On March 7, 2023, leaders in the Canadian tech industry came together for the Women Founders Summit, hosted by the DMZ at Toronto Metropolitan University. The event celebrated the accomplishments of women who are active in moving forward Canadian technology and innovation ecosystem. Held in partnership with the Firehood, a women-lead movement and VC fund, the Summit hosted speakers and a pitch competition for female founders. Additionally, the DMZ announced the winners of their 2023 Women of the Year awards – which Interac’s Kashmera Self (VP, Strategy and Emerging Solutions Delivery) was nominated for and won!
The most memorable moments came from the lessons provided by the keynote speakers: Honourable Charmaine Williams (Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity), Claudette McGowan (Co-founder of the Firehood, founder of Protexxa), and Adbulla Snobar (Executive Director of the DMZ) . Here are some key insights that resonated with those in attendance:
- Resiliency fosters success.
Claudette McGowan, spoke of facing rejection from investors. “Instead of being bitter I got better,” she said. This allowed her to forge ahead with her business and find success, by leaning into resiliency.
- Feedback is a gift.
Pitch competitions are a setting where founders can receive beneficial feedback about their business, and presentation style. The speakers encouraged the pitch contestants to be open and receptive to feedback, as it is meant to drive improvement and not to deliver criticism.
- Ambition is contagious.
During the pitch competition, the founders that connected the most with the audience, were those who had big ambitions for their companies. By sharing the ultimate vision for their businesses, the founders that harnessed their ambition inspired enthusiasm among the crowd.
Events like the Women Founders Summit are important not only because of the lessons that can be learned, but also because they address a gap that exists in the tech industry. For many women founders, access to capital is much harder to obtain. Male owned firms are four times more likely to receive venture capital funding than those owned by women (Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, 2020).
The recent events of Silicon Valley Bank and tension on the start-up funding further shows the importance of funding to entrepreneurs – especially female founders who typically are overlooked when raising capital. The Firehood invested $100,000 CAD in the businesses of the pitch competition winners at the Women Founders Summit. This is the most important take-away: the tech industry must address the funding gap that currently exists for women founders to build a more equitable future and sustain innovation in Canada.