Author Archives: [email protected]

Mar 21, 2023

This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and Title Sponsor of International Women’s Week. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Week (IWW 2023) and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2023 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Each year, five inspirational leaders are selected to represent International Women’s Week. They are role models achieving a significant impact on our economy, community and society, and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWW.  

What ever happened to job security?

From the Great Resignation to mass layoffs, workers are struggling to find their fit in this ever-changing market. 

To succeed, shift gears.

Focusing not on your next job but your career instead, you’ll gain the skills, network and experience to reach your most audacious goals — no matter where you work. 

Certified Career Coach, Resume Strategist, Founder of WeApply and one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to Watch, Lissa Appiah shares how.

Listen to the episode on Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts

This episode is for you if:

  • You want to make a career change but don’t know where to start
  • You’re looking for work in a new country with different cultural norms
  • You’d like to grow your professional network
  • You want to get better at pitching yourself to employers

Looking for a specific gem?

[3:50] What it means to “live between the hyphen” 

[6:55] Helping her parents as a teen shaped Lissa’s career 

[7:47] Undermined and overlooked: an immigrant experience in high school

[10:50] Upgrade your mindset to build the life you want

[13:38] Why advocating for yourself at work can be a cultural barrier

[17:20] To make the right career move, make yours a targeted job search

[18:05] Get crystal clear about what you want

[21:56] The anatomy of a cold pitch (that they’ll actually reply to) 

[25:15] Does job security really exist?

[26:50] Your career is a body of work that evolves with you

[29:11] Align what you offer with what the market needs today

[31:40] How can employers retain talent?

[38:08] Steal this: Lissa’s strategy for prioritising personal development 

[40:45] Losing money on coaches taught Lissa what not to do in her business

[44:00] “I can do hard things,” from networking as an introvert to building a business alone

[46:00] What does AI mean for the coaching industry?

Listen to the episode on Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts

Tune in to the podcast or take the time to digest each article found below. Regardless of the format, there’s great content in store for you!

Naomi Haile:

 How did you grow up, and how has that informed who you are today? 

Lissa Appiah: I was born in Montreal, Canada. My family’s from Ghana. My parents immigrated in the 80s. I’m Ghanaian, but I’m also Canadian and from Quebec, which is a completely different identity. 

I took a sociology course in university called “living between the hyphen,” which is about this dual identity. I only went to Ghana for the first time in 2010. There was that shock because I’ve always identified as Ghanaian, but in Ghana I’m a foreigner. 

This has made me adaptable to different situations and types of people. I have more empathy, especially coaching people through their careers. 

A lot hangs on their job, whether it’s being able to stay in Canada for their immigration status, buy a house or just feed their family.

Naomi: What led you to start WeApply? 

Lissa: I’ve always been the person people send their resumes to, or come to for interview prep. I helped my parents with their resumes as a teenager. I understand career development and how to increase my visibility in the workplace to advance.

Over time, I realised a gap in career development: nobody looked like me. 

In high school I got advice that underestimated me. Many of my clients have said the same thing, where a career counsellor told them to go to college when they wanted to go to university. 

Having had a career in HR means the strategies and lessons I learned can help my clients succeed. Sometimes I wonder if I should have started my business earlier, but this helped me do my job. 

Naomi: How do people need to shift their mindset to progress in their career? 

Lissa: Recognize your worth. This may take time if you’ve had people negatively impact how you perceive yourself, but recognizing your skills are the first step. 

You can’t convince an employer you’re right for the job if you don’t believe it yourself. Reflect on your career, recognize your skills, and get comfortable articulating them to others. 

A lot of clients know what they’ve accomplished but see it as just “doing their job,” but the workplace requires self-promotion. People may feel like it’s bragging, but you’re not saying you’re better than someone else. You’re simply presenting the facts, what you’re qualified to do. 

Culture makes a difference. People who are of African or Caribbean descent grew up thinking about the collective, not about yourself. It’s about what we’ve done as a group. 

When they come to Canada, they’re in a workplace where they’re expected to talk about themselves. That’s uncomfortable.

Naomi: What would you say to people who’ve lost their job, or are starting to think about how to market themselves? 

Lissa: Understand where you are now, and where you want to be: in terms of your skills, qualifications and achievements. Take the time to reflect and write them down. 

Free career assessment sites like O*NET and government resources can help you get a sense of what you can offer, and what you want. 

Sometimes you just need a job, but never lose sight of your ultimate goal. Get clear on the industry you want to focus on. Create a list of 10, 15 companies you can research, find out who works there, and expand your network. 

Get clear on job titles. There might be a position for a financial analyst that one company calls an “investment analyst.” 

Get clear on the position and its responsibilities so you can bridge the gap: working on specific skills, getting a certificate or degree, and connecting with people in those roles. 

They may not want someone who is super seasoned because they want fresh perspectives. Do your research, talk to people in the industry, expand your network, and use LinkedIn. 

Don’t make assumptions. I’ve seen people go back to school and invest thousands of dollars only to not land a role because they don’t know how to articulate their skills. 

Naomi: How do you connect with people who have the roles you want? 

Lissa: View it not as an opportunity to get a job, but a way to build a relationship and gain insight for the long-term. The person you meet may not have a job for you, but they may know someone else who does. 

Don’t make it about you, but about them. They’re giving you their time, so what do they have to gain? How will you give them value? 

When you reach out, say why you want to connect. It can be something as simple as “I watched your YouTube video and learned a lot about this,” or “I’m exploring an opportunity with so-and-so company.” 

Just complimenting someone’s blog has opened doors to so many of my clients, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people don’t answer. 

Keep going until you find the right person, because often it only takes one. Maybe they put you in touch with another person or resource. 

Naomi: My mentor told me that when you reach out to people, do it with a clear ask. Show that you’ve done your research.

Lissa: If I don’t know you, and you ask me to be your mentor, it’s not going to work. You don’t randomly select someone and send them a message. 

Naomi: Do you think job security really exists, especially in 2023? 

Lisa: The concept has evolved from 30 years ago, when people would stay in the same job throughout their career. Now we should view things more at the career level as opposed to the job level. 

Someone may get laid off, or they may only stay in a role for a year and a half before moving on. The market is filled with precarious contracts, part-time or temp work. 

It’s more about what you want in your career. Are you fulfilling your goals? Then yes, you have job security. 

As you evolve, so will your career. As long as you have that connection with your work it doesn’t matter what the specific job is. 

Naomi: How can people position themselves for their next career move? 

Lissa: Understand what you have to offer, and what the market is looking for. 

You may have an incredible skill set but it’s not what the market is looking for right now. It’s the same basic economic principles for supply and demand. 

You will need to upskill, and you may need to evolve, to stay relevant with what’s in demand. Think of the shift with AI. 

Naomi: What is the biggest challenge and opportunity you see with talent retention? 

Lissa: Build a culture where career development is included. Tons of studies show it attracts and retains talent. 

Often professionals don’t feel supported by their organisation to gain the tools they need to advance in their careers. Sometimes they’ll even say that they feel their managers are holding them back, to keep them in that position. 

People grow out of their roles. Organisations must create succession planning accordingly. Someone may stay in a junior role for only two, three years. 

Implementing tools like this enables you to keep talent within your organisation, so that knowledge, expertise and corporate investment isn’t lost. 

Naomi: What excites you most about the future of business? 

Lissa: Coming out of the pandemic, the Future of Work includes remote work, AI, hybrid work. What will that look like? 

I wasn’t surprised to see a study showing that the four-day work week works extremely well. With this societal shift, employers and hiring managers need to shift their mindsets too. 

The coaches that I work with are people of colour, and they tend to be the people we collaborate with as well. I hosted a workshop on personal branding, and at the end of it someone came up to me and said, at first, they weren’t interested, until they saw me, and got excited that I’d be offering a different perspective. 

Open the door to voices that align with what the workforce looks like now.  

That’s where my company can make a difference, because our perspectives are different from what has conventionally been deemed as “acceptable” or “the norm” at work. 

Naomi: As a CEO, what are some non-negotiable items that you put in place to level up?

Lissa: Saving time in my calendar for my own professional development. When you’re managing a business, it’s easy not to get up to speed on the state of the market or the workforce. 

I block off time every week to read or participate in a course and catch up on news. I set up Google Alerts for certain keywords and go through those articles. 

I’m part of different associations and organisations that help me stay up-to-date with my certifications. As practitioners, we have to stay relevant and remain certified. I also have an executive coach. Find the resources and people that can help you get to that next level so you’re not stagnant. 

Naomi: What’s the best investment you’ve made in yourself, on a professional level? 

Lissa: I wasted a lot of money on coaching. You have to find the program and person that works for you. I shouldn’t say wasted because everything is a learning opportunity. 

Even when I hired someone that didn’t deliver, I learned for myself what I didn’t want in my coaching practice. 

People aren’t numbers, I want to work with them on a personal level. Experiencing that from another coach gave me that perspective. 

Some of the best investments I’ve made have been group coaching programs that I joined early in my business. At the time, I had a concept of what I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure what it would look like. I didn’t have many examples. 

I joined an American group, which was very diverse, and met successful career practitioners. Learning from them was a game changer. 

Naomi: What did building a business teach you about yourself? 

Lissa: I realised that I can do hard things. I tell myself that often, even in the gym. It motivates me to keep going. I faced so many obstacles. 

Being an entrepreneur is glamorised but it’s not easy. 

I thought that I’d make some Instagram posts and get a ton of clients that fit. There’s so much more to it. I’ve learned so much. 

I can open WordPress and create a website. I know email marketing and social media management. I have people working with me, but if they weren’t there, I could pick it up and do it myself. 

Being an entrepreneur has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone as an introvert, to attend networking events by myself, to not rely on anyone else. I put myself out there and built my brand on LinkedIn. Being vulnerable with others has been the biggest thing. 

Naomi: What is one thing in your industry that you’re keeping an eye on? 

Lissa: AI, especially ChatGPT. In career development, does this mean we need resume writers anymore? Do we even need coaching? It’s opening a door for people who may not be able to access coaching. It’s definitely a luxury. 

I think these tools will improve, but not replace, our work. 

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

  • Free career assessment sites: O*NET
  • Job Bank for those in Canada

Connect with Lissa

About the Power of Why Host, Naomi Haile

headshot of Naomi Haile, wearing a white sweater

An intrapreneur, consultant, and interviewer.

Naomi Haile is curious about people, their paths and what drives them. In 2017, she launched the Power of Why Podcast. Her guests have taken the non-linear path in business, venture capital and other creative professions to share their story. Each episode explores people’s philosophy on life and work.

As we all navigate our lives and careers, Naomi hopes that everyone she connects with – guests and listeners – can shape products, companies, and communities of impact.

Naomi is a consultant at QuakeLab. She recently graduated from Columbia University, studying Human Capital Management.

Connect with Naomi

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit to learn more!

Mar 14, 2023

This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and Title Sponsor of International Women’s Week. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Week (IWW 2023) and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2023 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Each year, five inspirational leaders are selected to represent International Women’s Week. They are role models achieving a significant impact on our economy, community and society, and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWW.  

