Earlier this year Women in Cloud joined the EQUALS Global Partnership, which brings together more than 90 stakeholders including, governments, private sector, United Nation entities, academia and not-for-profit organizations to accelerate efforts towards bridging the gender digital divide and fostering gender equality in the digital age.

Last week, we were happy to announce that our very own Co-founder and President, Chaitra Vedullapalli joined forces with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to deliver a SheTrades Invest course webinar in support of EQUALS. 

Earlier this year Women in Cloud joined the EQUALS Global Partnership, which brings together more than 90 stakeholders including, governments, private sector, United Nation entities, academia and not-for-profit organizations to accelerate efforts towards bridging the gender digital divide and fostering gender equality in the digital age.

The SheTrades Invest course is a 5-part webinar series designed by ITC’s SheTrades Initiative to help women entrepreneurs succeed in the technology sector by improving their access to finance. The SheTrades initiative aims to connect 3 million women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses to international markets by 2021. The initiative offers a blueprint of seven global actions to unlock markets for women as well as a web and mobile app for women entrepreneurs to connect to buyers, investors, and new markets. 

On 23 June 2020, Chaitra Vedullapalli presented the fifth and final webinar in the course on the topic of, ‘How to get ready for corporate contracts: The art of winning & keeping enterprise customers’. Chaitra as the Co-founder of Meylah Corporation has had her ups and downs in the tech industry in terms of securing customers and contracts during her initial days and was well placed to share her learnings with course participants during the live 1.5-hour interactive webinar.

There are also other course webinars including , ‘Identifying the right financial instruments for your technology company’ co-hosted by Dr. Gitanjali Swamy, Managing Partner at IoTask & Representative to the EQUALS Leadership Coalition that can be accessed via the EQUALS website here.

The SheTrades Invest course on access to finance is very timely as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that MSMEs face a financing gap of approximately $5.2 trillion dollars annually. According to the World Bank, women led enterprises receive only 3 percent of all venture capital funding. The SheTrades invest course aims to close this gap by equipping women entrepreneurs with the skills, tools and knowledge to meet the needs of investors and securing financing. 

Women in Cloud as a community is striving through the collaborative efforts of our partners and members. In this regard, we are extremely honored to contribute to the SheTrades Invest course webinar and the efforts of EQUALS Global Partnership and the International Trade Centre. Furthermore, to watch a recording of Chaitra’s session and access other webinars in support of EQUALS,  please visit:  https://www.equals.org/leadership-webinar.

ApertureData has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 to conduct research and development (R&D) work on scaling ApertureData’s visual data management platform for enterprise scale applications. 

The proposed research will take ApertureData closer to realizing the vision of a unified data backend for all stages of machine learning (ML) from edge to cloud, removing inefficiencies introduced by repurposing systems designed for other workloads. Capturing business value from data via ML comprises multiple steps (data collection, curation, training, etc) and is currently being addressed by multiple siloed solutions that, when integrated, result in an inefficient system. Given that each of the different steps interacts with data in one way or another, offering a unified and efficient way to interact with the data regardless of the stage reduces the complexity of ML pipelines as they scale.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

Improvements in ML have made it possible for businesses to extract rich insights from visual data (images, videos). Handling big-visual-data for ML requires storage and access methods that are designed with visual ML in mind. With the current off-the-shelf alternatives, ML engineers and data scientists are forced to glue data solutions not designed for visual data management. With our focus on the data side of ML deployments, ApertureData is well positioned to be the technical leader in addressing the next generation of challenges for ML based applications. This NSF grant will enable us to address the scalability challenges that are particularly magnified when dealing with image, videos, and its corresponding metadata like annotations and embeddings”, said Vishakha Gupta-Cledat, CEO and Co-founder of ApertureData, who will serve as the Principal Investigator for this grant.

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $256,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $1,000,000). Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch will know within three weeks if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. Small businesses with innovative science and technology solutions, and commercial potential are encouraged to apply.All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR/STTR program, also known as America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, undergo a rigorous merit-based review process. To learn more about America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, visit: https://seedfund.nsf.gov/

About the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Programs: America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $1.75 million to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.1 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

About the Author – Vishakha Gupta

Vishakha is Co-founder and CEO of ApertureData. Prior to that, she worked at Intel Labs for over 7 years where she led the design and development of VDMS (the Visual Data Management System) which forms the core of the ApertureData Platform. Vishakha holds a Ph.D in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a M.S. in Information Networking from Carnegie Mellon University. Her research interests encompass systems in general with particular inclination towards virtualization, embedded and real time systems as well as distributed systems. She has worked on graph based storage and applications on non volatile memory systems. She loves to work on systems which impose stringent requirements in terms of software design and coding and call for innovative solutions. She has served on the program and steering committees of several premier systems conferences.

