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The future of forecasting: How Granularity uses AI and big data to bridge the industry’s supply and demand gap

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The future of forecasting: How Granularity uses AI and big data to bridge the industry’s supply and demand gap

On Wednesdays, we startup.

To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup,’ a blog series dedicated to positioning women founders centre stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins!

We hope to push women-founder stories forward and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs.

This week, we had the pleasure of chatting Tali Remennik, the Founder of Granularity, to learn more about her startup and how she’s infusing demand forecasting with AI and big data to bridge the supply and demand gap in the sector.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you founded Granularity?

“As a data scientist and ex-management consultant, I’ve witnessed first-hand how helpful data science and machine learning can be in solving large-scale problems. I have personally used these methods to help major retailers combat fraud, help governments reduce the risk of traffic accidents and help uncover the underlying barriers to women gaining leadership positions.

Demand forecasting is an issue that consistently resurfaces due to its challenges – and being the engine of every retail business – it can affect a company’s ability to compete in the market. The sector is too often overlooked and issues are starting to trickle out, making consumers take notice. Last year when TikTok had the feta cheese pasta craze we saw a nationwide shortage in feta cheese. The need for demand forecasting is increasing while the sector remains stagnant in producing any new solutions.

This is exactly why Granularity was founded and we are excited to be able to drive progress and remedy this critical issue.”

Laptop screen with forecasting metrics - Granularity blog

What exactly is Granularity’s mission?

“In five years, I can’t imagine a world where retailers aren’t using near real-time consumer data to make decisions about what inventory to order. Consumers are actively communicating their excitement for products on social media and expect their favourite retailers to stock them. Retailers want to listen, and business leaders in the planning sector are eager to bring this data to the forefront of their decision making.

That being said, I know that it’s not easy to decipher the thousands of signals that are being sent daily – from TikTok to Instagram.

And that’s what we’re here to do – help retailers understand how trends can impact their sales. We provide their teams with the actionable consumer insight they need to make decisions.”

Tali, you’ve spent a majority of your career working in AI consulting. What made you decide to make the leap to leave the corporate world and found your own startup?

“When I was younger, I used to imagine being a positive leader – inspiring people to live their passion and purpose. The vision of being a leader has stuck with me and is something that I continue to aspire to do daily. Having my dad, who runs a franchise, only added to this vision and gave me an entrepreneur to look up to. Once that entrepreneurial seed was planted in my brain, I knew I needed to dive in head first.

My time at Accenture is what really gave me the building blocks I needed to start my business. The clients I worked with and the network I was able to create through my experience working in consulting were the key to unlocking curated resources that I could use to position myself as an entrepreneur. This is what allowed me to build a strong foundation and be comfortable embarking on my own entrepreneurial venture. Now that I have been working on growing the company, I am realizing there is truly no other experience that can substitute building a business from the ground up.”

The supply chain industry has been largely dominated by giants for decades. However, over the last 5 years, there has been a significant spike of supply chain management and logistics related startups entering the market. What do you think is the biggest misconception of the space and the influx of new startups?

“Everyone outside of the industry assumes that there is already technology for demand planning and that the market’s problems have been solved. It’s only the parties in the space that understand the lack thereof.

Through working with a few seasoned executives, it was expressed to us that retail and point of sale technologies were largely ignored until the mid-90s, where there was a huge spur of new technology. That was over 20 years ago. It has been almost three decades since the last wave of innovation in supply chain – and more specifically, demand planning. The market was in need of this technology years ago, companies could’ve gotten ahead of the curve.

This is exactly what Granularity is doing for our partners – helping them get ahead of their competitors by predicting and acting on early signs of demand in the market.”

Shipping containers - Granularity blog

The amount of women in the supply chain workforce jumped to 41% in 2021 up from 39% in 2020. However, every leadership level saw an increase in representation except the executive level where there has been a slight decline. Have you had a chance to work with leading women in the space?

“There is always a need to encourage more women to enter the space – there is so much to do and having diverse perspectives will undoubtedly get us there faster.

Granularity is honoured to be partnering with incredible female leaders in the industry. They have a vision of what needs to get done and understand that they need a unique take of the external market to get there. Ultimately, although we are the ones building the solution, I feel like a lot of the visionary ideas come from them.”

What’s next in store for Granularity?

“We are building partnerships with retailers across Canada and the United States to test our minimum viable product. These partnerships are an exciting opportunity for companies to receive actionable consumer insights for their product lines.”