How will you be remembered?

When her parents suddenly passed away, 11-year-old Thusha saw how their devotion to others kept them alive — an unquenchable force, multiplied in the hearts they touched. 

Today she carries their torch, seeking spaces where her impact can grow. 

Building engineering teams at BlackBerry and Magnet Forensics. Advocating for diverse representation in tech. Mentoring the next generation of women in STEM. Accelerating the adoption of sustainable energy as Aurora Solar’s Director of Engineering.

Here’s how she keeps her eye on the horizon.

Listen to the episode on  Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts

This episode is for you if:

  • You’re passionate about social impact and tech 
  • You’re considering a career change, but worry it’s too late 
  • You struggle to negotiate at work
  • You’re a manager who wants to create stronger, more collaborative teams

Looking for a specific gem?

[2:39] What it’s like to grow up in Sri Lanka

[3:15] Book fairs = Thusha’s happy place  

[4:42] When work is an extension of your childhood self  

[8:50] Giving kids space to grow, experiment and explore

[11:42] The irresistible world of climate and solar tech 

[12:27] To generate good ideas, normalise sharing bad ones

[14:54] Is self-doubt stopping you, too?  

[15:40] Thusha’s work is about making (and growing) her impact

[17:00] You have to ask for the things that you want 

[21:00] The electrifying power of women on stage  

[24:52] Who aren’t you hearing from? 

[27:19] When someone makes a mistake, how do you respond? 

[36:17] You have more transferable skills for tech than you think  

[38:00] The courage to change careers makes some of Thusha’s best hires

Listen to the episode on  Spotify / Apple Podcasts / Google Podcasts

Tune in to the podcast or take the time to digest each article found below. Regardless of the format, there’s great content in store for you!

Naomi Haile: How would you describe your childhood? 

Thusha Agampodi: I grew up in Sri Lanka, where I spent about 14 years of my life. Growing up in a Buddhist household, my parents were heavily involved in our community. As kids, I’d complain, but they’d drag us to all their events, to volunteer. They were demonstrating by example how much they gave back to the community. 

I can see all the compassion and kindness that was around me. I’m so grateful to my parents for sharing those values with me. As a kid, I climbed trees, played a lot of cricket, and read an incredible amount. My dad used to take me to book fairs. Just the smell and looking at bookcases full of new books was where I found the most joy. 

When I was around 11 my parents passed away. The grief came much later in my life. You look back and see all the events that your parents were not there for. I learned a lot going to their funeral and seeing the community they supported celebrate their life. That’s how I would like to live my life. The biggest lesson is knowing how short life is. 

How I was as a kid is reflected in the work I do now. I was always the one with ideas and I got the kids in the neighbourhood to help me execute them. We created a library every Saturday. We set up a big campsite and all the kids came together with the material we needed. We put the Olympics together. Looking back it’s less of a surprise that I’m where I am now.

Naomi: You wrote about the funeral and how everyone came to celebrate your parents. I don’t think this tradition is practised in many cultures. Did you find that it helped the grieving process?

Thusha: Having all of those people talk to me about the difference my parents made in their lives— and they still do, when I go and visit and they learn whose daughter I am — makes my parents live on for so much longer than they were here for. 

Now that I’m a parent I’m thinking of how I can leave this for my children, so that someone will tell them that I made a difference. 

It’s a gift to leave behind a good memory. I’m grateful my parents did that for me.

Naomi: That’s legacy, this idea of what you leave behind. What nurtured your boldness?

Thusha: In Sri Lanka there’s an expectation, especially for girls, to follow a certain path. And I wasn’t. I give credit to my parents for creating that space. I don’t remember them trying to hold me back. Even a small thing like playing cricket — not many girls did that. 

I was a bit of a tomboy. My dad worked at a university that had a good engineering program and he’d bring me with him. In hindsight I wonder if this was on purpose, because sometimes on the weekend he’d say “oh, I need to go into the lab to grab something.” I was fascinated by the lab equipment, the books, and seeing students walking around. 

They gave me a lot of space and opportunity to explore my interests. We didn’t have the internet or TV for most of my childhood, so I didn’t have much else to do with time. That helped my imagination. 

Naomi: Your work today really leans into that curiosity and experimentation. What does your day-to-day look like now? 

Thusha: I’m coming up on a year and a half at Aurora Solar and it’s been a dream role. Going into software, you don’t always think of the impact you can make, especially early on. But it’s everywhere now. Sustainability and solar energy are aligned with my values. 

As Director of Engineering, I get to support multiple teams of engineers who are talented, passionate and kind. I get to help them build good relationships with each other and foster an environment where they can share good ideas, and bad ones too. That’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do. I love it. 

Naomi: How did you know this industry was right for you? 

Thusha: I didn’t think much about the path I wanted to take. 

There’s some people who come out of university knowing where they want to go with their career. I wasn’t one of them. 

Naomi: Out of all the episodes I’ve ever recorded, no one has ever told me that. 

Thusha: Everyone looks like they have it figured out. I only knew I wanted to be in software. I love the field, how quickly you can make a change with a few lines of code. I didn’t plan on going into leadership. I enjoyed working at small startups and Blackberry, where I was for 12 years. I had a great manager who recognized my leadership abilities and recommended me for a promotion. 

In hindsight, I wish I had been the one to ask, but at that point in my career I didn’t have much confidence. I was the only woman on the team. There was a lot of imposter syndrome. After that I didn’t look back. 

Titles didn’t really matter, and they still don’t. What’s important is that I get to work somewhere where I can grow my positive impact.

If I leave somewhere it’s because that’s missing, or I’ve hit a cap where I’m not feeling heard or there is no more room for me to grow. At Aurora Solar I feel like I’m doing some of my best work. 

Naomi: You said you wished you raised your hand for that promotion yourself. Why?

Thusha: I get asked this question a lot. I’m mentoring young women who are moving into leadership positions, and I want them to recognize their capabilities, to speak and ask for what they want. I didn’t, and I wish I thought about what I wanted. Asking for a promotion or a raise, it’s been difficult for me. I’ve read the data about it being harder for women. 

We can’t be guaranteed a leader who will advocate for us, so recognize where you want to go and how you can ask for it. 

I just wish I had my own examples to share so I’m not a hypocrite.

Naomi: You’re speaking to self-awareness, and being able to identify where you’re strong, where you want to grow, and where you need to improve. Underpinning all of that is what you enjoy, what are you naturally good at? How can people take that and be more vocal, more intentional in their career?

Thusha: I’ve always wanted to encourage more women in tech, more diversity in tech. I wanted for a very long time until I felt like I had something valuable to share. I kept telling myself, “I’m not ready yet, but one day I will do this.” Then I went to an event that had a panel of women leaders and it occurred to me that just their presence on that stage was enough. It was so rare. 

At that point I was already in engineering leadership. I had to go out there and talk about my experiences to encourage or inspire others. 

Hearing other women who are ahead of me in their career talk about unconscious bias or micro-aggressions was incredibly validating. 

I want to do the same for others. If nothing else, maybe it can give you some courage to share your opinion, give your input, and continue. 

Naomi: When did you realise that being a change agent was your calling? 

Thusha: I’ve lived it. I knew what it felt like to be underrepresented on a team and how hard that made it to get your opinion out. I approach everything with a DEI lens. If we don’t have inclusion, you’re not hearing from everyone you’ve hired and you’re wasting your money. It’s in the data. Studies show that your profits are affected by the diversity of your team. 

The best idea, the best product, innovation — it doesn’t happen when a group of people share the same idea and agree with each other. It requires debate, disagreement, and doing it in a healthy way. 

That’s hard. It takes work. When I’m in a meeting, I’ll look to see who we’re hearing from. Who’s underrepresented? How do I get their opinion?  

Naomi: In Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t”, he talks about “getting the right people on the bus” and building a team that’s in line with your mission, and how important that is to organisational goals and a team’s effectiveness. What can you share about building a successful team? 

Thusha: Great book. I’ve read data Google put out, a while ago, on what marks a great team. They found that psychological safety is necessary for people to share ideas. We can have a great idea but not be 100% sure of it, or have a good idea and need to validate it with our team. 

I train my team on how to respond to each other when we make mistakes. It has to be okay. What’s not okay is if we don’t learn from them. We want to set the right monitoring in place, so we’re not releasing large mistakes to the customer and the product. 

With the right processes in place, we have the safety to take risks, try new ideas, experiment and learn from our mistakes. 

At Aurora Solar we have onboarding sessions where we talk to software engineers about code reviews. How do you approach that with empathy? It’s something we do many times a day, every day. You’re putting it up not for people to say “this is great,” but for people to find your blind spots. By design, you’re getting perspectives that are different from yours. 

How do you write code so someone else can debug it? So much of what we do is teamwork and making sure we like and respect each other. Having fun together is important to me. Building relationships and caring about each other, even outside of work, makes it so much easier when you have to have those hard conversations. I invest a lot in making relationships, so if they have to bring up something that’s not working, they have the courage to do it. 

Naomi: These are some very tangible tips. It speaks to the longevity of your work. The trust, care, empathy, process. I’d love to switch gears a bit and talk about the value of mentoring. 

Thusha: I love that I got to sponsor a scholarship at my high school. When I moved to Canada at 14, I went to that school and took English as a second language (ESL). I got so much out of that school, so I wanted to give back. I know how hard it is when you’re new to a country, to the language. 

Finding a sense of belonging takes time. So much of yourself doesn’t get seen when there’s that language barrier. 

In my first years in Canada, I met great friends who were going through ESL too, and there were great teachers. When I graduated, I was the editor of our high school newspaper, which I’m so proud of because I was in ESL just a few years before. The award I sponsor is for the graduating student with the highest academic standing from the ESL classes. 

I visit once a year, though we haven’t done it in the pandemic, to talk to ESL students about my journey because I know how hard it is. They always ask how long it took me to learn English. Do I have tips so they can do it faster? It’s one of the biggest barriers. 

With Carleton University I’ve gone to high schools to talk about engineering and why everyone should consider it. Young girls self-select out. I talk about my experiences because seeing real-life examples can change minds. 

Naomi: For my audience, career-switching is also a thing. What would you say to them about the opportunities in your space? 

Thusha: Engineering is a very male-dominated industry. Data suggests that women prefer to pick fields where they can see the societal impact they can make with their careers. I’ve been talking to universities in Ottawa about marketing engineering differently, whether that’s in mechanical or software or marketing, to highlight the impact you can make in society. 

In software, there’s so much you can do, whether it’s in climate tech, or at Magnet Forensics it was digital forensics software which was used by investigators to uncover evidence for domestic violence or child abuse cases. That’s meaningful work, and they’re just some examples from my own career. I encourage everyone to research the impact you can make in engineering. 

Career switching is definitely an option. In software, there are so many boot camps, and courses you can take. Even if you’re not looking to write code, there are so many roles in the industry, and skills that are transferable. 

