First posted May 18, 2021, https://elevate.ca/events/ai-for-sales/
Moving leads through the sales funnel is a complicated job. Every stage of a prospect’s journey leaves an opportunity to lose their interest, whether they’ve noticed a competitor, become impatient, or had a question go unanswered. Learn how to leverage AI tools to make sure you’re staying top of mind with your leads from the first touch through making the sale.
AVP, Head of Machine Learning, Business Management
Layer6 AI at TD
Co-Founder, Chief Tech Evangelist
Today! (May 7 at 1:00 p.m. EDT) is the first #FITCSession in a 2-part series with Elizé Todd of Adobe XD, focusing on an Intro to Adobe XD -- and Part 2 is building on the fundamentals learned in the first session. The session will be joined by moderator, Helen Kontozopoulos of ODAIA.ai
On Wednesday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m. EDT, join Elizé in exploring The How and Why of Design Systems in Adobe XD! These sessions are a little different from our usual sessions, as you will get hands-on experience, using files provided by our speaker.
If you ever wanted to learn more about UX/UI design or specifically using Adobe XD, this is the perfect opportunity!
Note: While these sessions can be viewed independently, attendees will benefit most from joining in on both sessions.
Want to learn more and register for this event? For details, visit:
Get ready for The Future of Data Education panel! Gems will be dropped throughout this segment of the Toronto Womxn in Data Science Conference.
Our amazing lineup of includes:
Tamar Huggins Grant, CEO of Tech Spark Canada
Helen Kontozopoulos, co-founder ODAIA
Raquel Seville CEO BI Brainz Caribbean
Siphu Langeni, MS Data Science Fellow at SharpestMinds.
This talk is going to be 🔥🔥🔥🔥
Something you definitely don't want to miss!!!!!
Grab your tickets now !!!
#women #datascience #analytics
Congratulations to the ChIPs Toronto Chapter Leaders Shahrzad Esmaili Dr. Georgette Zinaty Lana Janes, Ph.D. Nina Moritsugu Jeilah Chan Elizabeth S. Dipchand Isi Caulder Jasleen Chahal Vicky Heppell on a successful launch event featuring Female Founders in Tech Helen Kontozopoulos and Karima Bawa!
To join the ChIPs community and connect with other ambitious women in tech, law and policy, click this link: https://lnkd.in/gxDj5Yn
#womenintech #community #founders #networking
What ChIPs stands for:
ChIPs stands for “chiefs in intellectual property,” a key position in corporations overseeing issues surrounding patents, copyrights, trademarks and other areas of law central to innovation. It’s a position that, historically, few women have held. IP chiefs typically have both a technical degree, such as engineering or computer science, coupled with a law degree. Given the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, this area of the law has persistently suffered from a wide gender gap.
Original Post: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/culture-discovery-u-t-entrepreneurship-week-spotlights-innovation-and-inclusion
The fifth-annual celebration of U of T’s vast entrepreneurship ecosystem, held virtually, boasted high-profile speakers, dozens of startups and events focused equity, diversity and inclusion (photo by Jeff Beardall)
From showcasing startups and highlighting the achievements of women in business to fostering discussions on mental health, organizers of Entrepreneurship Week managed to pack a wide array events into this year’s virtual calendar.
The fifth-annual celebration of U of T’s vast entrepreneurship ecosystem, which wrapped up late last week, featured several Entrepreneurship Week mainstays, including: the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship pitch competition, offering $50,000 in prizes; the RBC Speaker Series, featuring biologist-entrepreneur Derrick Rossi, who co-founded biotechnology firm Moderna and laid the scientific groundwork for the company’s COVID-19 vaccine; and the True Blue Expo, which featured virtual booths from dozens of startups, U of T’s campus-linked accelerators, NGOs and government programs.
But there were also several additions to this year’s roster: the Scale-up Showcase, highlighting the stories of 10 of U of T’s fastest-growing companies; “Celebrating Leaders, Black Women in Business,” a panel discussion exploring the experiences of three Black women in the business world; and a session on mental health awareness for entrepreneurs.