If you work for a retailer, either as a demand planner or merchandise buyer, and want to contribute your ideas to the future of forecasting; please sign-up to provide feedback on Granularity’s product here.

 

If you are a leader at a retail organization and have been continuously talking about improving your demand forecasting, Granularity is actively seeking partnerships. Please reach out here!

Revolutionizing insurtech: How Baoba is providing customized insurance products with efficient returns across the globe

On Wednesdays, we startup.

To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’, a blog series dedicated to putting women founders centre stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins!

We hope to push women-founder stories forward and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs.

This week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Kata Ludvig, the Founder of Baoba, to learn more about her startup and how she’s modernizing the insurance industry to keep up with expectations of the 21st  century customer.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you founded Baoba?

I spent my early career working across various Fortune 500 companies, including Mercedes, Red Bull and Walt Disney. I was first exposed to the world of startups when I co-founded BankZee, a family banking solution for Generation Zers and their parents. I then led Flight Refund as CEO, a legal aid solution for travelers and also consulted for location intelligence and deeptech company Datapolis where I spearheaded business development in Singapore. It was only last December I finally decided to take the plunge and found my current startup Baoba.

It was actually during my time at Flight Refund, where we dealt with delay-related airline compensation cases, that I saw the need for flexible travel protection as an aftermath of the pandemic. Three weeks after I had joined the company as CEO, over 90% of planes were grounded due to the pandemic. This is when the significance of financial protection and the need for flexible insurance really hit me and it inspired me to radically rethink insurance products beyond airline delays. Users today don’t have access to personalized insurance coverages – it’s still a one-size-fits-all product. In a world where we customize almost every aspect of our lives, insurance coverage was falling behind.

Airplanes on tarmac - How Baoba is revolutionizing insurtech

What exactly is Baoba’s mission?

Baoba is on a mission to change the way insurance is sold – we believe that the insurance industry needs to catch up to the expectations of the 21st century customer.

Baoba is offering what today’s customers need – a personalized and automated on-demand service that can insure. By providing personalized insurance that can adapt to our customers’ habits and lifestyles, we hope to become the global ecosystem orchestrator for intermediaries and resellers for on-demand insurance needs.

Despite Baoba being an early stage startup, you’ve already set up shop in Canada, the United States and Hungary. How has your experience been working across global markets? How important was it for you to have a global presence?

The decision to break into new markets was not only a conscious decision made by the company, but a necessity due to the nature of the industry. Our distributors and insurance partners operate internationally, so we had to make our products available globally and adopt a multi-market mindset from the get-go. We have an international team scattered across the world spanning Hungary, Italy, Turkey, France, Costa Rica and the United States.

While working globally has its benefits it also has its difficulties as well, including administering payroll and working across timezones. Public facing efforts also need to be managed more carefully, like public relations in different countries and multilingual customer support.

Our global presence is also extremely important from an investment perspective. Being a CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) Founder, it’s tough to break into the North American market. However, we’ve been able to attract talent, partners and angel investors from all over the world. I have no doubt that the DMZ will play a huge role in supporting us as we break into new markets and finesse our North-American go-to-market strategy.

The insurtech market has skyrocketed globally, projected to reach nearly $190 billion CAD by 2030. Could you tell us a little about the momentum the industry is facing?

It’s easy for millennials and Gen Zers to take personalized products and services for granted, as this has become the norm. Today, almost every aspect of our lives is customizable, and the financial and banking industries have been cashing in on this movement.

Insurance at its core is a hassle for most of us, as a result of inconveniences such as manual claims processing, lengthy documents, confusing language, unclear conditions, and long payout processes.

Insurtechs have not only recognized that there is an issue to solve, but have also identified opportunities to improve the insurance value chain. This ranges from improving claims processes, to AI and machine learning-driven solutions, to data-driven fraud detection and customizable insurance products.

Girl working at computer - How Baoba is revolutionizing insurtech

Baoba recently announced a partnership with Blink Parametrics to roll-out a flight-delay solution. What exactly does this new partnership mean for Baoba?

Our partnerships with Blink Parametric enables us to further expand our client portfolios with valuable, automated and on-demand travel insurances that are supported by claim processing and real-time pay-out solutions. This is our sweet spot – where world-class insurtech and customer experience collides.

Now our partners can connect to our platform with a single API to embed parametric products or sell standalone products.

