Catching up with 2018 Velocity Fund Finals $5K winner: FEM in STEM
Last November, FEM in STEM pitched and won $5,ooo at the 23rd Velocity Fund Finals (VFF). FEM in STEM empowers young women to develop careers in under-represented industries through programming and resources.
We caught up with Mylene Tu, founder of FEM in STEM, for a post-VFF update.
Q. How has your company developed since winning VFF?
Mylene Tu: When I pitched for the fund finals, I was a solo founder. Today, I am still an independent founder, but the team has grown to also include small teams in Waterloo and the GTA. Since VFF, we have had two team members join us in Waterloo and approximately four in the GTA. Now our team has a great mix of both male and female students from the University of Waterloo and University of Toronto – and even some high school students!
Q. What is your company currently working on?
Since VFF, we have rolled out the first iteration of our Catalyst Program – Canada’s first personal and professional growth accelerator for young women in STEM. The program is currently underway, so our team has been working hard to help the 25 young women in our first program cohort succeed.
Q. Since your win at VFF, what has been your team’s most exciting moment?
The most exciting moment has been ramping up to launch the Catalyst Program. We reviewed multiple applications and interviewed approximately 30 young women across Ontario. It was amazing to see how driven and passionate these young women are about finding more confidence and leadership in STEM!
Learn more about the Catalyst Program!
Q. What has been your team’s most frustrating moment?
Coordinating as a collective team has been a challenge now that we have team members in both Waterloo and Toronto. Although this can be tricky at times in terms of communication, having clusters in different areas helps us grow our reach.
Q. Do you have any major accomplishments that you want to share? What’s next for your team?
I want to highlight the first person to join the FEM in STEM team because of his passion towards empowering women in STEM. Yes, ‘he’! Hussein Hassanali (a current engineering undergraduate at UWaterloo) has been working with FEM in STEM since September of last year. I am happy to have him on our team as the Catalyst Program Operations Lead. I believe in the diversity that he brings to achieving our mission through a lens that recognizes the need for involvement from both men and women alike in bridging the gender gap in STEM.
Hussein was actually the reason I participated in VFF in the first place — without him mentioning it, I wouldn’t have applied. In fact, about a month ago, he represented FEM in STEM at the ACCESS Innovation Pitch in Brampton. Although we did not win that pitch, we won in our own way. Having a male represent a female-focused company with the objective of increasing gender diversity and empowerment in STEM, allowed us to inspire those in the audience, unconventionally. I am proud of Hussein’s dedication and passion towards STEM and his work with FEM in STEM deserves some recognition!
Hussein pitching for FEM in STEM at the ACCESS Innovation Pitch in Brampton.
Q. What do you enjoy most about building a startup?
As a 19-year old exploring the world of entrepreneurship, I enjoy the risks and personal growth associated with building a start-up. I am someone who never pictured themselves as an entrepreneur, and the risks and uncertainty in the startup life have helped me grow as a person more in the past year than ever before.
Getting into entrepreneurship at a young age has been liberating. I know that the risks I take now will result in an experience for whatever the future holds. I find myself less afraid to speak out and try new things; I’ve also realized what an amazing community of entrepreneurs are out there, and it is inspiring to learn more about the stories of other ambitious people both near and far.
Q. What did you like most about competing at VFF?
I like the support that Velocity provided on how to refine my pitch. I believe that Velocity’s caliber of support surpasses most of what I’ve seen in the ecosystem. As odd as it may sound, I also really enjoyed the fear associated with speaking in front of such a large crowd. As a natural-born introvert, I showed myself that I am capable of more than I think I am. It helped me build my confidence and my network, and learn from those around me.
Did you miss FEM in STEM’s pitch? Watch it on YouTube.
Learn more about the Winter 2019 Velocity Fund Finals today!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.