In many cases, the events took advantage of the online format to offer interactive elements to increase engagement, drawing attendees from around the world.
“This year’s festival is unprecedented for obvious reasons, as we’re coming together virtually to recognize and celebrate innovation across the U of T ecosystem,” U of T President Meric Gertler said in remarks delivered before RBC Speaker Series. “And yet, as we’ve seen all week, notwithstanding these challenges, entrepreneurship activity is at an all-time high in spite of – or perhaps, because of – the pandemic.
“Many of U of T’s brightest innovators are building solutions that respond to the health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19.”
President Gertler also noted that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin at U of T: “From this illustrious beginning, U of T together with our hospital and industry partners has created a culture of discovery, innovation and collaboration that has helped transform industries from health care to finance, to computing and much more."
ALT TEX is one example of a U of T startup that’s eager to shake up the status quo.
The company, co-founded by U of T Mississauga alumna Avneet Ghotra, is seeking to transform the fashion industry by replacing polluting polyester with a biodegradable fibre made from converted food waste – an endeavour that earned the company the $25,000 top prize in the late-stage category of the RBC Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Ghotra not only impressed the panel of judges with her pitch, but also captured the imagination of the audience, which awarded ALT TEX the $4,000 Dongjun Wang Family True Blue Prize – a people’s choice award voted on by attendees.
Avneet Ghotra, an alumna of U of T Mississauga, delivers a pitch on behalf of ALT TEX, a sustainable fibres startup.
The $10,000 second-place prize in the RBC competition’s late-stage category was awarded to Revolve Surgical, whose novel platform reduces the size, cost and training time associated with surgical robots.
In the early-stage category, meanwhile, the top prize went to NerveX Neurotechnologies, which won $10,000 for a medical implant that can control the nervous system to treat canine epilepsy. The $5,000 second-place prize was awarded to Elaya, which is developing a medical device that can deliver neuromuscular electrical stimulation to treat patients with ICU-acquired weakness.
Fyyne, a startup that helps hair artists connect with customers and run their business more efficiently, took home the people’s choice award in the early-stage category.
One of the most highly anticipated events at Entrepreneurship Week this year was the RBC Speaker Series, featuring Rossi as its keynote speaker. Rossi is a U of T alumnus, former Harvard Medical School professor and serial entrepreneur who co-founded several biotechnology firms including COVID-19 vaccine-maker Moderna.
Derrick Rossi, a U of T alumnus and co-founder of COVID-19 vaccine-maker Moderna, was the keynote speaker during the RBC Speaker Series event.
In a conversation moderated by BNN Bloomberg anchor Amber Kanwar, Rossi outlined his journey as a biologist-entrepreneur, the science behind Moderna’s modified RNA technology and COVID-19 vaccine, the growth of the biotech industry and his thoughts on what the future holds for stem cell therapy and vaccine development.
He revealed that Moderna had big ambitions from the get-go, even if they revolved around applying mRNA therapeutics towards genetic diseases rather than a pandemic. After running in “stealth mode” for the first four years, Moderna filed for intellectual property rights that “imagined tackling anything and everything with mRNA therapeutics.”
“That was the type of ambition we had at Moderna,” Rossi said. “So, it doesn’t actually shock me to see that it went on to this type of bent. I always believed in mRNA therapeutics. Did I believe that the first application would be a global pandemic? No.”
Following the conversation, Rossi took questions from several U of T entrepreneurs. Seray Çiçek, co-founder and CEO of LSK Technologies – which won the top early-stage prize at last year’s RBC pitch competition – asked what it would take to be able to develop therapeutics and vaccines in advance of virus outbreaks, rather than retroactively.
“I think to really pre-empt every possible virus ... that’s probably a challenge that nobody’s going to pay for, and that’s the problem,” Rossi said. “Rather, I would say that if we continue to push the technology envelope such that we have technologies that can really turn on a dime to address challenges quickly, I think that’s our best hope.”