What advice would you give founders looking to break into the insurtech space?

  • Think fresh – A background in insurance isn’t necessary, having a novel idea and asking the right questions are your way in. Someone who has worked in the industry for say, 20 years might be too comfortable to shine light on a new perspective that reflects the needs of the current market.
  • Know your purpose – Narrow down a clear value proposition and strategy, and focus on building that. As you grow, you will be presented with many opportunities and emerging innovations in various areas of the industry. It can be very tempting to differentiate and try to tackle several areas, but you don’t want to take away from your core offerings, values and promises.
  • It’s a small world – Despite being a global industry, insurance industry insiders are well-connected through incumbents, insurtechs, challengers and investors. It’s crucial to network and build strong relationships, as well as have a solid unique selling proposition.

What’s next in store for Baoba?

Baoba’s next steps include closing an upcoming seed round of $1.5M USD and expanding into North America. We are also looking for niche talent working at the cusp of data science and insurance to help us flesh out an intricate product strategy and bridge our minimum viable product with our five year vision.

Head over to Baoba’s website to learn more about how Kata is revolutionizing the insurance industry.

 

Want to learn more about how you can help Baoba on their journey? Reach out to their team at hello@gobaoba.com.

Meet Senia Wang, the studentpreneur with a sustainable take on the pet industry

On Wednesdays, we startup.


To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’, a blog series dedicated to putting women founders centre stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins! 

We hope to push women founder stories forward and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs.

We recently sat down with Senia Wang, the Co-Founder and COO of Charmy Pet, to learn more about the company and their commitment to creating ethically and sustainably sourced pet products, as well as Senia’s experience as a woman studentpreneur.

Charmy Pet is a pet nutrition platform and monthly subscription service built to address the importance of individualized diets for pets.

“I think the work we are doing at Charmy Pet can really change the pet food industry. Not only are we providing pet owners with products free from added preservatives, we are fully transparent with where our products are sourced, empowering pet owners to make informed decisions.” Their technology evaluates each pet’s nutritional needs based on breed, age, activity level, and more. Providing personalized pet food, Charmy Pet allows pet owners to track exactly where their ingredients are being sourced, and track their orders in real time. 

The need for real and sustainable products

“Research shows us that pets’ lives are shortened by about 20% today, compared to other centuries in history. This — in large part  — is due to their diets.” 

Senia explains that a lot of pet food today is extremely processed. A majority of manufacturers today use extrusion, a process that uses high heat to turn ingredients into kibble, which removes up to 40% of the ingredients nutrients. 

“At Charmy Pet we want to provide nutritious and sustainably sourced ingredients for pet owners. We believe that long and healthy lives for pets begin with their diets.”  

Supporting Canadian farmers, Charmy Pet sources a majority of its meat from across Alberta and Ontario and is an official partner of Ocean Wise Seafood, meaning its seafood is certified sustainably sourced.

Wanting to be as transparent with their customers as possible, Charmy Pet has incorporated a QR code onto the packaging of their products, allowing customers to quickly access a list of ingredients and details on how and where the protein was sourced.

“Our team consists of environmentalists, and we wanted to create products we could be proud of. The pet food industry has not stepped up when it comes to providing nutritious and ethical products pet owners can feel proud about giving to their furry friends — we knew it was important to adapt to the environmentally-conscious consumer.”

“The pet food industry has not stepped up when it comes to providing nutritious and ethical products pet owners can feel proud about giving to their furry friends — we knew it was important to adapt to the environmentally conscious consumer.”

The realities of being a woman founder

Senia highlights that women founders typically have more responsibilities to juggle and face various external pressures in comparison to their male counterparts. 

“It’s easy to get distracted from others’ expectations of us. While we have seen some change, I do think women with ambitious career goals are still undervalued and are not taken as seriously as men. 

Our performance as women is valued according to different parameters than males, across different areas of life, and it’s important for the ecosystem to eliminate these biases. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what stage of life you’re at, if you have a business idea that you think will serve a purpose, just do it. ”

She encourages all aspiring women innovators to dive right in.

“There is never going to be a perfect time to start a business, so just start however you can. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from doing what you want.”

Juggling school and a growing business

When not working on Charmy Pet, Senia is busy with her undergraduate degree. A 3rd year student at Ryerson University, Senia is studying Hospitality and Tourism Management.

When it comes to balancing school life and Charmy Pet, Senia underscores the importance of organization and having a solid Co-Founder. 

