The DMZ’s Women Founders Summit, in partnership with The Firehood, awards $100,000 CAD in funding to women-led tech startups

TORONTO, March 8, 2023 /CNW/ – The DMZ held its inaugural Women Founders Summit yesterday, where 10 women-led tech startups had the opportunity to pitch to angel investors from The Firehood for investment.

The DMZ is a world-leading tech incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University. This new annual summit, hosted in honour of International Women’s Day, is designed to highlight women founders disrupting the Canadian tech space.

Participating ventures pitched their businesses to The Firehood, an angel group committed to fueling women-led tech innovations. A grand total of $100,000 CAD was awarded to the following startups:

  • Apricotton, a Toronto-based startup dedicated to making first-time bra shopping experiences for young women and their parents easier, received $50,000 CAD from Dejana Dua, Partner at Anexa Capital and Anna Sinclair, CEO of Total Mom Inc.
  • Areto Labs, an Edmonton-based startup that leverages AI to protect sports teams and brands by detecting and counteracting online abuse, received $30,000 CAD from Jeannette Navarro, Data Analytics Lead at JobGet, Danielle Graham, Co-Founder of The Firehood and Claudette McGowan, CEO at Protexxa and Co-Founder of The Firehood.
  • PragmaClin, a St. John’s-based startup that helps patients with Parkinson’s disease monitor their condition using software, received $20,000 CAD from Carol Lee, Investor at Womens Equity Lab and Claudette McGowan, CEO at Protexxa and Co-Founder of The Firehood.

“Securing angel funding requires an idea that solves a real problem and an entrepreneur with tenacity and tolerance for risk. The Firehood has engaged and accredited women angel investors dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs, said Claudette McGowan, CEO at Protexxa and Co-Founder at The Firehood. “The Firehood was beyond impressed with the calibre of applicants the Summit received from women-led startups. Through our partnership with the DMZ, we wanted to provide leading women innovators with the connections, guidance and capital from The Firehood to champion their fundraising efforts, said Danielle Graham, Co-Founder of The Firehood.

“Across various business metrics, research shows that women-led startups outperform their male-led counterparts,” said Emily Smiley, Director of Programs and Corporate Collaborations. “Women founders are pioneering new frontiers and building cutting-edge solutions across industry. Today’s Women Founders Summit put those innovations front and centre and injected funding to kickstart growth — thanks to our esteemed partners at The Firehood.”

Special guest and speaker, the Honourable Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity, underscored why empowering women-led businesses with the necessary resources is crucial to increasing the diversity and competitiveness of Ontario’s economy. “In honour of International Women’s Day, I’m proud to join the DMZ’s Women Founders Summit to celebrate women-led innovation and spotlight their achievements and contributions to the startup economy,” said the Honourable Charmaine Williams, Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity. “Ontario is home to an abundance of women-led businesses that drive innovation and economic growth for the province. Just last year, I was proud to announce an additional $6.9 million in funding to our government investing in women’s futures programs to aid in these efforts.”

The DMZ’s Women Founders Summit also officially unveiled the winners of the incubator’s highly anticipated award: DMZ’s Women of the Year.

The award is designed to honour inspirational women in Canada’s tech community and highlight their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to creating impact.

Curated by the Canadian tech community, over 800 nominations for the award were submitted. The final list of award recipients represents innovative women-identifying changemakers from diverse backgrounds and industries, including startup founders, corporate leaders, and non-profit trailblazers.

DMZ’s 2023 Women of the Year award recipients include:

  • Lizaveta Akhvledziani, Founder of Chexy
  • Noosh Baratpour, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Formaloo
  • Erin Bury, Co-Founder and CEO of Willful
  • Kelly Emery, Founder and CEO of Troop
  • Jennifer Flanagan, Co-Founder and CEO of Actua
  • Suzanne Knight, Vice President of Transformation Services at Walmart Canada
  • Sakeena Mihar, Co-Founder and CEO of Savyn Tech
  • Laura Miller, Head of Public Policy and Communications at Uber
  • Brenda Okorogba, Founder, Momentswithbren
  • Faye Pang, Country Manager at Xero Canada
  • Mirela Pirlea, Lead Partnerships Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Ontario – Atlantic – West Canada at Desjardins
  • Sumathi Pundit, Founder and CEO of Kaitongo
  • Aliya Ramji, Co-Founder of MT>Ventures and Partner at McCarthy Tétrault
  • Kashmera Self, Vice President of Strategy and Emerging Solutions at Interac Corp
  • Suzanne Trottier, President of FNB Trust at First Nations Bank of Canada
  • Natasha Walji, Managing Director at Google Canada
  • Katy Yam, Partner at Real Ventures and General Manager at FounderFuel
  • Hanna Zaidi, Chief Compliance Officer of Payments at Wealthsimple

For more information on the DMZ Women of the Year award recipients, head over to

For more information on how the DMZ supports women-identifying founders to build and grow their startups, check out

About the DMZ
The DMZ is a world-leading startup incubator based at Toronto Metropolitan University that equips the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the tools needed to build, launch, and scale highly impactful startups. By providing connections to customers, coaching, capital, and a community, the DMZ’s customized approach helps innovators reach the next milestone in their entrepreneurial journey – whatever that might be. Through its award-winning programming, the DMZ has helped more than 750 startups raise $1.95 billion in capital and create 4,850+ jobs. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with globally-accessible programming, the DMZ has a widely-recognized international presence with offices in Vietnam, India, and the U.S., and partnerships across North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

SOURCE The DMZ at Toronto Metropolitan University


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