Michelle Simms: The Women in Tech peer group now has more than 100 members.

Michelle Simms: The Women in Tech peer group now has more than 100 members.

The Genesis Centre, the venerable startup house in St. John’s, will launch a new diversity program on Monday to offer support to more startups founded by women and immigrants.

Dyanna McCarthy, who has worked for the past four-and-a-half years with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries, will head up the three-year program. She will be charged not only with developing curriculum to support female and immigrant founders but also researching what other jurisdictions have done to promote entrepreneurship in these groups.

“The diversity program is a really exciting one for us,” said Genesis Centre CEO Michelle Simms in an interview. “When we look back at the 20-year history of the Genesis Centre, if we had started companies founded by women at the same rate as companies started by men, we’d have almost twice the number of companies we have now.”

Simms said the Genesis Centre – which this year will move from its base on the Memorial University campus to new digs in the Battery complex near Signal Hill – has been interested in diversity for some time. It sought and received provincial funding to develop the program.

Four years ago, Genesis began a Women In Technology peer group, which has expanded to more than 100 members. Simms said the peer group is large enough now that it is developing sub-committees, such as one group for female CEOs and another for female software developers.

”We’re building an environment where these women can move easily into C-suite roles because they have a strong network around them,” said Simms.

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With the new program, McCarthy will oversee networking and educational events and deploy services to support founders from groups that have been under-represented in tech entrepreneurship.

The research aspect of the job will look into different places in the world that have had success in nurturing female and immigrant entrepreneurs. Chile, for example, has been a hotbed of female entrepreneurship. Simms and McCarthy want to know how these places ended up with so many female founders and replicate their best practices in St. John’s. “We want Dyanna to get on the phone and talk to these people,” she said.

The Genesis Centre, which has a total of 11 tenants, has been working with several exciting startups headed by women and immigrants, said Simms. One of the hottest companies on the rock is HeyOrca, whose CEO is Malaysian-born Joseph Teo. Emily Bland, who headed Enactus Memorial’s world championship team, is working on a company called Project SucSeed. And Judy Reid, who’s been involved in call centres since 1992, has established an automated service for realtors called Clientime.

Outside the Genesis alumni, Startup Canada last year named Anne Whelan,​ ​President​ ​and​ ​CEO of ​Seafair​ ​Capital​ ​Inc. of St. John’s, its national Entrepreneur of the Year.

Simms wants more of these success stories in the St. John’s and Atlantic Canadian communities. 

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Disclosure: The Genesis Centre is a client of Entrevestor.

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