Rossi noted that as novel technologies like mRNA-based vaccines continue to develop, the time needed to create future vaccines will shrink. He cited the flu vaccine as an example. “We don’t run vaccine trials for the influenza vaccine every year – we’ve done it so much, we’re so comfortable with the safety profile [that] you get your influenza vaccine every year without a clinical trial,” he said. “I think that that will eventually happen with these types of technologies.”
Following Rossi’s talk, it was on to the Scaleup Showcase and further inspiration and insights – this time, from the entrepreneurs behind 10 of U of T’s fastest-growing startups. Speakers included Nuha Siddiqui of plant-powered plastics startup Erthos (formerly Ecopackers); Helen Kontozopoulos of ODAIA, which developed an AI-powered customer analytics platform; and Albert Tai of Hypercare, a communication app for health-care professionals that has helped streamline care for COVID-19 patients.
Nuha Siddiqui, a co-founder of plant-powered plastics startup Erthos (formerly Ecopackers), and Helen Kontozopoulos of ODAIA, which developed an AI-powered customer analytics platform, particpated in the Scaleup Showcase, which featured 10 of U of T’s fastest-growing startups.
Earlier in the four-day celebration, there were a series of sessions that celebrated women innovators, fostered discussions on gender biases and challenges facing women of colour and shared ways to make the entrepreneurship world more inclusive and equitable.
The women-focused events included Pitch with a Twist, a competition hosted by U of T Mississauga’s ICUBE accelerator that saw 10 women-led startups compete for $10,000 in cash prizes and $10,000 in in-kind legal services from law firm Cassels. The top prize in the late-stage category went to Joella Almeida of MedEssist, which created a platform to help pharmacies manage COVID-19 vaccination, testing and screening as well as regular tasks like managing prescriptions and patient records.
The prize kicked off an eventful week for MedEssist. On Thursday, the Ontario Pharmacists Association announced that it reached a partnership agreement with the startup to deploy its platform to manage pharmacies’ COVID-19 vaccination drives. MedEssist’s tool was previously used to help pharmacies across Canada manage their 2020 flu vaccination campaigns, the association said in a press release.
The top prize for the early-stage category went to Mommy Monitor, a mobile app for maternal health support founded by Elsie Amoako.
The Hub, U of T Scarborough’s startup incubator, hosted a panel discussion on Wednesday featuring three Black women who shared their journeys in the business world and offered advice to racialized women entrepreneurs.
The panel consisted of Naki Osutei, associate vice-president, social impact at TD; Fennella Bruce, a media consultant at FKB Media Solutions; and Daphne Magna, a management consultant at Professional Passport and founder of Tough Convos, a network devoted to conversations around equity, diversity and inclusion.
Among the questions posed to the panel: What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
“In my younger days, I thought a lot about failure. I thought, ‘What if I try this and it doesn’t work? What if I try this and I lose money? What if I try this and it fails?’” Osutei said. “And now, with more of an abundant mindset, I say ‘I’m going to try this and I’m going to learn something.’
“We have to tell our younger folks: ‘If you are passionate about something and you have the capacity for it, but you don’t see anybody there – it might be you that people need to see. It might be you that people need to see so they can dream bigger.”
(Clockwise from top left) Sarah Shujah, Naki Osutei, Daphne Magna and Fennella Bruce participate in the Celebrating Leaders, Black Women in Business panel, organized by U of T Scarborough’s The Hub accelerator.
Soror Sharifpoor, director, strategy and translation at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, echoed the message during her remarks at Fireside at FemSTEM, a conversation series hosted by the Health Innovation Hub (H2i) accelerator.
“I feel like while it’s important to do risk management, do your due diligence and think through before you make a decision, it shouldn’t get to a point where it paralyzes and debilitates you from moving forward,” Sharifpoor said.
Soror Sharifpoor, director, strategy and translation at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, offered several pieces of advice on navigating gender bias in the STEM and business worlds during the Fireside at FemSTEM event.
Sharifpoor also offered several pieces of advice on navigating gender bias in the STEM and business worlds – one of which was to caution women not to internalize biases inherent in society.