Naomi: Tim Ferris came up with this concept called fear setting, where you write out the worst thing that could happen if you go after your dreams and come up with a plan to tackle it. When you lay things out, you realise that the worst thing that could happen isn’t that bad, but what you could lose from not trying is greater. How have you applied this to get out of your comfort zone? 

Thusha: I have a great example, but before I share it, I want to add something. 

Some of the best people I’ve hired were ones who had made a career change. It requires courage to go after something you’re curious and interested about. 

I find they’re more invested and engaged. 

Naomi: That’s really interesting. 

Thusha: Early on in my life I had this fear of failure. I didn’t take risks. But I really wanted to do a TEDx. I had set a five-year goal to do one. Two years in I got selected to audition, which in itself is pretty exciting. I wasn’t ready. 

It was too soon, but it was something I really wanted. I did it, and it was terrible. In the audition, I was super nervous. Public speaking isn’t really my thing. When I got the email saying that I didn’t make it it was devastating. 

It took me weeks to tell my closest friends and family the news because I had to process it before I could say it out loud. But in that year, I accomplished more than I had ever before, in terms of the community and hosting events. 

I failed, but life goes on. Realising that helped me take other risks that I otherwise wouldn’t have. 

Naomi: As we wrap up the episode, what are you excited about in your industry? 

Thusha: For solar, in particular, I’m excited about storage. I want solar on my house, but to be off-grid you need storage. With great advancements you can have whole cities off-grid. I’ve been watching zombie shows, thinking about what happens when there’s no electricity but the sun is still around. 

I’m also monitoring everything around AI right now. Everyone’s talking about the battle between Microsoft and Google with ChatGPT. As someone in the industry it’s interesting to watch, but there’s some nervousness about the biases that exist in AI.

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Connect with Thusha

LinkedIn – Thusha Agampodi

Thusha’s Medium Blog

About the Power of Why Host, Naomi Haile

headshot of Naomi Haile, wearing a white sweater

An intrapreneur, consultant, and interviewer.

Naomi Haile is curious about people, their paths and what drives them. In 2017, she launched the Power of Why Podcast. Her guests have taken the non-linear path in business, venture capital and other creative professions to share their story. Each episode explores people’s philosophy on life and work.

As we all navigate our lives and careers, Naomi hopes that everyone she connects with – guests and listeners – can shape products, companies, and communities of impact.

Naomi is a consultant at QuakeLab. She recently graduated from Columbia University, studying Human Capital Management.

Connect with Naomi

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit to learn more!

Mar 14, 2023

This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and Title Sponsor of International Women’s Week. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Week (IWW 2023) and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2023 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Each year, five inspirational leaders are selected to represent International Women’s Week. They are role models achieving a significant impact on our economy, community and society, and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWW.  

Building a business is a team sport. You’ve got the CEO’s vision, the product team’s execution, and marketing working with sales to attract and retain customers.

But when an unstable market threatens the stakes? That’s where Michelle Scarborough comes in.

Leading two of the world’s largest venture funds supporting women-led tech businesses — as Managing Partner of BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and Women in Technology Venture Fund — Michelle is levelling the playing field: laying the steady foundation for a more inclusive, creative and resilient future.

Here’s what she thinks it’ll take.

Listen to the episode on Spotify / iTunes / Google Podcasts 

This episode is for you if:

  • You’re an entrepreneur struggling to navigate this market
  • You’re interested in becoming a venture capitalist
  • You’re not sure if you should be investing more time in networking
  • You want to know how BDC can help your business

Looking for a specific gem?

[3:18] The daughter of entrepreneurs

[5:16] It’s not about “what” she would be, but who she could impact

[9:53] Mentorship from men, and learning how to influence others

[11:33] Michelle isn’t afraid of failure

[17:09] What a “funky market” means for entrepreneurs

[17:38] What are you building? Who are your customers?

[18:12] Talk to your customers constantly

[20:54] What entrepreneurs always ask Michelle

[23:49] Creating entrepreneurial playbooks

[24:50] A responsibility Michelle doesn’t take lightly

[25:19] Managing funds is not for the faint of heart

[29:09] How to lead impactful teams

[30:20] Why Michelle works with entrepreneurs and investors

[31:00] What makes a great investor

[33:43] The best investment Michelle made for herself

[37:00] Where’s the puck going?

Listen to the episode on Spotify / iTunes / Google Podcasts 

Tune in to the podcast or take the time to digest each article found below. Regardless of the format, there’s great content in store for you!

Naomi Haile: Tell us about your origin story.

Michelle Scarborough: I’m Calgary born and bred. My parents and grandparents were entrepreneurs. I was always curious and getting into trouble. I’m an Aquarius, we’re very humanitarian and future-looking. How can I be around people, and work together to create a better world?

I had lots of early experiences in media. I was a volunteer for the Red Cross, and they wanted somebody to be their community liaison in Calgary. I ended up on television every Friday at noon, talking about what people should be doing that weekend. It got me interacting with people in new ways.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just thought, “I’m going to do something that’s going to impact the world, and I’m going to do it with lots of other people.”

Naomi: It sounds like you had the environment to express your creativity.

Michelle: My parents let us explore the world. I was a kid, so it was within limits that were healthy. We didn’t have much in the way of “You can’t do this,” it was more “Why do you want to do that? What’s important about it? How do you think it will impact you later?”

The whole rule in our household was the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. My parents were very philanthropic. We developed that muscle early on.

Naomi: What was it like when you started in business?

Michelle: My dad was a huge influence. He was entrepreneurial, both within a big organization and his own company. He taught me the tangible aspects of building a company and how to lead by example. He was an innovator and a proponent of making things better and iterating as you move forward.

“Business is dynamic, it doesn’t stay in one place. We evolve and the companies we’re building should evolve too.”

I carry that premise into everything. Disruption can be complicated. If something isn’t working, approach the problem differently.

Another big influence was Milton Wong, a philanthropist and investor in Vancouver. He was a mentor, boss and friend. By the luck of the draw I got these significant male mentors in my life, and some women, who helped me frame how to show up in the world. To influence others by example.

Naomi: Did mentorship help you learn the ropes before building your businesses, or was it something you did simultaneously?

Michelle: A bit of both. Leveraging mentors helps you get out there and try new things.

“The only limits you have are the ones you put on yourself.”

What will happen if I step over the ledge? I never fear failure. I’m going to try, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else. At some point, I’ll figure it out. I have confidence in myself.

In Vancouver, I was part of the Board of Trade. We established a non-profit called Leaders of Tomorrow to help young people graduating university enter the workforce. That actually stepped me up because some of the students were outstanding.

When I was setting up companies it gave me access to this huge talent pool of smart people who would also benefit from gaining some experience. It works both ways.

“Building your network is half of it.”

Even if it’s just to go for a beer on a Friday night, those things really help: to bounce ideas off people and get support in ways you might not anticipate.

Naomi: BDC is doing incredible work helping entrepreneurs enter the market, compete globally, and get capital to grow. With such a huge mandate how do you set priorities for your team?

Michelle: Priorities shift every day: depending on the market, the companies in our portfolio and with those we might invest in later. When we started the fund in 2017, we had a white sheet to try and solve the issue of women not getting access to venture capital financing.

It was a huge gap, both when I was building companies and when I was on the other side of the table in different funds. Taking stock of where we started in 2017 to today is substantial. Our first fund was $200 million. Now we’ve launched the Thrive platform which is $500 million.

“How can we support the 29 portfolio companies in our Women in Tech fund? Not just in capital, but in networks, access to talent and customers — including BDC.”

What do you need to build a globally scaling business? We’re also looking at new opportunities. Who are those entrepreneurs? How can we bring value to them? This changes every day.

Naomi: In our last conversation you mentioned that this market is a little funky. What does that mean?

Michelle: Look at the stock market. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

“In a funky market, entrepreneurs need to focus on what they’re building and who their customers are.”

Going back to “du unto others as you would have them do unto you,” your customers are paying for a service, software, hardware — whatever you’re building. Serve them well. Take care of their needs so they stay with you.

If what you’re building doesn’t feel like it’s fitting the market, ask customers for advice. At the fund, I’m constantly asking entrepreneurs what we need to be thinking about.

“A customer-centric approach is first and foremost because those people pay for your service. Keep them happy.”

Keep your team happy, too. Stay coordinated. If you have cracks in your foundation and the culture isn’t there you need to solve for it. You can only go to great places when you’re working together as a collective, building something bigger than yourselves as individual contributors.

“Collective movement allows you to move forward and have value. In this market, that’s more important than ever.”

Naomi: For the companies you fund, what are some of the most common things they come to you for?

Michelle: Talent. Last year we had the great resignation, and now we have the great awakening. Lots of talent has been let go, and there are lots of people in the market, so how do I identify top talent? How do I manage and retain them? And, if I need to, how do I downsize?

“Developing talent should always be top-of-mind. The other big thing is managing cash flow.”

How do I make sure that I have enough cash runway to manage my company and keep customers happy? How can I grow organically without new capital coming in?

The third piece is expansion. Even if it’s incremental, you’re opening a new channel: whether it’s in a region or you’re developing a strategic partnership. Do I have the right people to do this? What other resources can I leverage? Maybe it’s talking to other portfolio companies or people at local accelerators.

“How can I access people who have done this before, and set up systems to avoid repeating their mistakes?”

Creating playbooks eliminates the hassle for new entrepreneurs who want to attack a certain market.

Naomi: BDC capital has over $6 billion under management and is supporting some of Canada’s most innovative firms. What does that responsibility mean to you? Where do you hope it will lead?

Michelle: It’s a big deal. Managing venture capital funds or private equity is not for the faint of heart. You have to really want to do this, and understand what it means. It’s not just about doing a deal, and investing in a company.

“It’s a huge responsibility both to the people that have given you the money, and who trust you to deploy it with integrity, and the companies and teams that you believe will be a great investment.”

You need to trust those teams to steward that capital in the best interest of their company and shareholders. It’s significantly more difficult than most people would think, but it’s also one of the most honourable, rewarding and humbling experiences.

I work with amazing people doing incredible things. We can do autonomous driving and long-haul trucking. We can do drug discovery in a minute and not spend five years thinking about it in a lab and working on animal studies.

I would love to see a world where we have diversity in all funds. Where we’re investing in the most amazing entrepreneurs — whether they’re women, 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous, BIPOC — and helping to make Canada a place where people want to be and create.

Naomi: At the beginning of this episode, you mentioned this vision when you were a young person: to work with great people, solving problems.

Michelle: I never thought about that. It’s kind of worked out.

Naomi: You lead really strong teams. How do you develop talent?

Michelle: It’s evolving. Some members of my team have been with me in Fund One, but probably half of our team is new, from the Thrive Venture Fund and the platform itself. We’ve got some best practices, but the first alignment is around our mission.

If you believe in the mission, everything else will come. Are you curious? Do you have a background in entrepreneurship or as an investor? We have both on our teams. They’re complementary skill sets. We want to look like our audience, to make sure we can serve them in the best way.

“From a leadership development perspective, being a great investor isn’t about putting numbers into a spreadsheet. It’s about developing intuition and having an appetite to be a good partner.”

