If you have to ask who Sona Mehring is, you’re missing the big story. Mehring is a leading tech entrepreneur in Minnesota and certainly among the great women tech entrepreneurs in the U.S. Armed with a computer science degree from U.W.-Eau Claire, she has led the creation of a number of Minnesota tech service and consulting companies, with software related to online ordering systems and fantasy sports leagues, among other things. Her vision early in the days of the internet was to how to use this new powerful technology to serve people.
In 1997, she set up the first CaringBridge site to help a friend with a difficult pregnancy. Built on “compassion technology,” CaringBridge.org
has become one of the most successful online healthcare community sites in the world and certainly one of the most successful web properties to come out of Minnesota. It is a standard place around the world for families experiencing medical challenges to share information with their social group and get support and connection. In the last twelve months, the site had more than 42 million unique visitors
. All this from a non-profit that was originally a side project! This is true game-changing internet technology. Forget about Zuckerberg and Bezos. We have Mehring!
Sona Mehring Facts:
- Mehring graduated with a computer science degree from U.W.-Eau Claire in 1983.
- She has been a software engineer/consultant for large enterprise, including General Dynamics, Unisys and GMAC ResCap.
- Mehring has led the creation of several software/tech companies, including Beacon Point Technologies, Plan Analytics, Inc. and Diamond Computer Solutions.
- She founded CaringBridge in 1997 and incorporated it as a non-profit in 2002.
- With a tiny marketing budget and supported almost completely by individual donations of $65 or less, the CaringBridge website gets traffic from all 50 states and more than 225 countries and gets monthly unique visitors in the 2-3 million range (2.4 million in Sept. 2010 – compete.com).
- The CaringBridge site has 100s of 1000s of individual medical info sharing sites, which are privacy-controlled by users and blocked from indexing by search engines, spiders and bots.
- Among Mehring’s awards/recognitions are:
- One of 25 Women Industry Leaders in the Twin Cities in 2009 by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
- Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding service to the community in 2008.
- Recognition by MSN.com in 2006 as one of the U.S.’s leading Women Working for Change.
- 2004 Volvo for Life Award Nominee.
Sona Mehring Quotes:
- “There wasn’t anything where you could just make a few clicks and set up your own webpage [when we started CaringBridge in 1997].”
- “CaringBridge meets an event-based need… We have to be in that event-awareness bubble.”
- Families have told CaringBridge that “this type of service helped them the most throughout their [hospital] experience.”
- “Facebook is all about you. CaringBridge is all about someone else. But Facebook is a great channel for us… to spread awareness.”
- “The spirit that CaringBridge was founded on was that I always wanted it to be free… and free from obtrusive ads. This is a very sensitive and important conversation that’s going on, and it needs to be protected and sacred.”
Adapted from a blog post on www.tech.mn.