A few years before I started a software company, a friend warned me that entrepreneurship would be a solitary venture.
"Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, but with the right network it doesn't have to be."
Nanon de Gaspé Beaubien-Mattrick, founder of Vancouver-based Beehive Holdings, is part of a group committed to accelerating the growth of new ventures started by women. In mid May, Ms. Beaubien-Mattrick joined leaders from Twitter, Salesforce and Google – as well as members of the non-profit tech support network, the C100 – to offer advice and inspiration to 21 female entrepreneurs chosen to represent the spectrum of start-up leadership in Canada.
Started in 2012, TechWomen Canada is a program run by the Canadian Trade Commissioner and the brainchild of the Consul General of San Francisco, Cassie Doyle. "One of our roles at the consulate is to maintain an active network of people who are interested in Canadian business."
The idea for the TechWomen program came to Ms. Doyle in 2011, when she attended an APEC Women in Economics conference, lead by Hillary Clinton, who challenged attendees to "improve women's access to capital and markets and to support the rise of women leaders in the public and private sector." The Trade Commissioner ran the program for the first time last year in Silicon Valley with 10 participants chosen from across Canada.
Saskatchewan business owner Janice Taylor, founder of Just Be Friends Kids, attended the program in its first year. "For female founders in technology, it can be disheartening not to see many women in the tech community."
Following the program, Ms. Taylor combined her experience with a spot at the Canadian Technology Accelerator, also run through the consulate in San Francisco. "After spending four months in the Valley, I felt prepared," she says.
This year's TechWomen program participants are described by Reza Kazemipour as leaders who could "experience the most benefit" from connecting to the high growth and innovative culture in Silicon Valley. Mr. Kazemipour, an active Silicon Valley entrepreneur and board adviser to many U.S. and Canadian startups, volunteered as a mentor this this year "because it is an opportunity to learn about new technology and new people in tech industries across the board."
He also helped choose the participants of the program by looking for "companies who were involved in businesses that would optimally benefit from exposure to mentorship in Silicon Valley."
For the next three months, Mr. Kazemipour will mentor Vancouver entrepreneur Christine Sommers, CEO of ePACT Network, an online emergency network that connects communities through crisis. Each participant in the program is matched with a mentor who is chosen to expand the entrepreneurial area of expertise and offer professional guidance and support. Ms. Doyle's goal was to "increase the connections between Canadians in Silicon Valley and Canadian business" for companies such as Vancouver-based EthicalDeal.
TechWomen partnered EthicalDeal's CEO Annalea Krebs with Yin L. Yin of Google Enterprise Partner Navagis. "In addition to providing me with her expertise, my mentor connected me to her network," Ms. Krebs says. "It's like I got six mentors in one."
Luticia Hill, CEO of Diggit.ca, is already using the information she received at this year's program in her capital-raising activities. "I have a much better idea about valuation metrics, which helps to position my company on both sides of the border."
Ms. Beaubien-Mattrick says: "We planned this program with the belief that if we put women entrepreneurs together with similar interests, they would naturally encourage each other."
Laurelle Jno Baptiste is co-founder of Toronto-based ScholarLab and one of the companies Ms. Doyle hopes will achieve greater success after participating in the program. In her opinion, "we can build and leverage the networks available within the start-up ecosystem in Canada."
Kristin Garn was a participant in TechWomen 2013 and she is founder and director of Mathtoons Media Inc., an educational technology company that works with Canadian universities and schools to build digital teaching and learning tools.