Communitech recently hosted the Fierce Founders Bootcamp pitch competition. The Fierce Founders Bootcamp is for startup companies led by female founders. At the end of the six-day bootcamp, eight companies get to pitch for $100,000 in cash.

All eight pitches were done by female entrepreneurs. All but one of the eight judges were female. The program is designed to bring more female entrepreneurs to the forefront.

We sometimes hear from people that this type of focused accelerator program doesn’t work. We hear that gender doesn’t matter . . . that the best should win. For those who attended the pitch competition, the best did win. Eight great founders running and building eight great companies took to the stage. No one talked about gender. They talked about tech. Sales channels. Marketing strategies. It was the way it was supposed to be.

The bootcamp was sponsored by Deloitte, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Thomson Reuters, Google, and Kognitiv. Why would these companies want to sponsor a pitch competition focused on female founders? They are being very intentional about attaching their brands to a group of smart entrepreneurs. They are being very intentional about who they want to get in front of. Smart.

In a previous post, I spoke about the importance of diversity to drive innovative cultures and output. The reality is, diversity doesn’t happen without some purpose put into it. If we want to foster an innovative culture, we have to actively recruit women, people from different cultures, people of different ages and people from other parts of the organization. We need to build a strategy to attract the kind of people we want on our innovation team.

What the Fierce Founders Bootcamp and Accelerator have taught us is that it is worth it to put a strategy together to attract the kind of people we need to build a diverse tech ecosystem here at Communitech. The output of that effort is smart, successful women who have a real chance to build successful businesses. They won’t succeed because they are women. They will succeed because they are smart, they work hard and they build great teams.

So, for those in charge of innovation in your organization, what work do you have to do to be diverse? What kind of people are missing around your table? Where do you find the right kind of people so you can accelerate your innovation efforts, leveraging the participation of different voices and different perspectives? What stories do you have to tell to attract and bring these people together?

Do the hard work and recruit a diverse group, which will give your innovation team the best opportunity to be successful. Nothing is guaranteed, but a room full of smart, diverse and hard-working people will give your organization the best chance to win.

Congratulations to Willow Cup and Genecis EnviroTech, winners of $60,000 and $40,000, respectively, at the Fierce Founders Bootcamp pitch competition.

About The Author

Craig Haney
Director, Corporate Innovation, Communitech

Craig is leading the charge for corporate innovation in Canada. His work with Canadian Tire Innovations helped launch the LeanLab project at Communitech, helping large, non-tech companies become faster and more innovative by engaging with startups. As Director of Corporate Innovation at Communitech, his focus is to grow the ecosystem by exposing small companies to big problems they can solve for some of Canada’s largest players. Craig has an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario and a Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technonogy (MBET) from the University of Waterloo.