Key Takeaways: Women Innovating for Our Future at Rising Economy 2024

4 min read
March 8, 2024

This week Innovate BC was thrilled to take part in Rising Economy Conference 2024 in Victoria, one of our region’s most exciting touchpoints for those committed to building a stronger and more diverse economy for our province. As part of our time at the conference, we had the opportunity to host a thought-provoking session with an exciting panel of women who are innovating for our future here in British Columbia. It was a perfect occasion to share and celebrate their entrepreneurial journeys and explore how collectively our province and those working in STEM can inspire more women to join those fields and help shape our future economy.

We’d like to share some key takeaways from the discussion.

Session: Innovate BC Spotlight: Women Innovating for Our Future

Thank you to our incredible panelists who shared their insights and experience as a woman navigating and making impact within the biotech and aquaculture industries:

Keep reading to discover the key takeaways >>>

On starting and scaling a company on Vancouver Island

1709854064450L to R: Maggie Chan, Director, Tech Adoption, Innovate BC; Dr. Karolina Valente, CSO, CEO, Founder, VoxCell BioInnovation; Heather Clarke, Co-Founder, Poseidon Ocean Systems.

The panelists discussed where they see Vancouver Island's tech and business sectors evolving in the coming years and the opportunities for local companies to thrive on a global scale. One of the key advantages identified was the wealth of talent being developed at the University of Victoria.

“B.C. is the place to be for biotech at this moment and Victoria gives us the opportunity to hire lots of local talent from the University of Victoria.” – Dr. Karolina Valente

But of course, there are also challenges that come with building a competitive business in this region. Dr. Valente mentioned how a key challenge is the cost of living, which needs to be reflected in the salaries your business offers. Heather added that it's also imperative that people you're trying to attract to the region buy into the island lifestyle.

“We find ourselves so incredibly blessed to live on the island, but we’ve learned that we need to focus on cultural fit first when we’re trying to bring in top talent.” – Heather Clarke


On raising capital


One of the biggest challenges for a startup is raising capital. This poses an even bigger challenge for a female founder.

“It’s known that less than 2% of VC capital goes to women founders which is a terrible number, especially knowing that women founders tend to grow their businesses much faster.” – Dr. Karolina Valente

The panelists discussed the need for more women to be given the opportunity to start and grow their companiesand prove how they will thrive.

Heather noted that there is a lot of value to doing it yourself and learning the process because it forces you to do the business plan work and know your business inside and out, but that working with an investment banker was instrumental to them, opening up the door to many groups and people they otherwise wouldn't have had access to.

Dr. Valente followed up by sharing how the moment you take money from someone it solidifies an important relationship, it’s like a marriage, and especially in the early stages of your business these investors are highly involved.

What advice would they give to women founders navigating the fundraising landscape, especially in industries where women are underrepresented?

“Take up space and be assertivejust because one person’s opinion is no, it doesn’t mean that’s the final answer.” – Heather Clarke

There are resources available for raising capital. Capital Compass BC offers centralized intelligence on startups, scaleups, investors, entrepreneurial resources, and investment capital flow within the province.


On protecting your intellectual property

1709854062500Maggie Chan, Director, Tech Adoption, Innovate BC

Intellectual property is a very importantbut often overwhelmingpart of protecting your innovation. The panelists shared what their experience has been like navigating and establishing their IP.

“It was a priority for us to protect our technology from the beginning because without our technology we are nothing.” – Dr. Karolina Valente

They also emphasized the importance of looking at IP strategy in the earlier stages of their product development. Even if that strategy means not pursuing patents and trademarks immediately, it's important to consult an expert who can advise you based on your specific business needs.

“IP needs vary greatly depending on the realities of your business and your business cycle. We had this conversation with an IP lawyer early on to define an IP strategy.” – Heather Clarke

Need help with your IP strategy? Our IP programs can help, including AccelerateIP, which provides qualifying businesses access to education, skills development, and financial support for protecting, managing, and leveraging IP.
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