“I have a strong relationship with my Co-Founder, Zach Sheng. We are both supportive, and keep each other accountable when it comes to both school and Charmy Pet. 

We’re strong in different areas. He takes on more of the business development, whereas I lead marketing and customer acquisition. Having a Co-Founder whose skills are complementary to yours is vital, and ensures our time is being used efficiently.”

Want to learn more about Charmy Pet’s products? Head over to their website here.

 

Save 30% on your first order and get free shipping with code CharmyFirstBox.

 

Make sure to follow the DMZ on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram to follow our ‘On Wednesdays we startup’ women founder series.

 

To learn more about the Women Founders Programs, visit dmz.to/womenfounders

Demystifying menopause: How Womaneze is helping women navigate menopause and regain control

On Wednesdays, we startup.


To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’, a blog series dedicated to putting women founders center stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins! 

We hope to push women-founder stories forward and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs. 

This week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Salma El-Yassir and Marijana Novakovic, the Co-Founders of Womaneze, to learn more about their startup, how they’re helping women navigate menopause, and their hopes for the future of the femtech industry. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves, and how you founded Womaneze?

We are two women who have crossed the threshold of 60! We both went through menopause and had difficulties with it, but at the time, there was very little information and support available for women. 

As a result of hormonal changes, we had both been battling the extra pounds that come with menopause. We met for the first time through an online forum for managing weight. Eventually, we became good friends, travelling to visit each other with our families in our respective home countries!

We had hundreds of conversations about our experiences battling the physical, psychological and social onslaught of menopause without any tangible support – all while holding down jobs and raising our families. 

Despite being well-informed on health matters, we both felt blind-sided by menopause – the topic of menopause isn’t openly spoken about, making it a taboo topic in women’s health. It is only referred to with a witty smirk or an embarrassing silence, even though it affects every single woman alive.

That’s when we decided to team up and found Womaneze, a platform that we would have only dreamed of when going through menopause. 

Marijana is a lawyer and an ex-banker, and Salma worked in both healthcare and development. We decided to leave our respective jobs to work for ourselves and create a company that reflected what we stood for.

Supporting women through menopause was something that we both cared deeply about, and we knew it was time to take the leap and make a positive change. 

As our next step, we both pursued postgraduate education. Salma has a Master of Public Health and a Master’s of Public Administration, the latter from Harvard, and Marijana has a Master of Laws specializing in EU Law, and HR. We each held senior management positions in our respective fields, and are trained and certified coaches, which is very helpful in creating safe spaces for women to interact and share their own experiences of menopause. Our skills are complementary, which allows us to focus on our strengths and be supportive of one another. 

What exactly is the Womaneze platform, and what is it trying to accomplish?

Womaneze helps women navigate menopause and regain control naturally. It’s a platform that aims to normalize the experience of menopause by bringing the subject out into the open, so women do not have to suffer in silence and feel alone. 

We’re proud to say our community has over 44,000 women who engage with us and with each other on a daily basis. 

Womaneze takes a scientific, but non-medical approach, to menopause. We focus on how a woman can help herself, and others around her, to better understand menopause by using holistic strategies that have been proven by science. 

Of course, there are women who require medical assistance during menopause, but for the majority, it is a natural (yet challenging) transition. We help women understand what is going on in their bodies, what to expect, and how to reduce the negative effects of hormonal changes.

We are creating a space where women can speak openly about their own experiences, and find information and support. We support women through normalization, information and communication. We do this by: 

  • Shedding light on the 47+ symptoms of menopause. Most women are surprised to learn that their symptoms are menopause-related, or that perimenopause can begin in your early 40’s.
  • Allowing them to express their doubts, fears, and worries. Often overlooked compared to the physical effects, there are psychological effects caused by changing hormones. When women are surrounded by others in the same boat, they feel empowered to share stories and strategies that help them cope. 
  • Making research accessible. We highlight natural ways for women to help themselves by curating research.  
  • Helping with hot flashes through tech. We have developed an app that focuses on helping women find natural ways of dealing with hot flashes. 70-80% of women going through menopause will experience hot flashes and in some cases, they can be debilitating.

We help women understand what is going on in their bodies, what to expect, and how to reduce the negative effects of hormonal changes.

What have been your top lessons learned since starting Womaneze? 

