Situated among the eastern foothills of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, at the intersection of the Bow and Elbow rivers, Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta. Home to more than 1.2mn people, the city is the capital of the nation’s oil and gas industry and a regional economic powerhouse. On average, Calgary experiences higher levels of economic growth and lower levels of unemployment than the Canadian average. In 2019, GDP is predicted to grow by 1.9% compared to the national predicted rate of 1.7%. "The regional economy is expected to add 108,500 jobs over the six years from 2018 to 2023. As a result, the unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.9% in 2024," according to a report by the city’s economic team released earlier this year.
Another area in which Calgary leads the region of Alberta – and Alberta leads Canada as a whole – is in innovation and diversity. According to a 2018 study of 208 companies from the region, Alberta’s tech startups are twice as likely to have a female founder or co-founder than the average Canadian company. As part of our Women in Tech month, Business Chief Canada takes a look at some of the Calgarian startups led by the region’s leading female entrepreneurs.
CNK Tech - Christy Hemmingway, COO
Co-founded in 2017 by Christy Hemmingway, Nadim Lalani, and Kyle McLeod, CNK (Christy, Nadim, Kyle) initially sought to explore the reasons behind employee burnout in the high stress field of medicine. The company’s research found that, on average, 66% of medical professionals exhibit symptoms of burnout.
This realization led to the creation of the company’s first product, DoctoRevolution. The online platform offered a series of e-courses, one-on-one coaching, and psychometric tools focused on wellness for medical professionals.
Hemmingway and the CNK team quickly realized that the stress coping solutions offered by DoctoRevolution could be effectively applied to other disciplines and industries. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the company’s new product, OrigamiAI is a first of its kind human capital analytics tool that provides companies with insight into the mental wellbeing of their staff.
“It’s really important to do something that is purposeful and meaningful to you. If you’re going to spend all of this time, energy, money and risk, then you should be doing something that you’re actually passionate about and not something that you’re looking for a big payout for - that payout may never come,” Hemmingway said in an interview with Alberta Venture.
FarCloser Travel - Natasha Spokes, CEO
“Travel, like so many other industries, has its share of big players and small fish all offering unique experiences for their guests. Unfortunately, like many industries, it tends to be the big guys that get all the attention. This works for travelers who are happy sticking to the big brands but what about those seeking experiences with smaller travel operators?”
Co-founded by Spokes and her husband, FarCloser Travel hosts an online marketplace for adventurous travelers to book multi-day trips and tours to exotic locales that may not be available through more traditional means. The company’s agents don’t work on commission, adding credence to their claim that they offer an unbiased recommendation service, which users can visualize on a persistent global map.
When speaking with Alberta Venture, Spokes advised other women in tech to “align yourself with professionals who truly support entrepreneurs, not just as part of their sales pitch. When you can build a relationship with them and trust their advice, it takes a lot of worry off your plate so that you can concentrate on growing your business,” adding that “while surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you helps, sometimes you just have to try things and see how they turn out.”
Chic Geek - Kylie Woods, Founder
Driven by a desire to see more women ‘celebrate technology and embrace their inner nerd’, Kylie Woods founded Chic Geek in 2013. The nonprofit is headquartered in downtown Calgary and provides workshops, networking events and mentorship programs for women and girls looking to explore technology, entrepreneurship and startups. The company’s first major project involved partnering with Ladies Learning Code to bring coding workshops to the city.
In 2016, Woods represented Alberta in the prestigious International Visitors Leadership Program and was a voice for women in STEM on an international stage, according to BetaKit.
“I’ve always come to it from a place of just absolute curiosity. I kind of stumbled upon this tech and startup scene in Calgary and fell in love with it,” Woods said in a 2017 interview with Startup Canada Podcast.