In honour of International Women's Day (IWD) and the UN’s theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, the TELUS Pollinator Fund is shining a spotlight on women founders who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. The TELUS Pollinator Fund is at the forefront of the industry with over 42% of portfolio companies led by women and 23% with a blended founding team, compared to the venture capital industry standard of 2% and 17%, respectively.
Women continue to be underrepresented in the Canadian technology sector, comprising only 30% of the Canadian tech workforce. The UN emphasizes the importance of bringing more women and other marginalized groups into technology, as this can lead to more creative solutions and greater potential for innovations that promote gender equality.
Investing in diverse founders is core to the TELUS Pollinator Fund investment thesis. We would like to recognize all of our inspiring women-led portfolio companies for catalyzing much-needed solutions to sustainability, healthcare, and edtech including:
Ashley Etling, CEO and Co-Founder of Limeloop highlights the significance of gender equality, believing that “if it is an impactful problem worth solving, it can succeed, no matter who you are or where your zip code is.” Limeloop is advancing technology in their sector by using a sustainable shipping platform that combines reusable packaging and smart technology to displace single-use packaging in shipping and enhancing fulfillment insights. Ashley shares that she believes in “eliminating waste (particularly cardboard waste) that will change the world, one smart package at a time.”
Chantal Emmanuel, CTO and Co-Founder of Limeloop emphasizes the importance of having more women and marginalized groups help build creative solutions, saying,“ When the stakes are as high as they are, we as a society, cannot afford to not have everyone participate in building the solutions needed to turn things around.” With her background in technology, she adds, “problem-solving to reimagine an experience as ubiquitous as receiving mail and throwing away trash is really a dream come true.”
Through Ashley and Chantal’s leadership, Limeloop has helped eliminate single-use plastic and save over 93% on emissions with every reusable package shipped. Their innovative solution is a testament to the capabilities of women when provided with the opportunity to lead.
Limeloop’s sustainable packaging and app
Julia Rivard, CEO and Co-Founder of Shoelace Learning is transforming digital education with her innovative learning platform, engineered to deliver the best research-based and personalized learning through mobile games for kids. Their proprietary game, Dreamscape, is a highly engaging, mobile game that strategically uses game triggers to effectively improve players’ literacy skills.
Shoelace Learning prioritizes investing in the development of culturally responsive content so that children can see themselves represented in the material they read. Likewise, it is critical for women in tech represented in the field to inspire others to join the workforce, says the Canadian Women’s Foundation. As a former Olympic kayaker, and recognized as one of Canada’s Inspiring 50 Women in STEM, Julia is a prime example of an inspiring female founder leading the next generation of women in the ed-tech space. With Julia’s guidance, Shoelace currently serves over five million players in 160 countries across the world.
However, underrepresentation is still evident at all levels, especially among racialized women in leadership positions. The latest 2023 Zero Report reveals that Black women, Indigenous women and women with disabilities hold only 4.4% of board-level positions.
Despite this, there are shining examples of women breaking such barriers, such as Lise Birikundavyi, Managing Partner and Co-founder of BKR Capital. As the first Black woman to head a venture capital fund backed by an institutional investor in Canada, her objective is to empower changemakers from the Black Community by using technology and innovation to disrupt their respective field. Lise’s outstanding contributions have earned her the esteemed 2023 Changemaker Award from The Globe and Mail, which recognizes the top 50 Canadians who are driving meaningful change across the country.
The Pollinator Fund is honoured and proud to continue investing in exemplary female leaders who are driving transformative and meaningful solutions to help make the world a better place.