  1. The importance of clear communication between founders. A good working relationship among founders is the basic building block of a successful startup. Learning to manage differences of opinion (often strong ones) in a productive manner is very important.
  2. Finding a co-founder with complementary skills. No one can be the best at everything. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is key, as is leveraging the strengths of others. Knowing when it’s best to get out of the way and letting others do what they do best is essential.  
  3. Don’t be wedded to a single idea. Continuously collect data and adjust as you go along. Data and metrics help illuminate the way and avoid costly mistakes.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Being an entrepreneur is about taking risks and learning from them!
  5. Being an entrepreneur can be very tough. There is so much to learn and juggle. Make sure to manage your own doubts and fears and keep your head above water!

The femtech space has certainly been growing, as there has been a boom of new products and services developed to support women’s health. However, only 5% of femtech startups address menopause. Why do you think this is the case?

One of the main reasons is the lack of funding and investment, as women-founded startups receive far less funding than male-founded ones. In 2020, women-founded startups received 2.3% of all VC funding.

The ecosystem has an age bias that tends to favour younger founders, who are often less likely to be interested in menopause. People often have an image of what a founder looks like — a 20-something male and who only survives on ramen and works 24/7. 

Women entrepreneurs who are more likely to be interested in the menopause space are less likely to fit the false pretences of what founders ‘should’ look like. 

The consumer technology revolution has only really taken off in the past couple of decades, with the use of smartphones becoming almost ubiquitous. The generation of women used to managing their health and tracking their data is only now beginning to enter perimenopause and explore solutions to help manage their health. 

Today, there are a plethora of period and fertility tracking apps in comparison to menopause apps. This trend is beginning to shift as more tech-savvy women begin to enter the menopause transition. 

There is also the undeniable — the taboo nature of the subject. Like fertility issues (another taboo subject until recently), menopause is an aspect of being a woman. Historically, society has placed a large emphasis on the fertility of women. Menopause announces the end of fertility and this can be difficult, leaving many women feeling invisible.

For all the progress that society has made in the gender equality arena, this remains an issue that needs to be addressed, and many startups are beginning to do so. Menopause is not sexy; men often cringe when it comes up, and younger women often feel that it is irrelevant to them, as it is a ways away.

People often have an image of what a founder looks like — a 20-something male and who only survives on ramen and works 24/7.  Women entrepreneurs who are more likely to be interested in the menopause space are less likely to fit the false pretences of what founders ‘should’ look like.

Menopause support has been identified as the next game-changer in the global femtech industry. As new startups look to enter the space, what do you hope for the industry to achieve at large?

We hope that the voices of the 1 billion women in menopause are heard. 

We hope new startups in the space call out the organizations and industries that need to step up and pay more attention to older women. 

The needs of women in menopause change — their skin changes, their hair changes, even the way perfume smells on their skin changes. The beauty and clothing industries need to pay more attention to this demographic, and cater their services and products to better suit their needs. 

More importantly, the workplace needs to accommodate women who are in the different stages of menopause. Women often have to leave their jobs because of the overwhelming nature of certain symptoms. There is a huge opportunity for HR policies to adapt and support their women staff, similarly to providing maternity and paternity leave. 

A supported employee is a happier and more productive one.

We’d like to see more women in menopausal transition come out from the shadows and demand better products and services that cater to their particular needs. The way menopause is discussed and managed needs to change completely. 

Femtech founders have faced challenges in fundraising, as a majority of VC investors are men. Apart from market opportunity, why should more investors look into supporting femtech, and products and solutions that support women going through menopause?

Market opportunity and return on investment (ROI) are the primary reasons that investors decide to invest. However, there are more and more investors who are beginning to define ROI by more than just profit, but social good.

Every investor, regardless of gender, has a vested interest in bettering the lives and health of women. They have daughters, sisters, friends and mothers. Women account for half of the population, and addressing women’s health improves the diversification of investor portfolios.  

What advice would you give to founders looking to break into the femtech space?

We think it is very important for founders to really understand the niche that they are addressing. Listening to what women want and are really looking for is essential. 

Younger women have a different attitude towards their health and what they expect. They are more vocal about what they need and are beginning to reject societal norms that have been created by advertisers and society. 

They are demanding a different approach, which incorporates a less prescriptive attitude, and validates their unedited experiences with their own bodies.  

Femtech should be less about the tech and more about the needs of women. Although tech is ‘sexy’ we must remember that it’s an enabler to solve an issue, not the solution itself. It’s important for people on the tech side to be fully immersed in understanding the problem. We found that having a female CTO was crucial, as the work was also relevant to her and she genuinely cared about it.