It could be calling a coach, mentor or advisor on the weekend because an issue came up and you’re not sure how to deal with it. It’s personal stuff, EQ [emotional intelligence] and IQ. That develops over time.

Technical skills are super important because we steward capital. At the same time, we want to develop that intrinsic, social skill so people can understand the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur. We’re right there with them. It’s BDC’s competitive advantage.

Naomi: What’s the best investment you’ve made in yourself?

Michelle: One is being part of the Kauffman Fellows. It’s not just a network of professionals — though we’re all Type A, high-performing venture capital investors — but the human side is unique.

The other thing is finding balance. It’s a work in progress. Setting my workouts in the calendar, and being very intentional about when I need to take the break to go and run in the trails or see my trainer. If somebody calls, they’ll be ok to wait an hour.

“I’ve struggled to do this, but if I don’t take care of myself, it will be harder to take care of others.”

Naomi: What’s one thing in your industry that you’re closely monitoring? Every other guest has talked about AI.

Michelle: AI is table stakes for us. I monitor it less because we’re already living it. This is going to sound very Canadian, but where is the puck going? There are major shifts happening on our planet and socially.

What does the world need, or what can it look like? What technology can help us get there? What do the companies need to look like? Where might they be, and can we create them here?

“AI and other forms of machine learning will be foundational to that, but what’s more important is where we want the world to be in the next five years, and how do we create that here, to be world leaders?”

Naomi: Sometimes it doesn’t look like we’re headed in a positive direction, but seeing what everyone can do matters.

Michelle: You flip the negative. What could the future look like? Put your energy into that, focus on the positive. We don’t need to have the answers, but we need to have the vision to create something that puts us in a better place.

Share a bit about your origin story.

Connect with Michelle 

Connect with BDC

About the Power of Why Host, Naomi Haile

headshot of Naomi Haile, wearing a white sweater

An intrapreneur, consultant, and interviewer.

Naomi Haile is curious about people, their paths and what drives them. In 2017, she launched the Power of Why Podcast. Her guests have taken the non-linear path in business, venture capital and other creative professions to share their story. Each episode explores people’s philosophy on life and work.

As we all navigate our lives and careers, Naomi hopes that everyone she connects with – guests and listeners – can shape products, companies, and communities of impact.

Naomi is a consultant at QuakeLab. She recently graduated from Columbia University, studying Human Capital Management.

Connect with Naomi

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit to learn more!

Posted in Blog, News, Press Releases
Mar 8, 2023

La formation intensive pour entrepreneures à la recherche de capitaux fait son bilan et prépare son quatrième appel de candidatures national

Ottawa (Ontario) – 8 mars 2023 : Le Capital Angel Network (CAN), le plus grand groupe d’investisseurs providentiels de la région d’Ottawa-Gatineau, et l’un des cinq plus actifs au Canada, et Investir Ottawa, la principale agence de développement économique dans le secteur du savoir de la capitale nationale, ont annoncé aujourd’hui la fin de la première édition nationale de SheBoot et fait le bilan des répercussions que cette formation intensive pour entrepreneures à la recherche de capitaux a eues depuis ses débuts. Depuis le lancement de SheBoot en mars 2020, les anciennes participantes ont mobilisé plus de 12,5 millions de dollars en nouveaux investissements. Un pas de plus a été franchi vers la réalisation d’un des principaux objectifs de SheBoot : aider toutes les fondatrices participantes à obtenir les fonds nécessaires pour croître et prospérer.

Après ses deux premières années d’existence couronnées de succès, Investir Ottawa et CAN ont élargi SheBoot à l’échelle nationale en avril 2022 grâce au précieux concours du Programme d’aide à la recherche industrielle du Conseil national de recherches du Canada (PARI CNRC). Au cours de la dernière année, 15 fondatrices de partout au pays se sont préparé à recevoir des investissements dans le cadre de la première édition officiellement pancanadienne de SheBoot. Elles ont notamment participé à un concours de présentation de modèles d’affaires en novembre dernier lors d’AccelerateOTT, le principal congrès d’entrepreneuriat organisé par Investir Ottawa, où elles courraient la chance de se partager 300 000 $ en financement par actions offert par 30 investisseures providentielles. Voici les gagnantes :

  • Negin Ashouri et Inara Lalani, cofondatrices de FemTherapeutics Inc., une société canadienne d’appareils médicaux qui s’est donné pour mission de créer la première prothèse gynécologique personnalisable au monde, ont remporté le grand prix de 150 000 $ en investissement.
  • Macarena Cataldo-Hernandez, cofondatrice et chef de la direction de Viridis Research Inc, qui propose des solutions d’avant-garde pour le traitement des eaux, a obtenu le deuxième prix, soit 100 000 $ en investissement.
  • Lianna Genoves, fondatrice et chef de la direction d’ImaginAble Solutions, un fabricant d’équipement médical qui conçoit des appareils fonctionnels innovants qui améliorent la qualité de vie des personnes aux facultés motrices limitées, a obtenu le troisième prix, soit 50 000 $ en investissement.
  • Livia Han et Eve Staszczyszyn, cofondatrices de Compass, une plateforme complète pour les soins de santé mentale née à l’Université d’Ottawa qui dirige les étudiants vers des ressources adaptées à leurs besoins, à leurs préférences et à leur identité, ont remporté le prix du public et la chance de faire une présentation aux investisseurs du Capital Angel Network.

Pour conclure la troisième édition, les chefs de programme ont fait le point sur l’évolution de SheBoot et ses répercussions auprès de 250 intervenants lors du déjeuner annuel des investisseures providentielles, qui accueillait Arlene Dickinson, entrepreneure en série et investisseure de renommée internationale, au début de la Semaine internationale des femmes. Depuis son lancement en mars 2020, SheBoot :

  • a pris son départ, tôt dans la pandémie, sous l’égide du Capital Angel Network et d’Investir Ottawa, avec des contributions importantes de FedDev Ontario, par l’entremise de la plateforme d’accroissement d’échelle;
  • a fait passer son programme en personne à une prestation entièrement en ligne, puis à une formule hybride;
  • a reçu la candidature de plus de 280 fondatrices d’entreprise du secteur des technologies;
  • a attiré des fondatrices d’un nombre croissant de secteurs : technologies vertes, IA, logiciels, technologies agricoles, robotique, technologies médicales et autres;
  • a formé trois cohortes, composées de 39 femmes ayant fondé ou cofondé 34 entreprises de technologie en croissance dans cinq provinces;
  • a multiplié par trois le nombre de ses investisseures providentielles (de 10 à 30) et la valeur des prix en financement par actions décernés dans le cadre du concours de présentation d’affaires SheBoot (de 100 000 $ à 300 000 $);
  • a attiré plus de 50 femmes agissant comme mentors, conseillères et championnes, qui ont une valeur incommensurable à apporter au programme et aux fondatrices;
  • a créé avec Mistral Ventures un véhicule d’investissement à vocation particulière permettant aux investisseurs providentiels de SheBoot de regrouper leurs capitaux et de faire des investissements conjoints dans les entreprises;
  • s’est étendu à l’échelle nationale grâce à un financement du PARI CNRC, faisant passer le nombre d’entreprises participantes de 10 à 15;
  • s’est associé à Welch LLP, un commanditaire qui offre des services de comptabilité, de fiscalité et d’expertise-conseil;
  • s’est vu attribué un indice de recommandation client de 92 par les participantes en 2022 (un indice de 50 est considéré comme exceptionnel);
  • a attiré la couverture médiatique de Forbes, du bulletin national de CTV, du Globe and Mail, de BNN, de la Presse canadienne, de BetaKit, de CBC, de CTV Ottawa et du Ottawa Business Journal sur des participantes;
  • a accéléré la mobilisation de plus de 12,5 millions de dollars en nouveaux investissements (plus si l’on tient compte des sommes qui n’ont pas été dévoilées publiquement) pour les anciennes en seulement 28 mois.

Le contexte économique et les effets conjugués de la pandémie continuent d’exacerber les obstacles systémiques que rencontrent les fondatrices d’entreprise, en particulier dans le domaine de l’investissement. Ces cinq dernières années, les jeunes pousses fondées par des femmes n’ont jamais recueilli plus de 2,8 % des capitaux octroyés à des entreprises financées par capital de risque. SheBoot s’attaque directement à ce problème en faisant augmenter le nombre de fondatrices prêtes à décrocher des investissements, de même que le nombre d’investisseures. Des études montrent que plus il y a de femmes qui investissent, plus il y a de fondatrices financées.

Le quatrième appel de candidatures national de SheBoot aura lieu ce printemps.


« L’expérience SheBoot a été incroyable. En effet, de très belles possibilités se sont ouvertes pour FemTherapeutics Inc. L’entreprise ayant été couronnée grande gagnante du concours de présentation SheBoot, elle a obtenu un investissement de 150 000 $ capital pour son expansion. SheBoot nous a procuré les connaissances, l’expertise et le financement nécessaires à un moment charnière de l’évolution de nos activités. Nous avons créé la première prothèse gynécologique personnalisable au monde. Avec ce que nous avons appris au camp SheBoot, nous avons fait croître nos activités pour offrir nos solutions médicales personnalisées pour femmes sur les marchés mondiaux. »

  • Negin Ashouri and Inara Lalani, cofondatrices de FemTherapeutics Inc.; grandes gagnantes du concours de présentation SheBoot

« Je suis très heureuse d’avoir pu participer au camp SheBoot, profiter de l’expérience des fondatrices et investisseures à la tête du programme et gagner l’investissement de 100 000 $ du concours de présentation. Voilà qui change la donne pour nos technologies d’avant-garde de traitement des eaux et notre entreprise. À ce stade de notre croissance, des programmes comme SheBoot sont capitaux. Nous avons fait des pas de géant en très peu de temps. Le soutien d’autres fondatrices, conseillères et investisseures dont j’ai continué de bénéficier depuis la conclusion du camp a été indispensable pour rester connectée à une communauté solidaire. »

  • Macarena Cataldo-Hernandez, Ph. D., cofondatrice et chef de la direction et chef de la technologie de Viridis Research Inc.; deuxième au concours de présentation SheBoot

« SheBoot nous a aidées à peaufiner notre présentation, à établir des relations avec des investisseures et à préparer notre entreprise à recevoir du financement. Nous avons créé un appareil fonctionnel primé à l’international qui aide les personnes avec des problèmes de motricité fine à écrire, peindre, dessiner et avoir accès à la technologie. Nous avons hâte de mettre à profit les compétences que nous avons acquises pour pouvoir offrir notre innovation aux personnes ayant un handicap de partout dans le monde, ce qui s’inscrit directement dans notre mission de les aider à communiquer, à gagner en autonomie et à s’exprimer dans le cadre d’activités récréatives et de réhabilitation. »

  • Lianna Genoves, fondatrice et chef de la direction de ImaginAble Solutions

« Nous avons beaucoup appris pendant le camp SheBoot. Les chefs, mentores et investisseures du programme nous ont aidé à trouver les meilleures possibilités pour solidifier notre entreprise. Merci à toutes les mentores chevronnées qui nous ont conseillées pour notre présentation, nos finances, notre mise en marché et nos communications. Nous sommes heureuses d’appliquer ce que nous avons appris à SheBoot pour faire croître Compass, une plateforme qui permet aux particuliers d’obtenir des soins personnalisés et complets en santé mentale! »

