The COVID-19 pandemic challenged Canadian tech entrepreneurs like never before. But through great resolve and business savvy, Canada’s innovation community weathered the storm, adding roughly 100,000 STEM jobs between February and October, with many startups transforming their everyday practices to fight the coronavirus. With the end of the crisis now in sight, we’ll need our tech leaders to create more jobs, repair the healthcare system and heal the planet.

Here are 5 women Canadian entrepreneurs to watch in 2021.

Sage Franch diversifies the workforce

Photo: Montreal Gazette

Building diverse workplaces increases revenue and attracts better talent. It’s also the right thing to do. It’s why the Trudeau Liberals are giving diverse firms “preferential access” to innovation funding; and it’s why back in 2017 Sage Franch launched Crescendo, a startup that trains users to foster inclusion among co-workers. This year, as people shifted to remote work, and the stresses of America’s election and racial reckoning rippled around the world, Franch knew her tool was uniquely positioned to bring teams together. The result: hundreds of new clients, six-fold revenue growth in the first four months of the pandemic, and almost $50,000 in sales donated to organizations empowering Black communities.

What’s next: Demand for diversity training is greater than ever, though, Franch hopes Crescendo’s annual growth goes beyond its newfound revenue. “Humanity will heal, but only if we all do our part. That’s what I’m working toward in 2021.”

Related Article: Meet three tech workers who came to Canada to succeed 

Jennifer Wagner has a concrete solution for carbon emissions

Halifax-based CarbonCure is now considered one of Canada’s most exciting and ground-breaking cleantech companies. Led by president Jennifer Wagner, the company has developed a technology that allows COto be permanently trapped in concrete as it sets, reducing the carbon footprint of projects without compromising the quality. (In fact, this process makes the concrete stronger.) Its technology is rapidly expanding into new markets and is already being used across three continents.

What’s next: Wagner says CarbonCure’s client base is expected to grow significantly as they unlock new revenue streams. The company recently closed a major funding round of tech companies and property developers including Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Microsoft, BDC Capital and others. “This dream round of funding is jet fuel for our continuing expansion and development of new products,” says Wagner.

Karen Chan teaches robots to speak nicely

When the whole world went virtual back in March, companies quickly needed a way to connect with customers; they needed a service that could quickly assess wants and needs, automate menial tasks and chat with customers in a conversational way. Enter Karen Chan, co-founder and chief engineering officer at Toronto’s Wysdom.AI. Chan helped develop a software system that guides and interacts with humans using natural language. Wysdom.AI’s tech works for clients in all sectors, from retail and telecom to banking and utilities, and as the pandemic forced companies to digitize their services, the startup increased its staff by 25 percent in 2020, with further growth planned for the new year.

What’s next: No time for rest in 2021. Chan et al. are launching a new conversation analytics platform to improve call-centre interactions, as well as partnering with Google’s Contact Center AI to deliver a suite of new conversational AI applications.

Evelyn Allen unlocks massive change with tiny tech

Did you know that nanomaterials have particles of nanoscale dimensions, meaning, areas roughly one billionth of a metre? And did you know that these miniscule nanomaterials can tackle the gargantuan problem of climate change? Evelyn Allen is doing big things with this tiny tech. The Kitchener-based entrepreneur is head of Evercloak, a startup that uses said materials to reduce energy use in heating and air conditioning. Allen is also a finalist in the million-dollar Women in Cleantech Challenge, using the platform to help her company hire a chief technology officer and secure $2 million in funding. “I’m so proud that our team adapted and thrived in 2020 despite the circumstances,” Allen says. “Now it’s time to address the more pressing environmental circumstances.”

What’s next: Evercloak is preparing to accelerate its membrane manufacturing process to pilot-scale production. Look out too for major partnership announcements with manufacturing companies.

Carol Leaman empowers front-line workers

It can’t be said enough, this year, next year or whenever: Thank you, front-liners. These workers kept the global economy afloat in 2020 and brought some sense of normalcy to an otherwise horrendous time. Carol Leaman wants to make sure they never go unappreciated. Leaman oversees Axonify, a front-line training leader and new member of the World Economic Forum’s prestigious group of Global Innovators. Of the company’s many successes this year, Axonify’s partnership with Walmart Canada stands out — the company will help train and educate 5,000 supply-chain associates in critical safety concepts. Not bad for a startup from Waterloo that already boasts more than three million users working in 150 countries.

What’s next: Leaman knows full well that the pandemic is not over, and that disruptions in tech (and whatever disease surfaces next) will continue to challenge front-liners and change the nature of their jobs. Plenty of work to be done in 2021.


Full article published on MaRS Magazine