When you think of women in tech, you might think about the lack of gender balance across the industry or some of the challenges women face in the male-dominated space. But, it’s also full of stories of success and innovation - especially in Alberta.
According to the 2018 Technology Deal Flow Study, 30 per cent of tech companies in Alberta have a female founder or co-founder, compared to just 13 per cent across the country.
What’s so special about Alberta? Find out from six women founders and co-founders who are building their businesses, and take a peek inside their minds as they share some of their key advice for women in tech.
Dr. Breanne Everett, CEO and Founder, Orpyx Medical Technologies Inc.
Orpyx Medical is a global leader in medical wearable technology. The company builds wearable tools that optimize health outcomes, with a core focus on saving limbs and improving and extending lives. Orpyx has a 10-year target of eliminating pressure sores and ending preventable diabetic limb loss.
Dr. Everett, who was one of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, said that finding local mentors in her field was challenging. Her advice? "Realize that not all the barriers for women in business are broken down. Sometimes, certain things will be harder than they should be. Let yourself fall and fail, but take a break if you’re struggling to find the energy to push on. Sometimes when this happens to me, I just need a day to breathe - even if it feels like I don’t have the time. When the energy returns, and it will, push on."
Dominque Fraser, Founder and CEO, TeamFund
Team fundraising is something that resonates with a lot of parents. Fraser came up with the idea for TeamFund after having a frustrating experience trying to raise funds for her daughter's soccer team. As a volunteer fundraising coordinator, she kept thinking: there has to be a better way.
TeamFund is an online platform that helps schools, teams and clubs raise funds for their cause, and allows groups to have a unique web page and access all the sales tools they need to reach and exceed their goals.
Fraser, who is originally from Montreal, thinks women in Alberta may have an advantage when it comes to starting a business.
“Having stability in the years prior to starting my business allowed me to take this risk. Being part of a strong economy allowed me to put away money to fund the first year when I wasn’t making any money. A lot of females work really, really hard in our province,” she said.
Christy Hemmingway, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, CNK Tech Inc.
OrigamAI, CNK Tech’s newest product, is an assessment tool for both individuals and organizations to gain awareness of not only professional skills and engagement, but also of mental well-being and the impact of what they call “subjective well-being” on both personal and professional abilities. The assessment provides respondents with the opportunity to gain awareness, and using artificial intelligence, it synthesizes the data to be able to forecast what to expect during various stressors in the organization.
Hemmingway said that she has faced challenges as a woman in the technology sector, but takes a stand when she needs to.
“When somebody does something or says something that doesn't sit right with you, say something about it and push back,” she said.
As for business advice, she said, “It’s really important to do something that is purposeful and meaningful to you. If you’re going to spend all of this time, energy, money and risk, then you should be doing something that you’re actually passionate about and not something that you’re looking for a big payout for - that payout may never come.”
Jenn Hunter, Co-founder and Director of Operations, Project:Recapture Inc
Project:Recapture Inc uses technology to tackle some of the energy industry’s largest administrative burdens - think paper invoices, daily billing and more. The company's software allows businesses to quickly collect digitized billing and uses algorithms to instantly locate errors with accuracy.
Hunter’s role in the business as co-founder and director of operations means she wears many hats, as entrepreneurs often do, and she said she found a lot of success in networking. She has even started her own LinkedIn group, Construction Tech YYC.
“It’s so important to invest in and grow your network, even if it’s challenging. The bigger your network is, the higher the value you can add to each other’s businesses.”
Natasha Spokes, Co-founder and CEO, FarCloser Travel
FarCloser Travel is an online marketplace for travelers looking for niche, multi-day tours that they likely won’t find at their travel agency. A few differentiators for the company are the use of geospatial technology to show all of their trips on one interactive map, providing tools for travelers to connect directly with operators and low fees on confirmed bookings.
Her advice for other women in tech is to “align yourself with professionals who truly support entrepreneurs, not just as part of their sales pitch. When you can build a relationship with them and trust their advice, it takes a lot of worry off your plate so that you can concentrate on growing your business.”
“While surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you helps, sometimes you just have to try things and see how they turn out,” she added.
Patricia Beatty, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, ActiveDEMAND
ActiveDEMAND is an integrated marketing platform that enables marketers, agencies and businesses to uplevel their marketing efforts through streamlined campaign management, campaign recipes and attribution reporting, while integrating with many other online applications.
“The tech industry is really male-dominated and if you're a woman in that industry you need to be ready to fight for your ideas,” Beatty said.
“I think this applies to all women in tech, not just ones who want to start their own business, but if you have a good idea you need to make yourself heard. Too often women take a back seat in discussions or planning or defer to other people's ideas and opinions. If you want to be successful in your career you really need to stand up and be aggressive about getting your ideas out there.”