“Careers and paths have become more diverse, inclusive and equitable, so we’re improving,” she said. “But until we live in this perfect world where there are no biases, I think there are things that we can do ourselves to help us move forward when we face either obstacles or failures.
“One of the key first things to acknowledge is that as women, we have certain unconscious biases ourselves with regards to our own capabilities – and the last thing we want to do is inadvertently feed into or adopt the biases in our society.
“These biases can really define the boundaries that we’re willing to push ourselves past – and I think we have to make a conscious effort to push the boundaries as much as we can.”
The next big event on U of T Entrepreneurship’s calendar is the annual Collision conference, which will run virtually from April 20 to 22. An estimated 40,000 people are expected to attend the conference and speakers will include U of T’s Geoffrey Hinton and alumnus Allen Lau.
Looking forward to hosting Scaleup Showcase, March 11th with Kurtis Scissons for University of Toronto #UofTEntrepreneurshipWeek!
Teams to check out joining us:
Ada, Hypercare, erthos™ , Winterlight Labs, #Kepler, AmacaThera, Blue J, EBT Medical, Inc., ODAIA
This free, virtual event is open to all members of the U of T community and the public. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3usVlKz
erthos™ uses the power of plants, to simply edit the way we make and use single-use plastics. Learn more.
Presenter: Nuha Sidiqui, CEO & Co-founder
Hypercare is a mobile-first communication and collaboration app for healthcare professionals within hospitals. Learn more.
Presenter: Albert Tai, CEO & Co-founder
Blue J Legal‘s AI-powered software accurately predicts legal outcomes in challenging areas of US tax law. Learn more.
Presenter: Benjamin Alarie, Co-founder & CEO
EBT Medical is a venture-backed, clinical-stage company pursuing disruptive neuromodulation technologies, focused on pelvic health disorders. Learn more.
Presenter: Keith R. Carlton, CEO
AmacaThera is commercializing combination products at the interface of biomaterials and pharmaceuticals. Learn more.
Presenter: Mike Cooke, CEO & Co-founder
Winterlight has developed a tablet-based speech assessment to detect cognitive impairment associated with dementia and mental illness. Learn more.
Presenter: Liam Kaufman, CEO & Co-founder
OTI Lumionics develops advanced materials for next-generation OLED displays using quantum simulations, machine learning, and pilot production testing. Learn more.
Presenter: Michael G. Helander, President & CEO
Ada Support is empowering businesses to provide personalized experiences at scale using AI chatbot to improve CX, reduce costs, and drive revenue. Learn more.
Presenter: Mike Murchison, Co-founder & CEO
Kepler is using existing and emerging technology to reshape the satellite communications industry, developing groundbreaking technology and providing real solutions for global gaps in connectivity. Learn more.
Presenter: Wen Cheng Chong, Co-founder & CEO
ODAIA Intelligence is the leading AI-powered Customer Data Platform (CDP) that pioneered the combination of process mining, customer journey mapping and AI to deliver goal-driven commercial insights and process automation as a SaaS platform. Learn more.
Presenter: Helen Kontozopoulos, Chief Evangelist & Co-founder
Join us for a week of conversations, mentorship, and workshops with Canadian female entrepreneurs and founders.
Event link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/female-foundry-presents-forging-new-frontiers-tickets-141123846223
About this Event
Dentsu Canada’s recent study of women in business, found that women are fundamentally treated differently when attaining funding for their business.
In the wake of COVID-19, this problem has only worsened. To combat this trajectory, we're launching Female Foundry and you're invited to the inaugural conference! This series of workshops and discussions focusing on empowering Canadian female entrepreneurs with the tools and resources needed to launch and grow their businesses. Here's just a snippet of the key topics we'll be covering:
1. The Capital Challenge: Exploring the unique challenges faced by women founders when raising and securing venture capital and the right funders.
2. The Leadership Challenge: Shining a light on the transferable and new skills that female founders need to adapt as they go from creating value as a start-up to managing a growing company with employees, customer bases and stakeholders.
