Women in Tech $100k Investment Prize

The $100k Women in Tech (WiT) Investment Prize is back! The Firehood is bringing together an incredible team of angel investors who will award one female-led startup with a $100k investment. That means one female founder attending Startupfest will walk away with an important investment, and access to an amazing network of investors.

Any female-led startup in attendance can win this prize, and it’s in addition to the Startupfest $100k Best of the Fest Investment Prize and $100k Black Entrepreneurship Investment Prize. That means a Black, female founder could walk away with $300k in investment if they win over the judges of all three investment prizes!

Eligibility Criteria

The $100k WiT Investment Prize is open to any female-led startup in attendance. For the purposes of this prize, we define a female-led startup as a startup with the most senior member of the executive team identifying as female.

There’s no application process, no form to fill out, and no video to prepare. You just need to register, get onsite, and be ready to wow our Women in Tech investor judges with a superb pitch that makes the cut.

The Process

Startups have until the end of day on Thursday, July 14th—the second day of Startupfest—to deliver their pitch. They can do so in the language of their choice, but please be aware that since Startupfest attracts investors from across the country and around the world, many of them only speak English.

How do I pitch?

Your goal over the first two days is to get at least one of the judges to shortlist your Startup:

  • We’ve set aside time on our stage on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons for open pitch rounds. You’ll have 1 minute to pitch and up to 2 minutes for follow-up questions if the judges have any.
  • Judges will also be roaming the Tent Village, which is another way to get their attention! So get on stage, visit the Village, and bring your best hustle by connecting with as many judges as possible—after all, it just takes one judge for you to make the shortlist.
  • Our judges are wearing an Investor Judge badge and a green lanyard to make them easy to identify and pitch everywhere onsite. You probably want to avoid bathroom pitches, but everywhere else is fair game!

What happens next?

On Friday, July 15th–the final day of Startupfest—the Judges will spend the day in the Tent Village listening to additional pitches, and calling back their shortlisted Startups for a Q&A meeting.

By 4PM, the Investor Judges will have selected the winner, which we’ll announce during the closing ceremonies.

Prize Details

The WiT prize is an investment from up to 10 angel investors. Our default terms are based on an industry-standard convertible note (for reference, please see this convertible loan agreement). The winning startup will sign the convertible note with each of the investors individually. The investors are willing to create a voting trust, if and when the convertible note converts to equity.

The winning startup will also receive free access to legal services from Fasken and can choose to opt-in the ViaFasken program to get one year of legal support.

Think these terms shouldn’t apply to you? Need a tweak? We can discuss that. While we adopt industry standard agreements for the sake of simplicity, the judges are willing to discuss alternate terms proposed by shortlisted Startups during their meeting on Friday, July 15.

Meet the Judges

Danielle Graham

Danielle Graham is the Co-Founder of The Firehood and Managing Partner of Phoenix Fire, a women-focused angel fund. She also founded Communitech’s Fierce Founders, the first women-focused tech accelerator in Canada.

She was Manager of Ontario Centres of Innovation’s Market Readiness fund, Principal at Sandpiper Ventures and currently Executive-in-Residence for Capital at RVZ Brampton.

Claudette McGowan

Claudette McGowan is a global information technology leader with more than 20 years of success leading digital transformations, optimizing infrastructure and designing new approaches that improve service and cybersecurity experiences.

Claudette is an active member of the Canadian innovation ecosystem. She is the chair of the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR), a group of senior business leaders committed to fighting systemic racism within the innovation economy. McGowan recently co-led the launch of Phoenix Fire & The Firehood, a multi-million dollar women-focused angel fund and network for women in technology.

Sue Elliott

Sue brings rich experience in life science and biotech-focused organizations where she has been able to draw on a background in both science and business. She has worked with a variety of boutique consultative organizations, providing strategic and medical communication services to pharmaceutical companies across North America. She helped spin out a health-tech organization and grow the business focusing on the development and delivery of electronic data capture (EDC) tools for the life science sector. Sue was a co-founder and principal at Virtus Insights Inc., a strategic management professional services firm. Subsequent to that, Sue worked with Grifols Canada Ltd, as a Scientific Development Manager in the Medical Affairs department and is currently the Medical Lead for GI & the Microbiome within Medical Affairs at Ferring Inc.

Sue holds a B.Sc. from McGill University, a Ph.D. (Physiology) from the University of Calgary and an M.B.A. (Marketing/ Financing of New Ventures) from Queen’s University.

