Profile: Suzanne Davenport, Mother of 6 (5 Kids, 1 Company)

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RICHMOND - When we arrive to meet Suzanne Davenport, she confides in us that she hasn't told many people about her stealth startup. She's afraid someone will steal her idea because she's sure that there's a market for her idea. Davenport wants to revolutionize project management, tossing away software made for linear industrial production and replacing it with a simple online service that's tailored to the needs of today's service businesses.

Start-Up NationDavenport does not have the demographic profile of your typical tech entrepreneur. Born and raised in Richmond, she's a mother of five who spent decades banking, parenting, and project managing. In that last career, she struggled with the tools available for project management. They were either based on old-school Gantt charts like Microsoft Project or too much about building a team like Scrum. So after her stint at Virginia Commonwealth University's executive MBA program, she decided to create her own tool. She found a developer, Josh Golub, who just so happens to be her hairdresser's husband, and has spent the last year working on her web application.

If she's atypical in some ways, Davenport is a model startup founder in others. "After I got my MBA, people asked me, 'Why do you do this? Why don't you get a real job?" she told us. "My answer is that I can't not do this. I'm just driven to make this work."

Davenport's background also gives her an advantage that she shares with many good entrepreneurs: she is her own target customer.  After years of doing project management, Davenport is developing the "system that I wanted to have for myself."

In a few months, her new site will launch at smartprojex.com. Until then, she'll keep honing the product and preparing the business plan from her home near VCU.

Image: Alexis Madrigal/The Atlantic.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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