Women in Cloud’s #CloudExecConnect is here to brighten your summer! #CloudExecConnect solves a specific need within the community to stimulate cross-pollination and bi-directional conversation that can make a meaningful difference in whether or not these businesses are able to succeed.

The two-day event is a curated virtual experience which will let you connect with industry leaders from Microsoft and tech giants. The #CloudExecConnect consists of two different events #CloudEnterpriseConnect and #FemaleCloudFoundersBrunch.

#CloudEnterpriseConnect will take place on 20 July, 2020. It is a four-hour event with meetings with tech buyers and providers together with a high likelihood to book real business with each other through pre-arranged face-to-face meetings via a digital platform. 

Our speakers for this event are: 

#CloudEnterpriseConnect is a perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet and connect with procurement officers, executives, collaborators and industry leaders. Since this is a highly curated event, it is an invite-only experience, so please apply here and await your invitations.

The second event, #FemaleCloudFoundersBrunch is a mid-day event on 21 July, 2020. This virtual brunch is created to help create access for female tech entrepreneurs. The two-hour session will host a power panel on the topic, “Accessing Customers with Digital Marketing Excellence.” This brunch is hosting speakers like: 

At #CloudExecConnect is a great opportunity to connect, engage and grow your knowledge and scale your business with the right people supporting you along the way. We are so excited to bring this opportunity to our community through #CloudExecConnect. We are also thankful to our sponsors Microsoft, M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund, Meylah, AppFusions, Qumulo, Founders Live, Alley, Ideagen, EQUALS, New Tech, The Meeting Pool, CSS, Black Girl Venture, Microsoft Alumni Network, WIT Network, Unreasonable, UN Women, and Dell’s Women Entrepreneur Network for their constant support to our efforts. Click here to learn how you can partner with us on #CloudExecConnect!


For more information on #CloudExecConnect, visit www.womenincloud.com/cloudexecconnect  

Women in Cloud, is pleased to announce B’zT as the winner for the #CloudInnovateHERxDigital Pitch Challenge. This pitch challenge was designed to showcase enterprise solutions developed by women tech entrepreneurs. 

Women in Cloud is a community-led economic development initiative taking action to accelerate massive societal impact at an unprecedented pace. We are going to generate over $1B in net new global economic access for women entrepreneurs by 2030 through partnerships with corporations, community leaders, and policymakers. 

About B’zT

By wearing B’zT clothing, parents and teachers can be alerted via smartphone when their children wander beyond a pre-set distance (25-30 Feet) in crowded places such as shopping malls, theme parks, large parties and picnics. It is especially beneficial for teachers who have special needs children that are prone to running away unexpectedly.

Women in Cloud’s programs are designed to help female tech entrepreneurs to win enterprise opportunities, get access to cloud credits, get access to subject-matter experts & executives, a global network with the ultimate goal of creating economic growth and job opportunities that are aligned with the UN goals.

This experience was supported by industry leaders like The event is supported by Microsoft, International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, M12 – Microsoft’s Venture Fund, EQUALS Global Partnership, Founders LIVE, Verbinden, Alley, New Tech Northwest, AirMeet, Speaker Engage, Headstart Network, and Meylah, who are also core contributors to creating access to enterprise business opportunities to more female tech entrepreneurs. We received many inspiring and innovative solution nominations.  Solutions were evaluated for originality, market feasibility, and use of Cloud and AI solutions. 

Although #CloudInnovateHERxDigital Pitch Challenge has concluded, the voting People’s Choice Award will remain open until 8 May, 2020. So please look at the line-up and tell us what solution you think needs to grab the spotlight.

Please join us on our other exciting campaign, #NominateAnEntrepreneur, where female technology entrepreneurs are celebrated on our network. Also, sign our Pledge by committing to create Economic Access for female technology entrepreneurs in your space. We would like to thank everybody for participating and supporting our mission. For more information about Women in Cloud and the join the Cloud Accelerator.

Over the course of my career I have lived and worked in Europe, Asia and the US as a CEO, a general manager with iconic brand corporations, and served on Boards.  Needless to say, I have taken my fair share of risks over the years.  Currently I am on multiple advisory boards for FinTech and AI early stage growth firms, a venture partner with a Fund focused on women founders in technology, and actively support the missions of Women in Cloud (WiC) and the Athena Alliance. Since I am introducing myself, I will happily add that I am also a wife, mother and grandmother.