Jennifer McDonald

Jennifer McDonald has over 25 years of experience leading strategy, product, and operations for global organizations and startups. She was Chief Operating Officer of Moka, a leading saving and investing app in Canada and Europe (acquired Nasdaq/TSX: MOGO). Prior to joining Moka, Jennifer led development of mobile bank accounts reaching 2m people, in emerging markets from Colombia to Nigeria.

Currently a fractional COO and advisor to early-stage startups, Jennifer is passionate about building inclusive products and organizations. She proactively seeks to work with diverse founding teams.

Colleen Ward

Colleen Ward is a top Tech Executive in the financial industry and a sought after keynote speaker on Black professionals and women in technology. She is currently Vice President of the Delivery Practice in Platforms & Technology at TD Bank.

Her executive career began when she was recruited by HSBC, after which she went on to lead several global technology teams at American Express and later become Chief Technology Officer at JPMorgan Chase before joining TD in 2014. 

Since joining the Canadian multinational banking and financial services corporation, she has successfully delivered innovative technology solutions, demonstrating strength and leadership in strategic planning, business architecture and transformational change. Her accomplishments have fueled her progressive career at TD as Head of Merchant Solutions,  Vice President of Canadian Cards Technology Solutions and most recently as Vice President of the Delivery Practice. 

Canadian born of Jamaican descent, Colleen is passionate about diversity and inclusion in the tech industry and demonstrates her commitment as an Executive Sponsor of the Black Experience pillar, engaged in TD’s Black Employee Network and Women in Technology steering committees, and is a trusted advisor to many organizations including the Black Professionals in Tech Network and Black Hxouse.

Grace Almendras Castillo

– Entrepreneur in Health & Technology, Investor in Social Ventures, Solver of Big Problems, Broad Corporate Experience, Deep Understanding of Healthcare System
– Founder, Self Care Catalysts, a digital patient care and research platform,  acquired by Alira Health Inc in 2022
– Raised capital and commercialized Health Storylines leading to recent acquisition by Alira Health Inc. 
– Inventor, Health Storylines, Awarded a US Patent 
– Featured and won several industry driven competitions in Health  & Technology
– Named as one of the Top 50 Inspiring Women in STEM , Canada
– Participated in various Health Tech Accelerator Programs, SpringBoard Enterprises USA, MaRS Venture, Canadian Technology Accelerator, Telus Health
– Nominee, EY Entrepreneur of the Year, 2016
– Industry Advisor to Fields Institute of Mathematics, YouBase, and Tri-Agency Institutional Program Secretariat, NFRF-FNFR

Vartika Manasvi

Vartika aka V in the startup world is a 2x exit entrepreneur who moved to Canada in 2018, on a startup visa, supported by Govt. of Alberta. She exited her second startup, Stackraft, to a venture studio in L.A. and thereafter dabbled with angel Investing and advising entrepreneurs at DMZ, Communitech and Seedstars. She is an MBA by education, community builder by passion and an entrepreneur at heart, with 15+ years of product, marketing and sales experience.

Currently, works as Director, Startups at MaRS Discovery District and also runs her own decentralized angel syndicate – Sovereign Internet and Identity, a community-run DAO, that facilitates the initiation and management of pooled capital to back startups that facilitates a mechanical turk economy to support Universal Basic Income for a unified, borderless world we want to live in and build collectively.

Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson

Nkechi is an experienced Information Technology professional with more than 20 years in the I.T. space, she has held a variety of progressively senior roles within various organizations including Director, Data Center Operations at Rogers Communications;Delivery Project Executive at IBM; and most recently, Associate Vice President, Technology Solutions at TD Bank Group – but that’s not all.

Nkechi is an entrepreneur, author, professional bodybuilder, podcast host, and inspirational speaker whose “You Matter” speech went viral on several motivational platforms, most recently on Goalcast, with over 10M views and shared well over 40,000 times worldwide. She has a magnetic personality that serves everyone she meets in the most uplifting way.

In her current role as Associate Vice President, Technology at TD Bank Group, she is serving as Solution Train Engineer, responsible for the orchestration of large solutions events for the Data-as-a-Service Enterprise Platform.

A graduate of Concordia University, she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics, with a minor in Computer Science. In addition, she completed a Financial Acumen Executive MBA Program at the Rotman School of Management and is a recipient of the 2020 WXN Most Powerful Women in Canada – Top 100 Award for her dedication to empowering and championing others and influencing change.

An advocate for helping others, she is founder and CEO of Empowered in My Skin (EIMS) Inc., a grassroots organization that focuses on empowered personal development to help people maximize their true potential and become leaders in every aspect of their lives. She runs workshops, delivers talks, and organizes and hosts motivational events in support of this objective. She also pushes out empowering content to the whole world, through the “Empowered in My Skin” podcast, which she hosts and can be found on major podcast apps.