Three women entrepreneurs have been recognized for their innovative ideas and contributions to the tech startup scene in Canada.
The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs (FWE) has announced that Nicole Smith, the founder of Flytographer, will take home the $25,000 grand prize at this year’s Odlum Brown FWE Gala: Pitch for the Purse event. Smith, along with two other finalists, pitched to a pair of judges as well as a large crowd before the audience declared her the winner.
The other finalists were Valerie Song, CEO and co-founder of AVA Technologies, as well as Julia Dexter, co-founder of Squiggle Park. All three of the finalists received entry to FWE’s flagship E-Series 2018 program. E-Series offers three days of targeted education and one year of ongoing mentorship.
Flytographer was a part of the May 2016 48 Hours in the Valley cohort, while AVA Technologies will be in the first Fierce Founders boot camp of 2018. Squiggle Park will pitch again at a new competition in Venture Out 2018 this March.
The finalists were also paired up with industry mentors over the last two-and-a-half months to prepare for the pitch finale. The mentors selected which finalist they wanted to work with after hearing semi-final pitches back in November 2017.
CAI Private Equity managing partner Tracey McVicar worked with winner Nicole Smith, while Tower Beach Capital principal John Montalbano mentored Julia Dexter and Fort Capital partner Ali Perjman helped Valerie Song.
As is evident, the mentors for the finalists have a strong emphasis and background in the financial and venture capital world. This is a strategic choice as FWE recognizes that access to capital remains as a key barrier for women entrepreneurs, so pairing early-stage female-founded companies with well-known venture capital stalwarts helps form lasting partnerships.
The judges at the event were two well-known figures in Canada’s tech scene: Candice Faktor, founder of the influential Faktory Ventures, and Anthony Lacavera, founder of WIND Mobile and recently-crowned CEO of Globalive Technology Partners.
In terms of the three finalist companies, Flytographer is an online marketplace that connects travelers with local photographers for fun and candid photoshoots. AVA Technologies creates a smart garden that lets users grow veggies and fruits right inside their home. Squiggle Park creates games for children that help build fundamentals like reading skills.
FWE is a Vancouver-based charity that educates, mentors and connects women to help them become successful, working towards the goal of creating a thriving economy. FWE has facilitated over 1,600 mentor pairings and has more than 470 E-Series alumni. The charity also states that when a woman is helped through FWE, they will go on to create 10 jobs and grow their revenue by 30 per cent.