If you have read any of my earlier blogs, you know I have shared stories of success and failure along my career journey.  This blog focuses on taking high-risk decisions and highlights some of the lessons I have learned, including ones relevant to our current, unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.  

Takeaways

Despite the cliff-hanging experiences I have previously shared, I continue to take risks. In the dynamic, competitive landscape in which we operate, we need to exploit opportunities and rapidly confront threats. I must admit, the decisions related to this pandemic crisis are extraordinary, such as how long to “lock down,” whether it is possible to hold onto jobs, what benefits to provide employees or not, how to handle contract workers, when to re-open work and participate in the community… 

These are some of the questions I explore when taking a typical, non-life threatening, risk.  Yet, as I think about these questions, I realize they are crisis relevant also.

  • Is the potential reward worth the risk?
  • Do we understand the opportunity and/or the impacts of our decision?
  • Do we have a strategy and action plans and back-up contingency plans?
  • Do we have the right team in place and does the team have each other’s back?
  • When things go wrong, is it really time to declare failure or have we just hit the inevitable “messy middles” that one needs to work through? 
  • Are key players (e.g., leadership team, management, direct reports, investors/stakeholders,  Board) really open to a “fail fast” approach or is “success only” the real mandate? 
  • Have I developed a strong bench, so that when I confront an urgent situation and must make an immediate decision and own it, key players will trust my judgement?

These questions vary depending on our current situation, market, industry and options. They change and moreover they can evolve with time. 

Open and Transparent Communications

Despite all efforts, failure or high risk situations can happen. Sometimes due to events out of our control.  Regardless of the reason, open and transparent communications is very often the key to keeping or re-gaining trust and gaining the time needed to turn the situation around and achieve success.  Communications could mean:

  • Keeping the organization updated on the situation, sharing strategy and actions plans, and providing guidance on how to respond to clients and other external queries.
  • Sending communications directly to clients, acknowledging their feedback, and providing assurances that we are working on it and will keep them updated.
  • Providing frequent, on-topic, clear and honest communications to employees through the most commonly used and any new channels.
  • Finding effective ways to get employee and client feedback, and dealing with emotional impacts in addition to the business situation.
  • High visibility and engagement from the top executive leaders is very important, as well as  an effective cascade so more immediate managers can be in alignment with the organization’s philosophy and strategy when talking with their teams.

When taking on a planned high-impact initiative, make the time to gain the buy-in of leadership and key stakeholders.  Determine what are the shared rewards that make the risk worth taking – together.  It is equally critical to have the buy-in and ownership of the working team, whether direct reports, peers or collaborators. This is a continuous process, so if an unexpected crisis happens, there is critical support on which one can rely.  

Accountability 

Success (or surviving failure) involves:

  • Keeping the team continuously engaged, listening to them even if their advice will not result in action, and providing recognition; 
  • Engaging and seeking the advice and buy-in of those above and your peers, as well as finding sponsors and advocates;
  • Taking ownership and accountability for one’s decisions!

Taking risks includes accepting the risk of failure. The question is not if, but how one fails. In Harvard Business Review, James W. Harris the CEO of Seneca Financial Group, wrote: “Skipping out on colleagues when things look grim is the most common failing among super-charged executives. Lying about the true condition of a business is another. Failure is no excuse to chuck ethics out the window.”

Owning my failures has been extremely hard, and yet the lessons learned have led to far more success and skills to deal with ambiguity and the unexpected. My greatest personal success is seeing the people who joined me in taking risks and  rose above any failure that may have happened, move on to achieve their own success.

A wise and experienced executive told me at the very start of my career: “Karen, I am confident you will be successful in your career. As you climb up the ladder, just remember to step around people, not on them. You are sure to meet them again on the way down or in different circumstances. You may not understand this now, but you will.” 

It took some time, but I always remembered these words and did, indeed, come to understand them.  When it comes to fighting a crisis like this global pandemic, we clearly must all function together, as one team, up or down the “ladder”.

Karen Cone FORMER CEO, CORPORATE GM, & BOARD DIRECTOR

Karen Cone is the former Microsoft General Manager, Worldwide Financial Services Sector, and CEO and Board Director of the advisory research firm, TowerGroup. She currently serves on multiple advisory boards and is a venture partner for the MastersFund, focused on women founders in technology. Karen has also held senior executive positions with increasing responsibility and scope at IBM, MasterCard and Gartner, where she served on the Gartner International Board. She has lived and worked in the Americas, EMEA & Asia. Karen and her husband, Jeff, have three sons and four grandchildren and currently live in Seattle, Washington.