3. The Management Challenge: Expanding on the evolving management and operational systems women founders need to put into place to sustain profitable and scalable growth.
Monday, March 8: Women in a Post-Covid WorldTo kick things off, we’ll be covering the business challenges disproportionately affecting women from all walks of life and backgrounds before and during the pandemic and what we can all do to uplift each other now and into the future.
12:00pm | Opening & Welcome
12:15pm ET | Keynote: Women in a Post-Covid World with Michelle Scarborough (Managing Partner, BDC Capital's Women in Technology Venture Fund)
12:30pm - 1:30pm ET | Panel Discussion featuring:
Moderated by: Sarah Armstrong, SVP, Client Solutions Dentsu Canada
1:30pm -2:00pm ET| Keynote: Women in a Covid World with Dawn Desjardins (Vice President, Deputy Chief Economist, RBC Economics)
Tuesday, March 9: The Future of Work
Today, we ask: how do we plan for a challenging and changing workplace? Join us as women technologists, investors and advisors will be sharing their experiences and knowledge to help attendees find and raise the right capital for their firm and their future.
12: 15pm ET | Keynote: The Future of Work with Takara Small (CBC Technology Journalist, Founder of VentureKids)
12:30pm - 1:00pm ET| Panel Discussion featuring:
Moderated by: Helen Kontozopoulos, Chief Evangelist & Co-Founder ODAIA Intelligence
1:00pm - 2:00pm ET | Open Panel: The Challenges of Funding Women-Led Technology Companies
Session Focus: Women founders face many of the same challenges their male counterparts face when raising venture capital: demonstrating the strength of the tech, market, team, strategy and so on.However, women face additional challenges when facing venture capital. For example, women are underrepresented in VC firms, women-led technology companies raise significantly less then their male-counterparts. This session will address these challenges head-on, and highlight the experience and knowledge of women technologists, investors and advisors, to help attendees find and raise the right capital for their firm and their future.
Wednesday, March 10: Scaling For Growth
Going from Founder to CEO has its pros and cons – so let’s talk about them! In this session, we engage with female founders who either currently lead a company or have attained an exit and talk about what leadership looks like at each stage of your company’s growth.
12:00pm - 12:30pm ET | Fireside Chat:
Scaling for Growth with Michelle McBane (Managing Director, StandUp Ventures)
12:30pm - 2:00pm ET | EXCLUSIVE Workshop: Leading A Scaling Company
Session Focus: A founder-led session, with female founders who either currently lead a company or have attained an exit. We believe this session should be focused on leadership.
Thursday, March 11: The Power of Your Network
Great ideas are often rallied behind, yet for women entrepreneurs, this can be particularly challenging. In this session, we look at how win-win partnerships and sustainable networks can help build your business and be equally powerful.
12:00 - 12:30pm ET | Fireside Chat: The Power of Your Network with Anar Simpson, Board Member, CARE Canada
12:30pm - 2:00pm ET | EXCLUSIVE Workshop: Building A Company You Don’t Want To Sell
Session Focus: Venture-funded companies tend to reorient themselves to a liquidation event, which is usually an acquisition. We think that orientation is limiting and causes some founders to focus on the wrong metrics (like users and growth) without building the company itself.
EXCLUSIVE CLOSED WORKSHOP *Part of Female Founder Mentorship Program: Building a Company You Don’t Want to Sell. Session Focus: Venture-funded companies tend to reorient themselves to a liquidation event, which is usually an acquisition. We think that orientation is limiting and causes some founders to focus on the wrong metrics (like users and growth) without building the company itself.
Friday, March 12: The Week In Review
In this session, we take a reflective look back on the conversations from the past week and explore the road ahead together.
12:15pm - 1:15pm ET | Keynote: The Week In Review Panel Discussion featuring
Moderated by: Helen Kontozopoulos (Chief Evangelist & Co-Founder ODAIA Intelligence)
Meet The Hosts
Kate Dobrucki, VP Communications Dentsu Canada
A lifelong storyteller, brands can count on Kate to get to the point and spread the word.
