Women-led start-ups get less funding. Can accelerator and mentorship programs bridge the gap?
Dr. Pooja Viswanathan is used to being the only woman in the room. She studied computer science, artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and UBC.
“I think I was probably the only woman getting a PhD in robotics at UBC at the time,” Dr. Viswanathan recalls.
When she transformed the learnings from her PhD dissertation – navigation assistance and sensor technologies for power wheelchair users – into a startup called Braze Mobility Inc., Dr. Viswanathan says the all-male, mostly all-white boardrooms she encountered as she met with potential funders and business partners were no surprise. “If I went into a room that had a lot of women, that would be an anomaly for me,” she says.
Dr. Viswanathan says that she stood out at nearly every conference and industry expo she attended. “I could probably go as far as saying I’m the only female CEO, let alone female CEO of colour in the [complex rehab technology] manufacturing industry,” she says.