  • Livia Han et Eve Staszczyszyn, cofondatrice de Compass

« Ce fut un réel honneur de collaborer étroitement avec les membres de notre communauté SheBoot en croissance : 38 fondatrices participantes au programme, 30 investisseures providentielles qui ont fourni des capitaux essentiels, plus de 50 conseillères qui ont assisté trois cohortes en trois ans. Les résultats que nous avons obtenus témoignent de l’efficacité de cette nouvelle collaboration. Je suis extrêmement fière de voir que SheBoot a pris une envergure nationale avec le soutien crucial du PARI CNRC et que le programme a aidé les anciennes participantes à obtenir 12,5 millions de dollars en nouveaux investissements. J’aimerais remercier tous ceux et celles qui ont mis la main à la pâte depuis les débuts du programme et catalysé l’émergence de fondatrices d’entreprise. »

  • Julia Elvidge, administratrice du Capital Angel Network, conseillère d’Investir Ottawa et cofondatrice de SheBoot

« Il y a beaucoup de sociétés technologiques dirigées par des femmes, mais trop peu reçoivent l’aide qu’il leur faut pour obtenir le capital essentiel et croître. Depuis des années, l’investissement destiné exclusivement aux entreprises fondées par des femmes stagne autour de 2 %. C’est tout simplement inacceptable. Il est capital de mobiliser des investisseures pour faire tomber les barrières systémiques récalcitrantes qui freinent les entrepreneures. Avec nombre de collaborateurs, nous sommes engagés à tirer parti des progrès graduels réalisés pour favoriser des changements à long terme durables dans la capitale du Canada et au Canada. »

  • Jennifer Francis, présidente du Capital Angel Network, administratrice d’Investir Ottawa et cofondatrice de SheBoot

« SheBoot contribue directement à l’atteinte des objectifs ambitieux que nous nous sommes fixés dans le cadre de notre stratégie pour les fondatrices et les propriétaires d’entreprise. Avec les partenaires de notre écosystème, nous voulons qu’Ottawa devienne la plaque tournante mondiale où les fondatrices de tous les horizons viennent démarrer leur entreprise et en faire une entreprise internationale prospère. À mesure que SheBoot prend de l’ampleur au pays, nous avons une occasion unique d’aider le Canada à s’établir comme le meilleur endroit au monde pour les fondatrices d’entreprise et faire valoir ailleurs dans le monde les leçons apprises, pour ainsi favoriser des changements à long terme durables. »

  • Sonya Shorey, vice-présidente, stratégie, marketing et communications, Investir Ottawa et cofondatrice de SheBoot

« Nos plus sincères félicitations à toutes les anciennes participantes de SheBoot. C’est un honneur pour nous à Mistral de contribuer à ce programme de premier ordre et de favoriser la réussite des fondatrices d’entreprise à forte croissance au pays. Au plaisir de célébrer votre croissance continue dans les jours à venir. »

  •  Pablo Srugo, associé, Mistral


À propos de SheBoot

SheBoot est une formation intensive de six semaines basée à Ottawa qui aide les entrepreneures du Canada à présenter leur projet et à trouver du financement. Lancé en mars 2020 pendant la Semaine internationale des femmes par le Capital Angel Network et Investir Ottawa, ce programme vise à éliminer les obstacles au financement qu’éprouvent les entrepreneures en augmentant le nombre de femmes qui fournissent et reçoivent ce financement. Conçu et exécuté par des investisseures et des entrepreneures, SheBoot offre aux propriétaires d’entreprise des technologies les compétences en affaires dont elles ont besoin, notamment pour mobiliser des capitaux et se préparer au marché. Il se termine par un concours de présentation de modèles d’affaires où les participantes peuvent remporter un minimum de 300 000 $ en financement par actions. Ces fonds proviennent d’investisseures qui ont à cœur de prêter main-forte à la prochaine génération de propriétaires-exploitantes d’entreprise. SheBoot fait équipe avec Mistral Ventures et Welch et reçoit du financement du PARI CNRC. L’initiative profite aussi d’investissements antérieurs obtenus grâce à la plateforme d’accroissement d’échelle de FedDev Ontario. Pour en savoir plus :



À propos du Capital Angel Network

Le Capital Angel Network (CAN) est le plus grand groupe d’investissement de démarrage de la région de la capitale nationale et l’un des cinq groupes d’investisseurs providentiels les plus actifs au Canada. Depuis sa création en 2009, ses membres ont investi 65 millions de dollars dans plus de 160 entreprises en démarrage; 85 % de leurs investissements directs ont profité à des entreprises des régions de Gatineau, d’Ottawa et de Kanata. Ce financement de démarrage a permis de mobiliser un demi-milliard de dollars d’investissements supplémentaires grâce à des subventions, à des regroupements avec d’autres groupes d’investisseurs providentiels et à des fonds de capital de risque.

En 2022, les membres du CAN ont fait pour plus de 5 millions de dollars d’investissements de démarrage, dont 22 investissements directs. Le réseau regroupe des particuliers, des coentreprises et des services de gestion de patrimoine. Il compte 30 % de femmes parmi ses membres, et plus de 50 % des entreprises dans lesquelles il a investi directement en 2022 avaient une femme comme fondatrice ou cofondatrice. L’adhésion est ouverte aux investisseurs providentiels particuliers, aux coentreprises, aux bureaux de gestion de patrimoine et aux fonds. Pour en savoir plus :

À propos d’Investir Ottawa

Investir Ottawa est la principale agence de développement du secteur du savoir de la capitale du Canada. Ses missions : la croissance économique et la création d’emplois. Pour contribuer à faire d’Ottawa une ville innovante, inclusive, tournée vers l’avenir et reconnue mondialement, l’agence fournit aux entrepreneurs de nombreux programmes et services sur le développement d’entreprises, l’expansion internationale et les talents afin de donner une impulsion aux projets d’affaires et aux entrepreneurs locaux, ce qui favorisera leur essor. Ces programmes et services comprennent notamment de la formation axée sur les petites entreprises, du mentorat, le développement d’entreprises de technologie, l’attraction d’entreprises et d’investissements étrangers, le renforcement et l’expansion d’entreprises locales dans des secteurs ciblés, la commercialisation, et la promotion de la diversité économique et de la qualité de vie à Ottawa. Investir Ottawa administre aussi les cours Bayview, qui sont le carrefour d’innovation et le guichet unique pour l’accélération d’entreprises à Ottawa, en plus d’avoir fondé et d’exploiter Zone X.O, un complexe de R.-D. axé sur la mobilité, l’autonomie et la connectivité intelligentes. Depuis 2013, l’agence a offert son soutien à près de 14 000 entreprises, participant à la création de plus de 14 700 emplois, aidant les entreprises locales à mobiliser 1,86 milliard de dollars en capitaux, et attirant à Ottawa plus de 1,47 milliard de dollars en investissements directs intérieurs et étrangers. Pour en savoir plus, consultez le Rapport sur les retombées économiques d’Investir Ottawa 2022 ou visitez

À propos de Mistral Venture Partners

Mistral est une société spécialisée dans le capital-risque d’amorçage présente à Ottawa, à Toronto et en Californie. Elle en est actuellement à son troisième fonds, qui porte particulièrement sur les PME et les logiciels d’entreprise. Depuis sa fondation en 2012, Mistral a investi dans plus de 30 jeunes entreprises, dont Rituel, Symend et Rewind. Pour en savoir plus :

À propos de Welch LLP

Welch est un cabinet d’expertise comptable profondément implanté dans les collectivités qu’il sert. Depuis 1918, Welch offre une vaste gamme de services de comptabilité, de fiscalité et d’expertise-conseil aux entreprises privées ainsi qu’aux organismes publics et sans but lucratif. Ses spécialistes possèdent une expertise approfondie de leur domaine et connaissent à fond les influences du marché, de même que les enjeux et les tendances propres à chaque secteur d’activité. En véritable partenaire, le cabinet adopte, dans la prestation de ses services, une approche concertée et axée sur la relation client. Expertise d’un grand cabinet, valeur et service d’un petit cabinet : Welch LLP est un cabinet comme nul autre. Pour en savoir plus :

Du soutien pour toutes les femmes

Le terme « femme » désigne ici toutes les personnes qui s’identifient à ce genre. Il comprend les femmes de couleur, les femmes transgenres et les personnes aux genres divers et non conformes (puisque le genre est un concept fluide qui peut changer au fil d’une vie). Traditionnellement, ces femmes se heurtent à des obstacles systémiques dans les principaux programmes, services et débouchés. SheBoot, Investir Ottawa et le Capital Angel Network se sont donc associés afin de faire passer l’équité, l’accessibilité et l’inclusion en premier dans tout ce qu’ils font. Nous voulons que toute personne intéressée par nos programmes et services se sente bienvenue et épaulée. Bien sûr, chaque fondatrice a des besoins et une expérience de vie uniques, et nous n’avons pas toujours les outils nécessaires pour répondre à tous les besoins.

Nous n’avons pas encore systématiquement évalué les façons d’adapter nos programmes et conseils aux fondatrices aux genres divers. Par exemple, nos conseillères et équipes de programme n’ont pas encore suivi de formation pour savoir répondre aux besoins de fondatrices racialisées ou aux genres divers, mais grâce à Investir Ottawa, nous allons y remédier sous peu. Avec l’aide de nos différents partenaires et réseaux, de nos experts internes en diversité, équité et inclusion ainsi que de personnes engagées et généreuses, nous faisons de notre mieux pour outiller toutes les participantes. Nous accueillons toutes les femmes et personnes non binaires, aux genres divers ou au genre non conforme, et nous avons à cœur d’entendre, de connaître et d’aider chacune, pour son épanouissement.

Renseignements :

Sonya Shorey

Vice-présidente, Stratégie, marketing et communications

Investir Ottawa, cours Bayview et Zone X.O

Cofondatrice de SheBoot

[email protected]


Posted in News, Press Releases
Mar 8, 2023

Investment-Ready Bootcamp for Women Founders Reports Impact to Date, and Prepares to Launch Fourth National Call for Applications

Ottawa, Ontario – March 8, 2023: The Capital Angel Network (CAN), the largest angel investor group in the Ottawa-Gatineau Region, and top 5 most active group in Canada, and Invest Ottawa, lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s Capital, today announced the conclusion of SheBoot’s first national cohort, and the cumulative impact of the investment-ready bootcamp for women founders since its inception. Since the launch of SheBoot in March 2020, graduates have secured more than $12.5 million in new investment. This represents key steps towards a critical SheBoot goal – to help all participating founders acquire the capital required to grow and succeed.

