Artificial Intelligence or AI is one of the most promising tech sectors which is being used in multiple areas. Women in AI is a global non-profit organisation, which launched its Dutch chapter back in October 2018. Since February 2020, it has executed its flagship program WaiACCELERATE, which encourages more women to step into the field of AI. The program recently concluded with the ‘Ultimate Game Changer’ winner and two runner ups announced.
Virtual WaiACCELERATE and the winning team
Like most events this year, the WaiACCELERATE program went completely digital. It was held in the VR or Virtual Reality environment of VirBELA, a virtual world platform. The event aims to bridge the gender gap in the AI industry and targets female entrepreneurs in the fields of AI, Machine Learning and Data Science. WaiACCELERATE was organised in partnership with StartupAmsterdam, Smart Health Amsterdam, Amazon Web Services, IBM, VirBELA, Oracle for Startups, and Inspired Minds.
The final pitch event of WaiACCELERATE, “ACCELER-AI-TE,” took place on November 25. As part of the final pitch event, over 20 impact and AI-powered early-stage startups acknowledged their female founders’ courage to build the startup of their dreams, enable it with AI, and their commitment towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 by creating a positive impact with their businesses.
The Netherlands-based Food For Gut, led by Jeanet Lin, won the ‘The Ultimate Game Changer’ award. The startup offers an AI-powered digital health app with a data-driven solution.
“Food For Gut help people who suffer from this chronic disorder, Irritable Bowel Syndrome – which is yet another health condition that has not been talked about or taken seriously but decreases the quality of life significantly of almost 1 billion people in the world and is still somehow stigmatised. Being recognised as the ultimate game-changer and receiving this award is a proof that the time has come to address this issue, reduce the suffering it causes and reduce the social and financial burden it carries with it,” says Lin in an exclusive conversation with Silicon Canals.
“The prizes from this award will provide the right resources and expertise to support building Food For Gut. I’m confident that having this award will also attract the right talents to join us on this important mission,” she adds.
This app learns from a users’ behaviour to offer real-time tailored recommendations to IBS sufferers. The app’s advice is tailored to different factors to manage both the gut and the brain. The startup also helps people better understand what IBS is, customised educational tips, how to cope with it, and more. AI is utilised for analytics and to provide personalised recommendations in real-time.
Alongside the AI-powered solution, sustainability was an important factor for startups that participated and were selected in WaiACCELERATE. “Sustainability is crucial to Food For Gut, not only for the solution that aims to help the patients but also benefit society as a whole due to the high costs related to IBS financially and socially. As an IBS patient myself, I’ve personally gone through the whole journey and realise that we really lack the (financial and medical) support and tools to help us deal with IBS in our daily lives. Food For Gut aims to provide an effective and affordable solution that is easily accessible for the IBS patients,” explains Lin.
The nine-month-long WaiACCELERATE program has helped all participants receive hands-on online training on various aspects of entrepreneurship. Notable and accomplished industry, tech and business professionals offered their expertise throughout WaiACCELERATE, which was spread into over 20 workshops that covered a variety of topics.
Meet the other two winners
Alongside Lin’s Food For Gut, two other women-led companies displayed great potential over the course of the WaiACCELERATE program. The first runner up was Ekaterina Stambolieva led Nina Space from Portugal. The startup is an alumnus of the European Space Agency Incubator in Portugal. It employs AI-powered solutions to help local governments implement wildfire mitigation measures since the private forestry industry has not yet evolved to offer wildfire risk reduction services.
“You know the old saying – ‘I will believe it when I see it’ – well, yesterday ACCELER-AI-TE! helped us see 20 high-tech female-led businesses. I like to believe that this might change perceptions and biases (if any) and lead to equality in the business, in STEM, in tech and in investment,” says Stambolieva.
Each year, 1/45th of the total land area on earth is gulped up by forest fires. This affects the overall carbon being pumped into the atmosphere and the planet’s ability to sequester carbon. Nina Space helps government agencies monitor and mitigate such forest fires via its platform that leverages satellite images to automatically monitor the implementation of defensible spaces, detect changes in vegetation, and identify strategy zones, which, when treated, protect many more hectares against wildfire.
Nina Space is also big on sustainability. “We believe that businesses should make a commitment to future generations and fight a global issue. Ours is wildfires. We do this from space. We started the business so we can solve a massive environmental problem. We aimed at working on SDG 13 – Climate Change from the very beginning. We know we need to become and be sustainable so we can work on solving this problem year after year after year – as it takes time and dedication,” says Stambolieva.
The 2nd runner up is Netherlands-based Which Plant!? Led by the co-founder, Kim Taylor, the startup is focused on bringing more greenery into city spaces. The startup is a family business, and Kim has previously worked on the introduction and commercialisation of hydrogen fuel cell cars, sustainable advertising, electric cars, renewable energy storage & backup power, and solar panels.
With the AI-powered Which Plant!?, one can easily find the correct plants based on their wishes in combination with their current environment’s soil, location, climate, and orientation of their balcony or garden. Additionally, users can also receive assistance with what they want to do with their plants. This includes maintaining balcony privacy, attracting bees, permaculture, food forest, vegetable patch, flowers or plants, and more.
“I think it is wonderful to show that 20 women have established 20 AI companies in 2020! I could not be more proud of all these women and myself. What an achievement and impact on the gender gap in the industry!” Taylor exclaims.
Image credits: Women in AI