Kate is an industry-leading VP, with 15+ years of strategic PR experience across experiential, social and digital. Kate balances her tenacity with distinctly collaborative approach to execute award-winning programs for beloved brands. As a champion for female empowerment, Kate is also the founder of Womxn Who, a dentsu initiative dedicated to the empowerment and elevation of female leaders. Her prowess as a marathon runner is mirrored in her positive working relationships.
Sarah Armstrong, SVP Client Solutions Dentsu Canada
A collaborative, optimist who embraces change, Sarah has spent her career leading multi-agency teams for some of Canada’s largest blue-chip accounts. Sarah has built a solid reputation for providing strategic and integrated marketing solutions while also driving innovation and collaborative with clients to drive business growth. Her experience in strategic planning through to activation nails client KPIs time over time. An active mentor in the industry, Sarah has served as a judge for the Ad Club of Toronto’s OOH competition, the Canadian Young Lions Media competition as well as Canada’s Next Top Ad Executive. She is also on the Steering Committee of Womxn Who, a dentsu initiative dedicated to the empowerment and elevation of female leaders.
Helen Kontozopoulos, Chief Evangelist & Co-founder at ODAIA.ai
Helen co-founded ODAIA.ai, an AI-powered customer segmentation, commercial automation and predictive analytics SaaS platform for Pharma and eCommerce in 2018 out of the University of Toronto. As Chief Evangelist, she brings her understanding of AI, customer analytics, and digital transformation, to help sales and marketing teams adopt artificial intelligence in their work.
She has been teaching product development, design, and entrepreneurship for 8 years at the University of Toronto at the Department of Computer Science (St. George Campus), and the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (UTSC).
Helen co-founded UofT's Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL), an incubator that supports students and faculty to commercialize their innovations in emerging technologies.
In her spare time, she teaches women about AI, data and digital skills, and is leading program development for Forging New Frontiers.
Michelle Scarborough, Partner, BDC Capital's Women In Technology Venture Fund
Takara Small, Journalist
Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO and Co-founder, Canada Learning Code
Simren Deogun, VP, Solutions, Dentsu Canada
Anar Simpson, Board Member: CARE Canada, Technovation Girls
Michelle McBain, Managing Director, Standup Ventures
Lily Tse, CEO and Founder, Think Dirty
Alex Panousis, CEO, Carat
Helen Kontozopoulos, Co-founder, ODAIA.ai
Jeff Greenspoon, CEO, Dentsu Canada
Melissa Kartick, Co-Chair Canada's Next Top Ad Exec
Jeffrey Yateman, Co-Chair Canada's Next Top Ad Exec
Interested in joining the Female Foundry mentorship program?
The Female Foundry is a global initiative developed by iProspect and powered by dentsu to drive diversity and inclusion in business. It provides access to tools, training, connections, and resources, empowering female entrepreneurs to build successful businesses for the digital age.
Reach out to Kate Dobrucki (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on how you can apply. Spaces are limited, mentors are motivated – don’t miss out!
First posted: https://www.radar-rp.ch/en/women-tear-down-the-ladder-and-create-your-own/
Helen Kontozopoulos is Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto, where she teaches product development, design, and entrepreneurship in the Department of Computer Science, and the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences. In 2018, she co-founded ODAIA, a Canadian-Swiss startup, to develop a customer journey analytics and prediction platform for companies. As Chief Growth Officer, she brings her understanding of AI, customer journeys, digital transformation, and the future of work to help companies become more resilient and creative using emerging technologies.
We met an anthropologist who built websites as a teen, a computer science professor who is not a “tech girl” – in other words, a truly rich personality! Helen built “her own ladder” and encourages other women to do the same. We love that she encourages women to create good networks. “You can’t stop a community of women”, she said. We definitely agree.
Get inspired by her story and share it around.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PATH TO BECOMING A TECH LEADER? WHAT AND / OR WHO HELPED YOU IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL CHOICES?
My educational background is not in technology. But I always loved tinkering with technology. I was always interacting with computers when I was a kid. I was in special education, not particularly good at school, so the teachers put me in front of a computer and I would play all day. I have been making websites since 1997.