Building on the outcomes achieved during its first two foundational years, Invest Ottawa and CAN expanded SheBoot nationally in April 2022 leveraging critical support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).    Over the last year, 15 founders across the country have accelerated their investment readiness as part of SheBoot’s first official Canada-wide cohort. This included participation in the SheBoot Pitch Competition last November at AccelerateOTT, the flagship entrepreneurship conference hosted by Invest Ottawa, where founders vied for $300,000 in equity-based investment from 30 women angels. The following founders claimed top awards:

  • Negin Ashouri and Inara Lalani, Co-Founders of FemTherapeutics Inc., a Canadian-based medical device company specializing in the development of the world’s first customizable gynecological prosthetic: Top prize winner with $150,000 in investment.
  • Macarena Cataldo-Hernandez, Ph.D., Co-founder & CEO of Viridis Research, the future of advanced water treatment: Second prize winner: $100,000 in investment.
  • Lianna Genovese, Founder & CEO of ImaginAble Solutions, a medical equipment manufacturing company creating innovative assistive devices to improve the quality of life for people living with limited motor skills: Third prize winner: $50,000 in investment.
  • Livia Han and Eve Staszczyszyn, Co-Founders of Compass; emerging from the University of Ottawa, this holistic mental health platform that provides students with resources based on their unique needs, wants and identity: Crowd Favorite award winner with an opportunity to pitch the Capital Angel Network.

As the third cohort concludes, program leaders reported on the progress and cumulative impact of SheBoot with 250 stakeholders at the annual Women Angel Investor Breakfast headlined by Arlene Dickinson, internationally recognized serial entrepreneur and investor, at the start of International Women’s Week. Since its inception in March 2020, SheBoot:

  • Launched early in the pandemic by the Capital Angel Network and Invest Ottawa with critical support from FedDev Ontario through the ScaleUp Platform
  • Pivoted from in-person to fully virtual and hybrid program delivery
  • Received more than 280 applications from women founders of tech and tech-enabled companies
  • Attracted increasing diverse founders from diverse industries spanning cleantech, AI, software, agtech, robotics, medtech and more
  • Completed three cohorts with 39 women founders and co-founders from 34 scaling technology companies across five provinces
  • Tripled the number of women angel investors from 10 to 30, and the corresponding equity-based investment prizes for the SheBoot Pitch Competition from $100,000 to $300,000
  • Attracted more than 50 women mentors, advisors and champions who make critical contributions to the program and founders it serves
  • Established a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with Mistral Ventures, enabling SheBoot angel investors to pool their money and make a single, collaborative investments in companies
  • Expanded nationally with funding support from NRC IRAP, growing the cohort from 10 to 15 participating companies
  • Secured Welch LLP as a program sponsor delivering accounting, tax and advisory services
  • Achieved a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 92 from participating founders in 2022; a score of 50 is considered exceptional
  • Generated media coverage for participating founders in Forbes, CTV National, the Globe and Mail, BNN, the Canadian Press, BetaKit, CBC, CTV Ottawa, and the Ottawa Business Journal
  • Helped to catalyze more than $12.5 million in new investment for graduates in just 28 months (this figure is higher when combined with the investment not publicly disclosed)

The current economic climate and compounding impact of the pandemic continues to exacerbate the systemic challenges facing women founders, particularly in the investment landscape. Over the last five years, women-founded startups have never exceeded 2.8% of the total capital allocated to venture-backed firms. SheBoot aims to address this challenge head-on by building the pipeline of investment-ready women founders and increasing the number of women making investments. Research shows when more women invest, more women get funded.

Applications for the fourth national cohort of SheBoot will launch this spring.


“Our experience in SheBoot was incredibly rewarding. It has led to new and exciting opportunities for FemTherapeutics Inc. The $150,000 investment prize we received as the first-place winner of the SheBoot Pitch Competition is critical as we scale our company. SheBoot equipped us with the training, expertise, and funding we needed at a very critical time in our business development. We have developed the world’s first customizable gynecological prosthetic. The learnings from SheBoot will help us scale and bring our personalized medicine solution for women to the global market.”

  • Negin Ashouri and Inara Lalani, Co-founders of FemTherapeutics Inc., First place winner of the SheBoot Pitch Competition

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in SheBoot and benefit from the experience of the women founders and investors leading this program and win $100,000 in investment through the pitch competition. This is a game-changer for our advanced water technology solution and our business. At this stage of growth, programs like SheBoot are critical. We achieved significant progress in a very short time. The on-going support I have acquired from fellow founders, advisors and investors since the conclusion of the bootcamp is invaluable as it helps us to remain connected to a supportive community.”

  • Macarena Cataldo-Hernandez, Ph.D., Co-founder & CEO/CTO of Viridis Research Inc., Second place winner of the SheBoot Pitch Competition

“SheBoot helped us to refine our pitch, build new relationships with investors, and increase our investment-readiness as a company. We have developed an international award-winning assistive device that enables anyone with limited fine motor skills to write, paint, draw and access technology. We look forward to employing the skills we have acquired and putting them to work to help bring our innovation to those with disabilities around the world. This directly supports our mission to help promote their communication, independence and self-expression during recreation and rehabilitation.”

  • Lianna Genovese, Founder & CEO of ImaginAble Solutions

“We learned so much during our time at SheBoot. SheBoot program leaders, mentors and investors helped us to identify key opportunities to strengthen our business. Thank you to the knowledgeable mentors who advised us in our pitch presentation, finances, and marketing and communications. We are excited to apply learnings from SheBoot as we grow Compass, a platform that connects individuals to personalized and holistic mental health support!”

  • Livia Han and Eve Staszczyszyn, Co-founders of Compass

“It has been an honour to collaborate closely with all members of our growing SheBoot community. This includes the 38 founders who have participated in SheBoot; the 30 women angels who contributed critical investment; and more than 50 advisors who have supported three cohorts over three years. The outcomes we have achieved together underscore the power of this novel collaboration. I am incredibly proud that SheBoot has scaled nationally with critical support from NRC IRAP and helped graduates to acquire more than $12.5 million in new investment. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to SheBoot since its inception and helped to catalyze the growth of women founders.”

  • Julia Elvidge, Director, Capital Angel Network; Advisor, Invest Ottawa; and SheBoot Co-founder

“There are many high growth women-led tech companies, but not enough are receiving the support they need to land critical capital and scale. The investment allocated to sole women-founded companies has hovered around two percent for years. This is completely unacceptable. It is critical to attract more women investors to help eliminate long-standing systemic barriers facing women entrepreneurs. Together with many collaborators, we are committed to building on the step-by-step progress achieved to date and driving long-term sustainable change in Canada’s Capital and across Canada.”

  • Jennifer Francis, Chair, Capital Angel Network; Director of the Board, Invest Ottawa; and SheBoot Co-Founder

“SheBoot directly supports the bold goals we have established with our community as a part of our Women Founders and Owners Strategy. Together with partners across our ecosystem, we aim to help Canada’s Capital become the greatest region in the world for women founders from every walk of life to launch and scale successful global firms. As SheBoot continues to evolve nationally, we have a unique opportunity to help Canada become the greatest country in the world for women founders and share the learnings from this program globally to drive long-term sustainable change.”

  • Sonya Shorey, Vice President, Strategy, Marketing and Communications, Invest Ottawa, and SheBoot Co-Founder

“Sincere congratulations to all graduates of SheBoot. It is an honour us at Mistral to assist this impactful program and help fuel the success of high growth founders from across the country. We look forward to celebrating your continued growth in the days ahead.”

  • Pablo Srugo, Partner, Mistral

About SheBoot

SheBoot is a six-week bootcamp based in Ottawa, Ontario, that prepares women founders across Canada to pitch their business and secure investment. Launched in March 2020 during International Women’s Week by founding organizations Capital Angel Network and Invest Ottawa, this program aims to help address the funding gap facing women entrepreneurs by increasing the number of women making and receiving investment. Designed and delivered by women investors and entrepreneurs, SheBoot arms technology and technology-enabled startups with fundamental business skills with a focus on investment and market readiness. It culminates in a pitch competition for a minimum of $300,000 of equity-based capital. This investment is made by women investors committed to fueling the next generation of women-owned and led firms. SheBoot has partnered with Mistral Ventures and Welch, and it is supported in part by funding from NRC IRAP. It also benefits from previous investment through the ScaleUp platform supported by FedDev Ontario. For additional information, please visit:

About the Capital Angel Network

Capital Angel Network (CAN) is the largest early-stage investor group in the National Capital Region and one of the top five most active angel groups across Canada. Since CAN’s inception in 2009, members have invested $65M into more than 160 early-stage companies. 85% of direct investments have been into Gatineau, Ottawa and Kanata area startups. CAN’s early-stage funding has led to half a billion dollars in additional investment through grants, syndication with other angel groups and venture capital funds.

In 2022 CAN members made over $5M early-stage investments including 22 direct CAN deals. The membership base consists of individual angels, VC and family office investors. 30% of members are women and more than 50% of CAN direct investments in 2022 had a female founder or co-founder. Membership is open to angel, VC, family office investors and funds. For additional information, please visit:

About Invest Ottawa

Invest Ottawa is the lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s Capital, facilitating economic growth and job creation in Ottawa. Guided by a vision to help realize Ottawa’s full potential as a globally recognized, innovative, inclusive, and future-ready city, Invest Ottawa delivers venture development, global expansion and talent programs and services that catalyze the growth and success of entrepreneurs and firms. These include small business training, mentorship, acceleration for technology firms, foreign business and investment attraction, local business retention and expansion in targeted sectors, commercialization, and marketing Ottawa’s diversified economy and high quality of life.  Invest Ottawa is also the manager of Bayview Yards, Ottawa’s innovation hub and one-stop business acceleration shop; and founder and operator of Area X.O, the R&D complex for next-gen smart mobility, autonomy and connectivity technologies. Since 2013, Invest Ottawa has supported almost 14,000; contributed to the creation of more than 14,700 jobs; helped domestic companies raise $1.86 billion in capital; and attracted $1.47 billion in domestic and foreign direct investment to Ottawa. Explore Invest Ottawa’s 2022 Economic Impact Report for additional details, or visit

About Mistral Venture Partners

Mistral is a seed-stage venture capital firm with offices in Toronto, Ottawa, and California. Mistral is currently investing from their third fund, with a focus on SMB and enterprise software. Since they were founded in 2012, Mistral has invested in more than 30 startups – including companies like Ritual, Symend and Rewind.

About Welch LLP

Welch LLP is a Chartered Public Accounting firm that has deep roots in the communities it serves. Since 1918, Welch has been providing a wide range of accounting, tax and advisory services to private enterprises, government, and not-for-profit businesses. Welch experts are industry specialists who have an in-depth understanding of marketplace influences, issues, and trends unique to each sector. A true partner, Welch takes a collaborative, relationship-driven approach to client service. Big firm expertise, with small firm service and value. Welch LLP is a firm like no other. For more information, please visit:

Here for All Women

When we use the term ‘women,’ we are referring to all individuals who identify as women. This includes women of colour, transgender women, and women with gender-diverse identities, including non-binary and gender non-conforming women (as we know that gender is fluid and can change throughout one’s lifetime). These women have historically and systemically been excluded from many mainstream programs, services, and opportunities. SheBoot, Invest Ottawa and the Capital Angel Network are making a concerted effort to prioritize equity, access, and inclusion in everything we do. Our goal is to ensure that anyone who wants to access our programs and services feels welcome and supported. We recognize that every founder has unique needs and lived experiences and that, in some cases, we are not currently well-equipped to address all of these unique needs.

