Phyllis Newhouse is a serial entrepreneur on a mission to empower women, particularly women of color. She is the founder of Xtreme Solutions and also the CEO of Athena, a venture she took public this year, thereby becoming one of the few women whose companies are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
According to Inc., Newhouse has managed more than 20 investments in startups. She is an LP in two early-stage VC funds; she co-founded and runs a non-profit and is a mentor to five entrepreneurs. She sits on the boards of four other companies, nonprofits, and organizations.
Curiously, the investment groups she manages largely comprise women, including the LPs and the non-profit. Beyond populating her businesses with women, Newhouse is also looking at using her experience from the military, her mentorship skills, and financial insight to empower women of color who often struggle to get venture funding.
Newhouse ventured into entrepreneurship following a two-decade career in the military which saw her rise from private to becoming Colin Powell’s choice to start a new command in the army known as the cyber espionage task force.
“Newhouse’s defining skill is subtle and rare: walking into a complex system she doesn’t understand and studying it from all angles until she’s mastered it, as she has done in the disparate realms of the military, government contracting, and late-stage startup investing, a field almost devoid of women of color,” according to Inc.
She first got into the army in 1979 and left her post as a command sergeant major in 2000 to start Xtreme Solutions. Her previous career as a military officer presumably helped her win government and military contracts for I.T. and cybersecurity work.
Within 18 months of setting up the cybersecurity firm, Newhouse was a 200-person company. It grew by at least 42 percent for eight straight years, branching out into the automotive, banking, and retail industries, according to Inc.
The company eventually landed on the Inc. 5000 for the first time in 2013. She was also named Ernst & Young Technology Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. Today, Xtreme Solutions has employees in 46 states and in multiple government and military operations, Inc. added.
Also, Newhouse runs mentorship and financial literacy initiatives to help young women, particularly women of color, get into investing early. She co-founded ShoulderUp, a nonprofit, to achieve this aim.
The nonprofit helps these women with funding rounds. Newhouse also makes seed grants available to young women entrepreneurs.