I love culture, humanities and the arts and that is what I learned at University. I studied anthropology and classics. I was supposed to become an archaeologist and went on a dig in Israel in the summer, and I realized I wasn’t cut out for digging…
I love anthropology. I love understanding people… and understanding what humanity has done since the beginning of time until now.
Moving forward, I did a Master’s in business – marketing and analytics. At that time, I started looking at how I could use analytics to understand people. I realized that I was quite good at watching people, understanding their behavior and helping businesses get to know their customers.
My life changed in 2011 when I decided that I wanted to be the maker of the [tech] tools, not just the user of them. That was a conscious decision. I was using all these mobile and web dev tools for work, and I realised for me to have more control of my future career path I needed to be the one either building the tools or supporting their creation and design. This thinking really changed my life.
Technology has always been a tool for me and it always inspires me, Recently I did an executive professional certificate at MIT on technology and innovation, it was more of a pilgrimage to the place Marvin Minsky taught, whom I met in 2013, this was another turning point in my life that inspired me to start studying artificial intelligence and society.
I might not be the typical “tech girl”, yet, my whole life has led me to become an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Computer Science for the last seven years, and I also co-founded the Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab – a startup incubator for students and researchers, creating emerging technology startups.
I don’t have a plan. Life just leads you to your next position. It is really about the network and people we connect to.
This is how I met Periklis Andritsos and Gaël Bernard who told me about their academic work – understanding and analysing customer journeys by using artificial intelligence and process mining to build a world of personalized selling. This led to the foundation of ODAIA. Being a co-founder of an AI start-up in customer discovery and analysis seemed like the right step for me.
HOW DOES YOUR WORK CONTRIBUTE TO SOCIETY?
For me, it has always been about humanity being empowered by technology. At ODAIA, we are creating a way to automate a lot of the marketing and sales functions and get personalized predictions. For example, Maptual is a sales and marketing automation platform for the life sciences industry. Maptual taps into existing data sources to deliver AI-enabled customer relationship management suggestions together with insights on marketing campaign effectiveness, health care professional journeys and segmentation.
“The future of work is the future of interaction. It is not something revolutionary, but it is going to start changing the way we make decisions. I’m always thinking about how the future of work is going to be impacted by technology, such as AI.”
So, then I think about how it is going to impact our lives and how we’re going to work. Our lives have really changed by using these types of tools.
Anthropology is my base, this affects the work I do now, I’m observing how people are interacting with each other and technology. That is what anthropologists are trained for. We are trained to observe and also to check ourselves, check our biases. I’m always re-checking who I am, and when I’m doing my work. I know where I’m coming from.
I started having these ethical questions around our use of technology and its impacts on us as individuals, workers, and citizens for a very long time. I found that when I started teaching in technology, ethics wasn’t widely discussed in the product development courses, especially around data usage. Now everyone talks about ethics, ethics in AI and data. I think having a humanities and anthropology background helped me focus not only on building but on thinking, critically thinking. Thinking about cultural impacts and overall impacts on society I teach this in my classes and now use it my own startup.
HOW DO YOU CONVINCE INVESTORS?With persistence. As a startup founder, I have done a lot of pitches. Even when you are just walking down the street and you bump into someone you are always pitching. Pitching for a connection, a client, an investor or an employee – there is a continuous promotion of what you are doing.
Last year, we raised a seed round for ODAIA of 1.7 million Canadian dollars, from Canadian investors, such as Inovia and Panache ventures and we also received funding from investment funds for women in technology from BDC Women in Tech fund and StandUp ventures. This type of support has been amazing, not only receiving the funding to grow, but the coaching and personal development I receive as a woman founder.
DO YOU OBSERVE MAJOR DIFFERENCES ON HOW SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY IS SUPPORTED IN CANADA AND IN SWITZERLAND?
There is a great emphasis in supporting women in technology and business in Canada including women entrepreneurship funds, such at BDC WIT Fund. Our Ontario government, the provincial government, also provides funding and supports women groups and events and finally we have a very active and supportive private sector which funds women initiatives, for example RBC has sponsored my Women in AI, and AI Week events in the past.
