Entrepreneurs wear many hats; but they don’t need to be a computer programmer or web designer to run a successful tech company.
For many women business owners, however, a lack of technical knowledge can be a significant barrier in developing their minimum viable product (MVP); delaying entry into the market or costing the founder more dollars up front to contract development skills.
Recent data supports what many have long suspected. According to the 2022 RISE Needs Assessment survey by Workforce WindsorEssex, women and women-led technology companies may take longer to develop their minimum viable product (MVP) because they lack the technical skills required within their founding team. This can cause the companies to stall longer than necessary at the discovery or early validation stage of development.
Thankfully, an educational, hands-on program has been created to change all that.
In partnership with Haltech and the Sitaran Group, WEtech Alliance is striving to demystify the tech world through Roadmap to MVP, a 10-week program designed to help women-identifying tech entrepreneurs accelerate through this milestone.
“The Roadmap to MVP program partnership is a response to a pressing issue in our regional entrepreneurial community – the need for increased support and resources for women entrepreneurs.,” explains WEtech Alliance CEO Yvonne Pilon. “By providing a supportive environment and access to resources, mentorship, and a network of like-minded individuals, we hope to make an impact on the tech industry and help more women thrive as business owners in the tech space.”
Roadmap to MVP aims to give woman-identifying entrepreneurs the opportunity to define and develop their MVP in a supportive and collaborative group environment. Participants gain access to a community of other women founders and receive 1:1 mentorship from program creator and facilitator Reema Duggal, President of Sitaran Group and Co-Founder of Silicon Halton.
“We want to save them money and help them go faster.”
The first version of the program ran two years ago as a partnership between Duggal’s Sitaran Group and Haltech, after noticing similar trends with women entrepreneurs in the GTA region. Seeing the success of the initial cohort, WEtech partnered with the groups in spring 2022 for the second iteration, which included over a dozen women entrepreneurs from the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent region.
“The program is really designed to make sure they (women entrepreneurs) understand the landscape of the industry and make the right decisions at the right times,” says Duggal. “We want to save them money and help them go faster.”
The program consists of five in-depth sessions which cover everything from understanding the product development lifecycle and defining your MVP product feature and functions to actually developing your MVP with low code or no code solutions.
“I think the misconception with technology is that in order to build a mobile or web-based app, you have to be technical,” says Pilon. “There are a lot of no code or low code options available. Almost like a plug and play; you don’t have to be a coder to develop your Minimal Viable Product.”
In addition to the sessions, the program also provides five virtual office hour workshops, allowing participants to get to work and ask the facilitator any questions they have pertaining to their business development.
“I loved the program; the mentor (Reema) was very knowledgeable,” says participant Archana Krushnan of Firekids, an online resource that shares children’s events and activities around Windsor-Essex. “My business is still in the very early stages, but I got a bunch of ideas and now I know my next steps and my path is clear. It was great to have someone to guide you.”
Krushnan says people can be intimidated by the ‘technical stuff’ so to discover that there are a variety of no code options available was very helpful.
“Before I was wondering if I should hire a developer to create my website, but now I know there are other no-code options where you can choose your layout and get your website up and running in no time.”
You don’t know what you don’t know.
The program is suitable for women just beginning their entrepreneurial journey and those who have started but are looking for guidance on next steps.
“I was quite far along with my MVP but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss any steps,” says second cohort participant Sarah Roddy of Accountants 2.0. “You don’t know what you don’t know, right?”
Roddy says she benefitted greatly from the 1:1 mentorship as well as the group sessions, noting the facilitator took the time to tailor her advice to each individual business.
“I really noticed how well Reema was working with everyone,” she says. “She adjusted the topics to make sense for the audience and on top of that, she was able to guide people to no-code software that would make sense for their idea and she would be able to find that missing piece.”
“It was awesome being able to connect with other women in tech,” adds Roddy. “Now I have some additional contacts that I didn’t have before.”
Now, seeing the progress of some of their previous graduates, program coordinators are eagerly anticipating the launch of the third cohort, which welcomes Small Business & Entrepreneurship Centre and EPICentre as additional program partners.
“I think for me the biggest satisfaction has been when I see women say, ‘Oh wow, I’ve had a breakthrough’ or ‘I’ve been able to build something myself,’” says Duggal.
“We hope this program continues to provide additional confidence for women to say, ‘Hey, I can build this myself’ or even helps them feel comfortable going to a technical consultant to talk about what they need.” says Pilon.
Applications for Cohort 3 launch March 6th, 2023. To learn more about Roadmap to MVP, visit www.wetech-alliance.com/mvp.
The Roadmap to MVP program is funded by the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario’s (FedDev Ontario) delivery of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund in collaboration with Invest WindsorEssex.
Jennifer Brignall-Strong is WEtech Alliance’s Content Creator & Digital Host. Her media career spans over 15 years, with experience in marketing, promotions, copywriting, and radio production. Jen’s work has been featured in multiple local publications, including The DRIVE Magazine and Windsor Body. As an active member of the community, Jen also volunteers her time as a member of the Board of Directors for the Sexual Assault Crisis Centre. She is also a regular contributor to AM800 CKLW and Tourism Windsor-Essex and runs Tailgate Takeout; a local food blog showcasing the best places to eat and explore in YQG. Through her work, she hopes to showcase the region as an amazing place to work, play, and live