Ceiling Breakers: Building dreams

Entrepreneurs Thrive Here

For years, the startup scene was almost exclusively a male domain. That’s changing, thanks in part to a rising generation of female founders who have the vision, drive and skill to build companies from the ground up. We’d like to introduce the high-impact and high-potential companies founded by just a few of them.

Acerta

The team from Acerta

Co-founded by Greta Cutulenco, a Waterloo graduate student, and Sebastian Fischmeister, a professor of software engineering, Acerta's automatic analysis identifies anomalies and irregularities in system performance, helps zero in on the root cause of problems, and predicts future machine failures. The insights provided by Acerta are used in the automotive and the avionics industries for monitoring system health, improving effectiveness of maintenance, and reducing machine downtime.

"Being an entrepreneur is a lot of hard work, being a female entrepreneur can at times be even harder. Don't shy away from the challenge, use your strengths and available resources to achieve your goals."

GRETA CUTULENCO, co-founder, Acerta

Acorn Cryotech

The team from Acorn Cryotech

Lauren Kennedy and Ayan A. Abukar co-founded Acorn Cyrotech, along with fellow students Steve ten Holder and Matt Smart. This future-focused company offers cell collection kits, which customers can use to preserve their youthful cells for use in promising future medical treatments. Those treatments could include organ regeneration and genome editing.

"Horizons are expanding. There’s no better time than now to be a woman entrepreneur, so don’t let the fear of failure stop you from chasing after an opportunity. If you let your passion be over shadowed by self-doubt you will never know what you can achieve.”

LAUREN KENNEDY, co-founder, Acorn Cyrotech

Eyecheck

The team at EyeCheck

Around the world, an estimated one billion people lack access to vision care. EyeCheck  — founded by Rachel Friesen, Daxal Desai and Ashutosh Syal — creates hardware-screening devices that automate standard eye care procedures to enhance quality of life for all. 

With this technology anyone, anywhere will be able to provide an eyeglass prescription, while technology being developed will detect eye care problems like cataracts, and cardiovascular disease. 

"There’s no better time than now to be a woman entrepreneur, so don’t undervalue what you can bring to a situation. Apply to industries that don’t necessarily fit with your background, and don’t feel like you have to prove yourself because you’re a woman or because you don’t come from a STEM background."

RACHEL FRIESEN, co-founder, EyeCheck

FullSoul

Christine Marchand pins sketches of her work to a planning board

Not every entrepreneur is focused on technology or profits. For Christina Marchand and others in the social venture field, it’s about building a startup that can change lives. Marchand was a co-op student working at a maternity hospital in Uganda when she saw a new mother bleed to death because of a lack of basic medical supplies. After returning to Waterloo, Marchand founded FullSoul, a company that provides medical supplies to hospitals in Uganda, to protect new mothers and babies.

At Waterloo’s social startup hub, St. Paul’s GreenHouse, 60 per cent of founders are women. Read more about Marchand's journey in Life is Triage.

 “My co-op in Uganda was life-altering not because of what I saw, but because of how empowered I felt at having the chance to make a difference.”

CHRISTINA MARCHAND, founder, FullSoul 

Penta Medical

Penta Medical

By applying nanotechnology to medical fabrics, Penta Medical is building a high-tech medical bandage designed to making healing faster and less painful. Founder Alexa Roeper built a team drawing on Waterloo’s academic and research strengths in disciplines including materials and nanoscience, and biomedical engineering.

 "The Velocity community is a great resource because everyone is willing to help one another and it doesn’t feel like a competitive environment at all.”

ALEXA ROEPER, founder, Penta Medical

Opening doors to investment

Investment is critical to the success of most startups, but it’s an area that’s traditionally been seen as unwelcoming to women.  In Building a Better Workplace, Rachel Bartholomew, founder of CyberNorth Ventures Inc. and Bonnie Foley-Wong, founder and CEO of Pique Venture Investments Inc., share their insights into venture capital culture, and what they are doing to make things better.