I haven’t seen enough funding of women startups in Switzerland, but I would like to be proven wrong.
There are encouraging signs though, I had a few interactions with the Swiss Consulate at Collision 2019, a startup tech conference held in Toronto, and the delegation was very open to support startups to move to and collaborate in Switzerland. I think there is a lot of startup potential in Switzerland.
Plus you have the best selling authors of the Business Model Generation out of Switzerland Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, who are leading in teaching how to design tech business models. Yves visited my lab in Toronto and ran an amazing workshop in 2017.
WHAT, IN YOUR VIEW, IS THE ROLE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN SUPPORTING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AND HOW DO YOU USE THEM IN YOUR OWN STRATEGY?
I’m always talking – I know it sounds funny [laughs]. I’m always speaking at events to promote technology and emphasise how to incorporate digital and technical skills into the education system. But what really works, is inviting people of different backgrounds, ages, and genders to represent the diversity that tech holds. So the audience can see themselves in the speakers on the stage, they become your perfect PR tools, we want the audience to be encouraged to get into science and technology by seeing their future selves.
SHOULD YOU ENCOURAGE YOUNG GIRLS TO GET INTO SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ?
I would love for more young girls and women of any age to get into tech. We need to encourage female participation and be active in supporting engagement in the tech community. I am organizing International Women’s Week events for March 2021 and I am thinking about how I can encourage young women and girls to take part – I keep in mind what content will resonate with a young audience. It’s all about supporting resilient thinking and helping young girls get ready for the future. So it might include code, prototype, data, AI, and startup bootcamps – who knows, as long as it is fun and relevant to their lives.
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY OR ADVISE YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS TO AVOID DOING?
I advise young entrepreneurs of any background to talk to users right away. They have to get out there and learn about their industry and the user. They have to understand the customer journey. Test and think before you build – that is what I tell my students every day, and my team too.
I think that this is a problem in tech – People develop products before knowing if there is a need or users for them
Researchers live in a bubble while everything else is happening in the world. Just because the technology is better or faster, it doesn’t mean it is needed and going to be used. At the end of the day, it is really the customer who decides. It is the user, it is the citizen, it is the patient. It goes down to the human need, want, and desire.
AN ANECDOTE TO SHARE WITH US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A WOMEN, A WOMEN IN TECH, A LEADER ?
We have 40 percent women in our company, and most of them are technical developers, with two women in leadership. I would love to see more women who are CEOs from both technical and business backgrounds, they should lead. We need to move women up so they can make more money and make more leadership decisions in their organizations.
“We need to start encouraging women to become founders so they can make more women founders. More women CEOs and leaders changes cultures and makes more women CEOs. I see it in myself, leaders breed more leaders. They also invest in future leaders.
Being in power positions is scary and you may fail. But guys fail all the time! or at least in Silicon Valley they do, and they wear their failure as a badge of honor. When a woman fails, she thinks she is the worst person in the world – like, look at me, I am horrible. Don’t hire me again. It feels like a stain on your career. But it shouldn’t be like that, and first we have to take ownership of our failures and successes, so we can show other women that it’s ok and it’s totally ok to take risks and it should be encouraged.
Women can really step up. I prefer women creating their own companies and creating new cultures and not trying to “go up that corporate ladder”. Tear down the ladder, create your own ladder!
All these women in the 80s and 90s, trying to climb up that corporate ladder and get to the top. OMG. You remember that. Play the game – but the game sucks. Well, you know what? You want to move up in a bank? Make your own bank, it’s called fintech! We have all the resources we need, the tech is there, we can build it for ourselves. Otherwise, if we are waiting to be accepted, nothing is going to happen. We need to do something else, not try to fit in the box.
I found that I could build my own ladders with my startup community and women leaders network. You can’t stop a community of women who want to build their own opportunities and futures. I’m just here to try to help to make that happen.
Co-Founder and Chief Tech Evangelist at ODAIA.ai