The journey of women-led tech companies seeking funding is often fraught with unique challenges and funding. In an industry where gender parities unfortunately still exist, women entrepreneurs frequently encounter biases, limited access to networks, and systemic barriers that can hinder their ability to secure the capital necessary for growth and innovation.
These challenges not only affect individual founders, but also have broader implications for the tech industry as a whole, stymying its potential for diversity and the innovative breakthroughs that come with it.
Techtalent.ca sat down with Helen Kontozopoulos, the co-founder and Chief Tech Evangelist of ODAIA to talk about these issues, share her own experiences, and offer advice to those dealing with said challenges today.
ODAIA enables pharmaceutical commercial teams to effectively and dynamically identify and engage with the most relevant healthcare providers for their brands.
Can you share a glimpse of your personal journey in the tech industry and what inspired you to start and lead ODAIA AI?
HK: My tech journey started two decades ago. I’ve always been motivated by technology’s potential to address intricate issues and enhance people’s lives. A geek at heart, tech was the outlet for my career and creative adventures.
The inspiration for founding ODAIA rose from recognizing the AI/ML adoption disparities within the commercial side pharmaceutical industry. We saw an opportunity to boost sales and marketing effectiveness through dynamic and predictive planning, micro-segmentation, and actionable insights. ODAIA’s mission is reducing patients’ time to therapy by facilitating meaningful interactions with healthcare providers, through human-centric software powered by AI.
What unique challenges have you faced as a woman leader seeking funding in the tech sector, and how have you overcome them?
HK: Navigating the tech industry as a woman leader has been incredibly rewarding and filled with many lessons learned. Despite the biases and the persistence of a lingering ‘bro-culture’, I see these challenges as opportunities to be a part of the positive change. While initiatives are underway to address funding disparities, there is still a lot of work to be done. For example, data shows that currently, 2.3 per cent of women-founded companies receive funding. We’ve seen how investors often harbor unconscious biases, making it more challenging for women-led startups to raise capital.
As a woman founder myself with ODAIA, I understand the importance of women-focused funds that are explicit in battling the bias and creating a community of support and promotion of women founders.
How important is mentorship and networking for women founders in the tech industry, and what advice can you offer on building a support system?
HK: Mentorship and networking is paramount for women founders in the tech industry. They not only offer guidance and support, but also unlock doors to opportunities. My advice to women is to proactively seek out mentors and create their own diverse network.
Women founders need to surround themselves with individuals who can provide varying perspectives, share their experiences, encourage personal growth and become your references during your funding round. Form an advisory board of fellow founders and then collaborate to identify the challenges and create effective solutions.
You’re participating in a discussion at SAAS North about funding women-led companies. How critical are these discussions at events like SAAS North?
HK: Having a platform like SAAS North to discuss the challenges women-led companies are facing is so important to solving them. By bringing together key industry innovators creates a space where challenges, like the persistent funding gap faced by women-led tech companies, can be openly acknowledged and dissected.
These events offer a unique opportunity for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of all kinds to share their experiences and celebrate success. Sharing stories of resilience and innovation not only empowers individual founders, but also serves as a source of inspiration for the next generation of women in tech. I’m very proud to be part of this year’s SAAS North event.
What does the future hold for women-led tech companies in your view?
HK: To me, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, the future for women-led tech companies is more promising than it might seem. There is a growing awareness of the immense untapped potential that women entrepreneurs bring to the table. There is a growing recognition of the value diversity brings to the tech industry, and I firmly believe this will pave the way for more opportunities and success for women-led tech companies.