IWD 2020: 5 founders on why they became entrepreneurs

Women make up 50% of the population but only 8% of capital is invested in female-led companies, even though data shows that diverse teams perform better. Antler wants to enable more women to launch and lead companies. Here are stories of five female founders and why they decided to become entrepreneurs.

Monika Venčkauskaitė

From physics data analysis and AI to electrical vehicle charging

My name is Monika Venčkauskaitė. Before starting my entrepreneurial journey I analysed physics data in search for exotic particles: Higgs, dark matter, neutrinos and cosmics – you name it. Going beyond the known and tackling complicated problems is what excites me most.

After leaving academia, I took on the challenge of the IT sector. It was amazing to learn how the internet is made and how to run the electronic services. We can solve so many current problems using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is how I grew to love the AI field - it will transform our healthcare, help to create new medicines and make our lives easier. During this time in my career, I developed an AI application which would be used to fight fake news, propaganda and people trafficking.

I want to have a positive impact on the world, and there is so much unexplored ground to cover in the tech sector, and many ways to apply current inventions creatively. I then found Antler. The opportunity seemed so amazing, I didn’t hesitate - I wrapped up everything I was working on and moved to Stockholm from Vilnius.

In the first few weeks in the program I met some amazing people, and learned a lot from each other and the presenters. For example, I quickly learned that even if you feel comfortable, don’t be afraid to pivot! Right now, I’m working on a platform that will help electric car drivers have an easy and comfortable trip – no compromises on sustainable living!

Charlotte Duoyi Zhao

Leveraging a background in sales and software engineering for an audio-based learning startup

I am a people-person with a love for learning, which has led me to study and work in China, the US, France, Japan and the UK. After many years in sales, I taught myself coding while working full-time, and then transitioned to becoming a full-stack software engineer. The transition was made possible thanks to audio-based learning. Audio-based learning changed my life, and our new startup AViD is on a mission to help anyone with a phone to learn by providing a platform for consuming and creating audio courses.

My interest in entrepreneurship comes from the desire to solve problems. I see problems as opportunities calling for someone to solve them - you can either choose to wait and see if someone else does it or try to solve it yourself. I’m also a very curious person - I love learning and what a better way to keep on learning than entrepreneurship? 

The biggest learning I’ve had, which almost sounds cliché, is that I’ve realized how important people are. For me, the most important person during this journey is definitely my co-founder, who I bonded with over a shared mission. Who knows what’s going to happen to our business in a year’s time, but with that foundation uniting us, we both feel secure in this partnership.

Wala Loubani

From entrepreneurship to Google and back 

I was lucky to work for some of the greatest employers in the world including Marin Software and Google. However I, like many others, have also worked for companies that cared very little about its people and failed to successfully make the link between people and profitability. 

The journey to becoming an entrepreneur came in two stages for me. The first one was when I had my first child. The pregnancy was complicated and I was deeply impacted by that experience, and ultimately I decided to prioritise my family. This gave me the space needed for my entrepreneurial spirit to flourish.

My second time was when I applied to Antler. It's funny that previously when becoming a mother I stepped back and now I step up. I think that shows how women should have the option to do what suits them and that the same woman can make different choices. It doesn't have to be either or. 

Antler surprised me - the talent it acquired is truly amazing and the support is something all entrepreneurs would benefit from. You develop a deep understanding of the startup journey and can go from zero to 1 in just a few months. I’m grateful to have found a co-founder that not only shares my values and has a cutting edge skill set, but that is also passionate about the same area as me - improving employee wellbeing.

Beatrice Zatorska

Leaving large international corporations to pursue entrepreneurship

I have been commercialising emerging technologies for almost 20 years, travelling the world helping my clients - many Fortune 500 companies - to hunt for scientific research and scientists to turn their innovations into great products. 

More recently however, I was helping my former employer expand into emerging markets, and as part of that I had the opportunity to set up offices in these new regions. Even though it was for a large international company, it felt very entrepreneurial and it was essentially how I became hooked by the founder mentality. I had to learn how to be a manager, recruiter, operations and salesperson all at once. When I came back to London and went back to work for a corporation. I lasted a day. 

I like to be challenged and always learn. I found that I really want to do things and be creative without limits, so I signed up to Antler to work on an idea I’ve been obsessed with for years. The best part was to meet Kris Jack, my co-founder and great friend who shares the same passion and values. Together we built Smart Tribe to help bridge the gap between academia and industry. I am living my dream doing what I do now.

Sneha Das

Finding the courage to overcome self-doubt and lead

Coming from an engineering/ design background and being a serial entrepreneur, I believe that my purpose in life is to build things. I want to see the effect of disrupting a whole entire industry and create value with what I build. 

Although similar to many other entrepreneurs I can have self-doubt. What has helped me with that is meeting Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, at a launch event. She is someone that I had been idolizing forever, and I learned that she too has faced struggles and it helped me move past my own insecurities. Meeting her taught me that the high expectations I set for myself as a woman who wanted to make it, were actually slowing me down instead of bringing me forward. So for me, the moral of the story is that many factors can hold you back from reaching your goals, but I think the biggest one is sometimes yourself.

At Antler, I am surrounded by fierce women. All of them are go-getters with their eyes on the prize. In the program we all go out of our way to help each other - it’s very inspiring. Not only that, it’s important because when you’re on this journey of building a business and you have those moments of self-doubt, that support keeps pushing you forward - it’s a big value add for me.

The world needs more female entrepreneurs and we want to enable more women to launch and lead companies. Take the leap and apply to Antler.

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