At SheBoot, we have not yet systematically assessed how we can enhance our programming and advisory to best support gender-diverse founders. For example, our advisors and program teams have not yet received training to help them address the needs of racialized and gender-diverse founders; however, this is now in process at Invest Ottawa. Leveraging the diversity of our partners and networks, our internal DEI experts, and our generous, committed community, we will do our best to support the needs of all participants. We welcome all women, non-binary, gender diverse, and non-conforming founders to SheBoot, and are committed to listening, learning, and helping every founder to thrive.

Media Contact

Sonya Shorey

Vice President, Strategy, Marketing and Communications

Invest Ottawa, Bayview Yards, and Area X.O

Co-Founder of SheBoot

[email protected]

Feb 28, 2023

This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and Title Sponsor of International Women’s Week. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Week (IWW 2023) and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2023 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Each year, five inspirational leaders are selected to represent International Women’s Week. They are role models achieving a significant impact on our economy, community and society, and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWW.  

Bullied, mixed-race, and living in poverty, many told a young Bree Jamieson-Holloway that hers was an uphill battle too formidable to overcome. 

So she turned inward.

Heartened by her grandmother’s motto to “push on, regardless,” she crafted a vision that would anchor her life’s work: travelling the world, starting a family, and helping people.

Now a published author, mother, equity champion, international corporate lawyer and founder of her own firm, Bree has realised her dreams — and then some. 

Last year, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister announced her appointment as the new Vice Chair of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

Here’s how she made it.

This episode is for you if:

  • You’re struggling to feel hopeful about your future
  • You don’t see yourself represented in the leadership roles you want to achieve
  • You’re passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion 
  • You enjoy business but aren’t sure how to pursue it with a social conscience

Looking for a specific gem?

[3:00] Yes, you can overcome adversity

[3:30] Intergenerational knowledge transformed Bree’s life

[4:15] “Push on regardless”

[8:00] Visualization; or the art of realizing your dreams

[12:15] Here’s how Bree broke free of her limiting beliefs 

[14:48] Bad at math? Become a lawyer. 

[17:00] Building a business that (actually) helps people

[21:00] Introducing the new Vice Chairperson of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal 

[26:43] On changing your career (not your values)

[27:49] Who gets access to justice?

[34:04] Your foundation is everything — keep it strong

[37:35] Moving the needle takes big leaps and baby steps

[44:17] Staying fiercely committed to DEI + access to justice

Listen to the episode on Spotify / iTunes / Google Podcasts 

Tune in to the podcast or take the time to digest each article found below. Regardless of the format, there’s great content in store for you!

Naomi Haile: Share a bit about your origin story.

Bree Jamieson-Holloway: I grew up in southwestern Ontario, in a city called Brantford, surrounded by intergenerational trauma and living in poverty. I was bullied in school. Being mixed race, I was always searching for a community but could never find one. I was either too much of one thing or not enough of another. It’s complicated for a child to manage all that chaos. 

But anybody can overcome adversity, if they have willpower, focus, determination and resilience. 

I was fortunate in that I had two strong women guiding me: my mother and my grandmother. They surrounded me with love. It gave me a strong foundation and moral compass. My grandmother always used to say, “push on regardless,” a motto for my life. No matter how bad it gets, I won’t give up. 

Naomi: With that motto, are you tapping into something? Is there a purpose that pushes you to keep going? 

Bree: I’ve never thought about it beyond the moment. There were times where I didn’t know how I’d get through the day, or the hour, but I’d always say to myself that it’s going to be okay. I don’t know if I understood what it meant as a child but it was the thing you did, that my grandmother had done, that my mother had always done. They were wonderful people so it made sense to me that things were going to be ok. 

As a child, my end goal was to help people and be a mother. Simple. But you can imagine this poor girl, living in a world totally different from the one I’m in now, just knowing that that was what I was put on this earth to do, and I was going to achieve them. 

As you get older your goals become clearer. I’d picture myself walking through the streets of London or Paris — dreaming of a different life, what that felt or sounded or looked like, and what it meant to me. Over time those dreams crystallized. 

To push on and keep going means getting out of my limiting environment to see the world, experience new people, cultures and life from a different perspective.  

Naomi: My mentor says that you have to see beyond the circumstances of your current situation. Visualization activates your senses so you can navigate your dreams as though they’re your reality. I encourage people to do this, because I did the same thing. 

Before moving to New York, I would lie down and think about walking through the streets of Harlem, being on campus, going to coffee shops. You mentioned London, but you’ve also spent time in Hong Kong. What drew you to go abroad?  

Bree: It comes back to the dreams I had as a child, of taking myself out of the confines of my socioeconomic status. I can’t tell you how many times people said that, statistically speaking, I’m not going to be successful. On the other side were people who said I can do anything I put my mind to, and that’s what I chose to listen to. 

It’s all about what you choose to hear, and what you choose to embody.

Experiencing the world was a powerful opportunity. It gave me a stronger toolkit when I came back home, to empower myself and grow. I had to break through a lot of fear to go on that adventure. The dreams were done. I had to make them real. 

Naomi: How have your experiences informed how you run your business?

Bree: Growing up, I knew I wanted to help people, to be a mom. To avoid living in poverty, being a doctor or a lawyer were the only two options that I knew were available to me. I was terrible at math. I didn’t see myself becoming a doctor, so I became a lawyer instead — and somehow became a corporate finance lawyer.

I ended up in the UK through a scholarship from the University of Ottawa, and that’s where I experienced business and entrepreneurship. Originally I wanted to be a human rights lawyer. Coming from a very poor background I had huge student debt to pay off. Law was an opportunity to help people, use my voice and stabilize myself financially. 

I studied business and entrepreneurship and found it incredibly interesting, but I felt ashamed for switching to corporate law to pay my loans off. But then I got into corporate law and realized there were few people who looked or sounded or identified like me. All of a sudden I’m forging a path for more representation. 

I can also help people build their lives from a business standpoint, so entrepreneurs can support their families and achieve their dreams. No path is a straight line, and I will always find ways to help people. 

I came back to Canada after my first daughter was born with my husband, who’s British. I was trying to find a law firm that spoke to my values and I couldn’t. At the forefront for me was diversity, equity and inclusion. 

I was pregnant with my second child and needed flexibility. So I just went for it and created Jamieson Law. It became something really special. We’re a firm of all women — not by design, it just happened that way. We’re diverse. We champion DEI and help our clients develop policies and strategies that support it. 

Diversity benefits businesses. It positively impacts their bottom line. 

Our approach adds a lot more value than just legal advice. 

Naomi: How have you transitioned from heading your own firm in the private sector to your new role as Vice Chairperson of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal? 

Bree: It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my career, but also the easiest. It’s hard to give up something where your team is so in sync with complete honesty, trust and transparency. That only exists with a lot of effort, compassion, empathy and understanding. It’s a huge achievement in and of itself. Saying goodbye was difficult, not just for me.

I talked to my team openly about this opportunity, and we shared what it meant for all of us. This choice will help me make a positive impact on a bigger scale for Canadians, but what does it mean for my team, for my clients? I worked hard to make sure they gained something to further their journey in a positive way, too. We have a really great plan for our clients. 

The Canadian International Trade tribunal is committed to providing fair access to justice. It’s in line with what matters to me and the team is incredible. 

In a leadership role my diverse perspective can foster an environment where, hopefully, people can see themselves in me, and know that that is an opportunity they can achieve.

Naomi: What does that look like? 

Bree: Access to justice isn’t a new issue. What are the gaps, the blind spots? From a procedural equity standpoint, it’s about things like plain language. Are we taking out the legal jargon so it’s clear what a person’s rights are? Are we adequately guiding them? Are we considering cultural nuances? Are we accessible to people with disabilities? Equity looks different for everybody. 

If we can create a justice system, and a quasi-judicial one as well — administrative tribunals, the courts — where all people understand their rights, know how to access it, and can be guided through the process in a way that is equitable to them, we will move that dial forward. 

This is an issue we need to constantly work on and bring awareness to. To improve this system is what drives me every single day. 

Naomi: To have someone in leadership think about equity at a systemic level is powerful. When did you realize that diversity, equity and inclusion can be part of your life’s work? 

Bree: It’s always been a part of my life. From the moment I was born I lived in the middle of an intersection. From a young age, I knew I had to advocate for it because I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere. That’s a powerful realization for a child. I want to be the representation I wish I had as a young person. 

Naomi: You’re also a mentor to young women entrepreneurs. Do you have any advice for our listeners?  

Bree: With women mentees limiting beliefs like imposter syndrome often come up. I’ve had that and empathize completely. Maybe they don’t see themselves in leadership, or are missing certain experience criteria because that equity didn’t exist when they were younger to give them those opportunities. 

What I always say, and this is something a male mentor taught me when I was younger, is to build a strong foundation. It doesn’t matter what age you are, where you come from, what language you speak, what your beliefs are, what color your skin is. Believe in yourself, be resilient and you’ll build a foundation so solid that nothing can shake it. 

You must understand who you are and what you are setting out to achieve. Then you can take those steps forward, big and small. These steps aren’t clear cut. Sometimes you’ll take a massive leap and other times you’ll wake up and say “I need to stay in bed today.” That’s still you stepping into your power. 

With an unshakeable foundation you will inevitably achieve your goals. You know who you are, where you come from, what matters to you, who your support system is, and what your priorities are — and you won’t sweat the small stuff. 

It’s not about other people knowing you. It’s about you knowing yourself. Anything is possible, you just have to push on regardless.

Naomi: How have small steps moved the needle in your life? 

Bree: Some days I’m taking baby steps, or no steps, and other days I’m taking huge leaps and big risks. It depends on how I’m feeling and what my capacity is. Challenges push me to find my power, even if it means taking a step backwards: because that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Sometimes you need to regroup, to pause. 

I am not going to feel guilty. I am going to rest because that’s what my body needs. You’ve got to take care of yourself. Recognizing that is huge. To push on regardless doesn’t mean not feeling your feelings or not being connected to your humaneness. It just means not giving up. 

Naomi: What are some of the best investments you’ve ever made? It doesn’t have to be financial, it can be something you’ve done for yourself. 

Bree: Believing in myself from a young age, despite everything. In 2004, spending $632 on a flight to England even though I was in university, on OSAP and working two jobs. It was a lot of money but I was ready to turn my dream into a reality, to actualize the person I knew I could be. 

I saw my worth. It was the greatest financial investment I’ve ever made. It brought me my career, my wonderful husband and my four beautiful children. I am grateful for that every single day.

Naomi: What are some things that you’re curious about? 

Bree: My biggest curiosity has always been people. I’m curious about their identity, to the extent that they’re willing to share with me. I’m curious about what drives them. It’s the key to finding out what changes people want and what changes need to be made as a collective to move that dial.

