Boston’s North End. She still lives in the neighborhood, though, and drops her daughter off at day care in the Genzyme building on her way to work, glad to remain connected to Kendall’s “whole community of people doing awesome stuff.”