Founders looking to break into femtech should make sure their team is reflective of the women they are looking to support. At the very least, the startup should have women as close advisors. Experiencing the issue firsthand leads to a deeper understanding and, therefore, a better product.

Femtech should be less about the tech and more about the needs of women. Although tech is ‘sexy’ we must remember that it’s an enabler to solve an issue, not the solution itself.

Are there any women founders that you both look up to for inspiration? 

We admire courageous and forward-thinking entrepreneurs such as:

  • Sarah Blakely, the Founder and CEO of Spanx, for her tenacity and unwillingness to listen to the nay-sayers, and for making Spanx a huge success.
  • Nadia Boujarwah, the Co-Founder and CEO of Dia&Co, for her tenacity and belief in her vision that led her to create a successful company with over 145 employees. She saw a need for fashionable and fun oversized clothing, and she went out and created it. She had to speak to around 100 investors before she could get investors to see her vision. 
  • Rochelle Weitzner, the CEO of Pause, a well-aging company creating skincare products for women in menopause. We love her concept of well-aging rather than anti-aging. 
  • Sonsoles Gonzalez, the CEO and Founder of Better Not Younger, a company creating hair care products for menopausal women.

What’s in store for Womeneze? 

Womaneze is in the process of launching its first premium features for the Hot Flash Help app as well as launching a space for women to find products that help with menopause.We have a list of premium features that we will be introducing in the next few months. Women will be able to specify what issues they want to track, and export data in a format that helps them address their hot flashes with their health provider. 

We will also be including a feature where women are matched with other women to create support groups based on issues they are experiencing in menopause, interests, or geographical location.

Womaneze will be offering a 60% discount for premium features until mid-September 2021. Head over to their website to learn more. 


Make sure to follow the DMZ on
Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram to follow our ‘On Wednesdays we startup’ women founder series. 


To learn more about the Women Founders Programs, visit
dmz.to/womenfounders.

Women founders empowering women founders: How Nouhaila Chelkhaoui is uplifting women-led startups

On Wednesdays, we startup.


Women tech founders drive innovation and the tech ecosystem – when women-led businesses are thriving, the economy at large thrives.

It’s no ecosystem secret that women founders face disproportionate barriers when starting and growing a business in comparison to their male counterparts. Women are often denied business loans because of gender and cultural biases, and women of colour, in particular, face even greater barriers when it comes to accessing startup capital. 

Add in a global pandemic, and women entrepreneurs had one more ball to juggle. On average, women faced greater economic stress, and an increased burden for caregiving and housework. 

We have marvelled at the resilience demonstrated by women founders, and are truly honoured to support them along their entrepreneurial journeys.

To celebrate our women-identifying founders, we’ve put together ‘On Wednesdays we startup’, a blog series dedicated to putting women founders center stage to acknowledge their work, complexities and wins!

We hope to push women-founder stories forward, and share lessons learned and insights for other aspiring women entrepreneurs. 

To kick off the series, we sat down with Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, Manager of the Women Founders Programs at the DMZ to learn about what inspired her to pursue a career in the innovation sector, and her vision for the ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’ series.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I came to Canada at the age of 17 from Morocco – all by myself. I went to the University of Toronto where I studied political science. After graduating, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. So, I decided to leave Canada temporarily, travelled back to Morocco, and spent almost one year in Turkey where I taught English.

This was the most formative year I’ve had to date. It was the year I realized what I wanted to do – and I decided to come back to Canada to work in the startup ecosystem.

I landed a job at a tech startup helping newcomers access Canadian healthcare. A couple of years later, I started attending the DMZ’s women in tech events. After connecting with the DMZ community, I ended up working with the DMZ and today I manage the Women Founders Programs. 

A few years into my time here, I realized I also had a dream of being an entrepreneur myself, so I decided to found Scale Without Borders.

When I’m not working at the DMZ, I spend my time working on the Scale Without Borders platform that helps Canadian newcomers navigate the tech ecosystem. As a newcomer myself who didn’t have access to the necessary support systems and networks, I wanted to give back to those who faced similar challenges.

What motivated you to pursue a role that supports startup founders?


With a background in political science, I used to think that the only way to solve complex global challenges was at the political level. I then discovered that innovation and entrepreneurship was an alternative way to solving some of our world’s biggest challenges – perhaps a much more effective way!