Naomi: Is there anything happening in the world that you’re keeping an eye out for? 

Bree: Diversity, equity and inclusion and access to justice are in the back of my mind in everything that I do. I’m always listening, trying to keep my pulse on how people are feeling, what people are talking about. I have my perspective and my lived experience, but there’s so much out there. 

When you really tune in and listen, you get to hear things that open your mind. That knowledge is powerful. 

Naomi: For folks interested in these things, what are your trusted sources? 

Bree: I don’t follow specific sources. It’s about looking broader. I’ll read tiny articles in obscure publications because this person’s perspective is so unique. I love podcasts. Friends and people in my network will often suggest publications or writers or audio books. 

That’s another great way to educate yourself, because the people around you understand who you are and what’s important to you. So if they’re willing to share that information I take it seriously. 

Connect with Bree

LinkedIn – Bree Jamieson-Holloway

About the Power of Why Host, Naomi Haile

headshot of Naomi Haile, wearing a white sweater

An intrapreneur, consultant, and interviewer.

Naomi Haile is curious about people, their paths and what drives them. In 2017, she launched the Power of Why Podcast. Her guests have taken the non-linear path in business, venture capital and other creative professions to share their story. Each episode explores people’s philosophy on life and work.

As we all navigate our lives and careers, Naomi hopes that everyone she connects with – guests and listeners – can shape products, companies, and communities of impact.

Naomi is a consultant at QuakeLab. She recently graduated from Columbia University, studying Human Capital Management.

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit to learn more!

Feb 20, 2023

This featured story is brought to you by the Power of Why Podcast in collaboration with Invest Ottawa, with critical support from BDC Capital’s Thrive Venture Fund and Title Sponsor of International Women’s Week. We teamed up to produce this special series to celebrate women leading in Ottawa for International Women’s Week (IWW 2023) and shine the spotlight on our IWW 2023 featured leaders to unpack their passion and purpose.

Each year, five inspirational leaders are selected to represent International Women’s Week. They are role models achieving a significant impact on our economy, community and society, and embody the spirit, goals and values of IWW.  

Mass layoffs. The climate crisis. Springing, starry-eyed, from a global pandemic only to find a recession stalking our shadow. 

Are we lurching toward The End? Or, as impact entrepreneur and angel investor Victoria Xu sees it, are we gearing up for The Next Leap?

Decarbonizing heavy industry with deep tech prodigy CleanInnoGen, investing in future-focused startups, and empowering everyone to join the charge with i4Green League, Victoria is helping reset, regroup and shore up the resources we need to face climate change. 

Humble, visionary and relentlessly optimistic, here’s how she does it.

This episode is for you if:

  • Your climate anxiety’s high and you could use some hope
  • You’re mid-career and rethinking your industry
  • You’re skeptical about cleantech but want to learn more 
  • You’ve considered becoming or getting funding from an angel investor 

Looking for a specific gem?

[7:30] When Victoria met cleantech

[8:00] 10 years in business? Time to study public policy.

[15:00] Angel investing isn’t about money

[16:20] “I feel a responsibility to take on risk.”

[17:30] Why angel investors need their eyes on the horizon

[18:50] What it’ll take for Victoria to invest in your business

[21:00] From neuroscience rabbit hole to full-fledged investment 

[25:00] How a volunteer role at a grassroots non-profit was overwhelmed with top talent

Listen to the episode on Spotify / iTunes / Google Podcasts 

Tune in to the podcast or take the time to digest each article found below. Regardless of the format, there’s great content in store for you!

Naomi Haile: I’d love for you to talk about your origin story. 

Victoria Xu: I grew up in rural China. I experienced a unique kind of extreme poverty that people here can’t imagine. In a way, it was a sustainable, pre-industrialized society. I lived in the kind of house you see people today building on YouTube: without any modern materials, where the rooftop is hay. I’m lucky that I didn’t suffer from things you might associate with extreme poverty, like starvation. 

I got to embrace nature as my only curriculum. 

I learned how to swim in a river. There was no technology, no screen time, because there were no screens. That shaped my values and taught me to be curious, and to have a sense of connection with nature. I ended up in the tech industry and found that those childhood experiences guided me to where I am now. 

Naomi: Did that environment allow you to be yourself? 

Victoria: I was lucky that I didn’t feel a lot of stress. I would ask “why?” a lot, but my family was really supportive and they gave me the freedom to explore everything, to express everything. The society I grew up in wasn’t as free as the one we have here but I didn’t feel that pressure. 

I learned that the only thing in life that’s certain is constant change. 

That helped me, even when I was different from the other kids at school. I was a good student, and when you are, people aren’t as bothered by your other behaviours.  

Naomi: How did you go from there to North America, and working in tech?  

Victoria: After graduation my first job was at Bell Labs, a global leader in telecommunications. That brought me to the US and into the corporate and tech world. That experience shaped my professional life. I joined top talent from all over the world. I learned a lot there. 

Naomi: In 2015, during your graduate studies at the University of Maryland, you developed an interest in climate change. What drew you to it? 

Victoria: I went to the University of Maryland after working in the global telecom industry for 10 years. 

Typically, people did an MBA at that point in their career, but I was more interested in exploring what else was out there. 

I didn’t need an MBA because my work at a global tech company was great training. I went to Maryland’s School of Public Policy instead to learn about the public sector, nonprofit management and policy instead. We had a new dean who, today, is the Special Secretary on Climate Change for the United Nations. That experience opened up a new world to me. A new Global Sustainability Center was created. 

My peers were going to COP 25 [The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference]. It’s interesting because that’s also when my children started to talk about climate change. The experience got me to explore it seriously, instead of thinking of it as another political buzzword.

Naomi: The spaces you’ve operated in, and the companies you invest in, are dedicated to improving people’s quality of life. Why? 

Victoria: The trigger point for me was COVID-19. Before that it felt more business-driven. The pandemic showed us that adaptation is needed to continually improve society. It reinforced what’s essential, it reminded us that there’s always uncertainty. In early-stage business, there’s always risk, right? So we need to stick to what’s valuable. What made money before might not make money in the future. 

Climate change is similar to the pandemic in that it reminds us that we cannot continue on the previous track. 

That’s why my mandate for investing is to improve our quality of life. It’s the only thing that matters. It’s all about people and our journey in this world. Children play a role here. When you’re a parent, you’re reminded of the meaning of life. You want to create a better world for your children. It’s all connected. 

Naomi: How did you get started with angel investing? 

Victoria: I didn’t plan to be an angel investor, it just happened. It’s a way to bring more impact to the world, in terms of applying technology to make the world better. I’ve always seen entrepreneurship in myself but I only have 24 hours in one day. There are too many ideas and too many things to be done. I like the challenge that comes with understanding a new technology, or an entrepreneur and their business. As an entrepreneur you have to focus. Angel investors are similar, in that many of them are very active and hands-on. 

From my perspective, angel investment isn’t just a financial investment. The numbers show that the annual return for angel investors is 20% plus, which isn’t bad from a financial perspective, but at the individual level you’re prepared to lose all the money you invest. 

Because even when we lose money we’re still supporting entrepreneurs and an early-stage startup ecosystem that really matters. 

Studying public policy and public management helped me see the big picture, and understand how valuable these ecosystems are. I’m prepared to accept the risk that comes with it. 

Naomi: Where did your appetite for risk come from? 

Victoria: I have a safety net: because of my experience, because of what I’ve achieved. Being in this position, I feel a responsibility to take on risk and uncertainty — otherwise who will? The journey itself is valuable. When I invest I’m not thinking about my return just in terms of money. There’s more to it than that. That’s a skill that angel investors need to develop: to see beyond the near future and that short-term financial statement. 

Naomi: What do you look for when you decide to invest in a company? 

Victoria: I’ve honed in on climate change because it’s such a big issue. We need a lot of new innovation because some will fail and some will, eventually, succeed. I don’t invest in solo founders. There are successful ones for sure, but it’s my personal preference to invest in great teams. 

When a group of people share the same values they can drive positive change. 

In terms of technology, I don’t have a list. Angels work differently from other funds who can source their deals. We don’t really have control over our deal flow. We’ve seen a wide range of startups. The one rule I have is that I will validate whether theirs is a true innovation, or something that will make money but won’t drive change. 

There’s five technical “whys” you can ask to understand what problem a startup is addressing, and what it will look like in the future. It’s hard to define, and that’s the beauty of early-stage investing: you never know what you’ll come across. I have my own limitations, in that I only invest in things I can understand. 

Neurovine, whose founder, Ashley, is on your podcast as well, is a story that demonstrates how all these points come together. First, they have a great team. They’re also working on technology that I understand — I actually studied biomedical engineering. I was personally interested in brain health as well, so I’d research neuroscience in my spare time. Because they’re not working in a crowded space, I could see value beyond their current product, which is a concussion treatment app. 

In times of crisis, leaders who dare to be hopeful are those who are able to drive us toward change. 

Startups have to be agile, ready to pivot to meet the market’s changing demands. 

Since I’ve invested in Neurovine they’ve evolved to do just that. They have their own EEG band [Electroencephalography, which records the brain’s electrical activity] now. They’re on their way to becoming a significant player in brain health. 

Naomi: In your industry, what’s one thing you have your eye on?  

Victoria: I won’t talk about a particular technology because it’s all exploratory. What I will say is that the expected recession and big tech layoffs are a good thing for clean tech. People used to be in their comfort zone, holding a decent job, staying on track. But now those resources, that talent, will be released from the founder’s industry, where there’s less investment in apps, to clean tech and fighting climate change. 

Imagine you got laid off. You might be rethinking where you want to work, and realising that there’s a whole new world that’s opening up. The nonprofit I work with opened a volunteer Board of Director position. It’s a grassroots initiative, we didn’t even have the website running yet, but we explained that our work is on climate change. 

We got flooded with over-qualified candidates. When we talked to them, they delivered this message that, regardless of what industry they’re in, they realised that we have to work on sustainability, we have to work on climate change, because it’s the only thing that matters. 

Even if technology changes, even if policies change, climate change will not go away. 

Mother Nature works like that. We need people to move into this industry, bring their talent, and stay hopeful.

Connect with Victoria

LinkedIn – Victoria Xu

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Five technical “whys”

About the Power of Why Host, Naomi Haile

headshot of Naomi Haile, wearing a white sweater

An intrapreneur, consultant, and interviewer.

Naomi Haile is curious about people, their paths and what drives them. In 2017, she launched the Power of Why Podcast. Her guests have taken the non-linear path in business, venture capital and other creative professions to share their story. Each episode explores people’s philosophy on life and work.

As we all navigate our lives and careers, Naomi hopes that everyone she connects with – guests and listeners – can shape products, companies, and communities of impact.

Naomi is a consultant at QuakeLab. She recently graduated from Columbia University, studying Human Capital Management.

In support of its Women Founders and Owners strategy, Invest Ottawa offers programs and services that enable and accelerate the growth and success of women entrepreneurs from every walk of life. Visit to learn more!