Lazaridis Institute selects 10 women-founded companies for scale-up program

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Photo by Eva Ou

The Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprises announced their fourth cohort of the women-in-technology Scale-up Program, in which 10 different women-led companies are guided by mentors to continue their path of growth within their company.

The “Lazaridis10,” as they are referred to as by the institute, are up-and-coming technology companies that have applied for a spot in the cohort and aim to enhance their skills through mentorship, networking, marketing and financing.

The companies that were selected this year are Advanced Symbolics Inc., Brillist Better Projects, Conscia Corporation Questor Technology Inc., Sheertex, Stathletes, Storytap, Symend Inc., Vivametrica and Voices.com, all founded by women.

Meghan Chayka, one of the co-founders of Stathletes, is not only a woman in technology, but also a woman in sports technology, specifically hockey, which are very male-dominated industries.

“All of the co-founders were heavily involved in sports growing up, but we also all had co-op and business in our backgrounds as well; so about 10 years ago, we had a market idea in the sense that people were paying us for some data,” Chayka said.

“Statheltes organically came out of that niche, we didn’t work backwards from starting a business. We kind of fell into what was really needed in the sport of hockey.”

As the number of women engaging in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees and jobs is increasing, programs like the Lazaridis Institute’s aim to continue to aid this underrepresented demographic in creating successful ventures with opportunities they may not find otherwise.

“I want to keep increasingly building in a women’s realm, which I think from the all-star game and the Olympics, there is tailwind behind wanting to support women athletes,” Chayka said.

“One of our managers played Division III hockey and another lady we had who moved onto an even better job played Division I hockey; they are very critical and we do have some very strong women on our team, but for sure you see that 90 per cent of our employees are male,” Chayka said.

“At the same time, 100 per cent of basically any hockey operations are male, so we’re almost diverse which is the sad thing; but for sure there’s a big push in tech for female and diversity inclusion initiatives, and the layer of sports does make it interesting.”

Kitchener-Waterloo is a consistently growing technology hub, especially for start-up companies with many incubators and accelerators.

But the goal of this program is to take already existing female-led companies that are past the start-up stage and help them increase growth. Canadian technology has many talented creators, but not a focus on enhancing equality in the field.

“There are a lot of barriers that we have to work through as women in technology, but I think that puts that chip on your shoulder too to work harder and be better, so I think that is motivation as well,” Chayka said.

“One of the primary drivers of applying was to be more diverse. For me, it was that in this company I want to not just do men’s hockey and men’s sports, but do women’s as well. We have a few female clients and that number has grown even just this year.”

The program runs for six months and runs various experiences in six cities in North America for intensive weekend workshops in order for the cohort to learn from experienced executives and find opportunities to enhance their businesses where they may not be able to at home.

“I want to keep increasingly building in a women’s realm, which I think from the all-star game and the Olympics, there is tailwind behind wanting to support women athletes,” Chayka said.

“I think learning from other entrepreneurs with similar backgrounds and experiences to me have that mutual understanding and drawing from their energy and experiences is invaluable.”

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