 

Who are you inspired by? What strong or successful women leaders do you look up to, whether that’s professionally or personally?

At the risk of sounding unoriginal, I always look up to women like Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Emma Watson. But, I also remind myself that they too are imperfect and that’s been very helpful for me.

I wish more women owned up to their struggles so we could all know we’re not alone. I also look up to my older sister and my mother, who are both mentors of mine. My sister, Sara, left Morocco to study in France at around 16 on her own, which really paved the way for me. She pursued a field in STEM and went on to lead a career in an industry that is largely male-dominated. My mother raised and supported the two of us, which played an immense role in my career trajectory.

What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?

There isn’t anything you need that you can’t find within yourself. It’s often easier said than done, but it is doable – and it’s worth it when it’s done!

“There isn’t anything you need that you can’t find within yourself. It’s often easier said than done, but it is doable – and it’s worth it when it’s done!” –Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, Manager, DMZ Women Founders Programs

Who are up and coming women founders that we should keep an eye out for?

Wow, way too many to list. But let me give it a shot.

And so many more. I could really go on here, but there isn’t enough blog space in the world to capture all the outstanding women founders out there.

What is your vision behind starting ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’, and what do you hope to achieve with the series? 

I look at the series as a communal platform for women to share the incredible tech businesses they are working on. To me, it’s an opportunity to build authentic relationships in the tech ecosystem with fellow women founders. Plus, it’s a bonus if a business deal comes out of it. All in all, I feel privileged to be part of this group. 

The series will provide women founders a platform to be seen, heard, understood, and promoted. Through this series, women founders will discuss the problems their startups are addressing, their successes, and struggles. I also hope that aspiring founders take inspiration from these stories and find opportunities to connect and learn from some of the trailblazing women we cover in the series.

What are some crucial changes you want to see in the startup ecosystem for future and current women founders?

I’d like to see more resources dedicated to women founders, especially BIPOC, LGTBQ+, and newcomer women founders. 

What do I mean by resources? I mean funding, sponsorship, impactful mentorship, visibility and exposure. I’d also like to see less lip service and performative activities which are primarily motivated by PR benefits.

Another crucial change I think we need to make is to move away from the self-defeating narrative. We must acknowledge the barriers women founders face, and hold those accountable who are benefiting from the uneven distribution of resources. However, we must also do so in a way that is productive and paves the way forward for women founders.

“Another crucial change I think we need to make is to move away from the self-defeating narrative. We must acknowledge the barriers women founders face, and hold those accountable who are benefiting from the uneven distribution of resources. However, we must also do so in a way that is productive and paves the way forward for women founders.” –Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, Manager, DMZ Women Founders Programs

What is currently the most challenging part of being a woman founder in the tech space?

Traditionally, women founders are underrepresented and have been excluded from the inner circles that contain key resources and connections. 

This breeds an incessant cycle where women-led startups are at a disadvantage and conversely, other founders benefit from the unfair advantage of being in the circle, creating a vicious cycle. And so, breaking into that circle becomes extremely important. It is a challenge, but one that we can and will overcome. 

Do you think it’s important for investors to seek out women-led startups? What do they bring to the table that’s unique? 

There’s a ton of data out there that demonstrates how diverse teams do better than their homogeneous counterparts.

When I say diverse I am referring to gender and beyond. An intersectional approach is very important, and this is a data-backed perspective.

Additionally, more than a return on investment, seeking out women-led startups also means involving the half of the population that is underrepresented and supporting challenges that are meaningful to them. 

“More than a return on investment, seeking out women-led startups also means involving the half of the population that is underrepresented and supporting challenges that are meaningful to them.” –Nouhaila Chelkhaoui, Manager, DMZ Women Founders Programs

What three tips would you give women founders looking to grow and create connections within the startup ecosystem?

There are three foundational values I try sticking to as a woman founder. First, especially when starting out, always ask yourself ‘what is your why’? Would you enjoy doing this work year after year after year? Next, it’s so important to find a balance between healthy urgency and patience. Finding the balance is a process that takes practice.

My third tip for women founders? At the end of the day, put yourself first – before everything, including your business. 


Learn more about and connect with Nouhaila
here.

 

Make sure to follow the DMZ on Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram to follow our ‘On Wednesdays, we startup’ women founder series.  To learn more about the Women Founders Programs, visit dmz.to/womenfounders