Tackling gender diversity at the highest levels of business is a tough job. The Startup Muster 2018 survey, which provides a general snapshot of Australia’s startup ecosystem, reported in one of their latest surveys that the number of Australian female founders has been dropping in the last three years.
And while the number of women directors on ASX boards has more than doubled in the last five years, the pace of growth is still lagging behind expectations.
However, in the face of such troubling statistics, our list of women-led businesses stand out as proof that in spite of the obstacles that still exist for women in business, they’re doing nothing to deter the powerful female entrepreneurs at their helm…
Led by Melanie Perkins
Kicking off our list is Melanie Perkins, Co-founder of Canva – a graphic design tool that empowers people to create digital assets without the need for the knowledge of platforms such as Adobe Photoshop. Under Perkin’s leadership, the company raised more than $166 million in funds, amassed 10 million users in countries all over the world, and is the only Australian tech company to achieve ‘unicorn status’, a term coined for startups worth $1 billion or more.
Led by Catriona Wallace
Flamingo, an artificial intelligence and machine learning company providing Cognitive Virtual Assistants, was founded and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2014 by Catriona Wallace, making it the second company on the ASX with a female chair and chief executive. With a market capitalisation just below $40 million, it is now at the forefront of artificial intelligence development. Catriona’s hard work and accomplishments have earned her multiple prestigious accolades, including the Advance Australia’s top prize for Technology & Innovation for Australian’s working abroad and the Overall NSW Business of the Year Award at the Telstra Business Awards.
Led by Stephanie Reuss and Victoria Stuart
Struggling to balance demanding corporate jobs with equally demanding family duties, Stephanie Reuss and Victoria Stuart saw a gap in the market for high profile businesswomen looking for the flexibility of part-time work. Inspired by their own challenges and hoping to support women with the same needs, they co-founded Beam, which connects part-time professionals with high profile employers such as The Reserve Bank of Australia or PwC. Since it was established in 2016, Beam has contributed over $13 million in new salaries to the Australian economy, as well as a large number of part-time mothers.
OPEN DATA INSTITUTE AUSTRALIAN NETWORK
Led by Maree Adshead
Next on the list is Open Data Institute Australian Network. Its aim is to unlock collected data and make it accessible to others, enabling insightful analysis and innovation. The company was established by big data proponent Maree Adshead in 2014 and has since extended its services to coaching and training programs to help other companies leverage open data capabilities. Starting in Queensland, this not-for-profit organisation has since expanded to Victoria and NSW, with expansion to New Zealand forthcoming.
Led by Marita Cheng
Aubot, a telepresence robot company, was launched in 2013 to help people with mobility limitations enjoy greater levels of freedom and accessibility. Its founder, Marita Chang, always had a keen interest in using technology to improve people’s daily lives. Thanks to her hard work and determination, she was awarded ‘Young Australian of the Year’ in 2012 and Forbes ‘Top 50 Women in Tech’ in 2018. With total funding of $100,000, Aubot is fast-growing and so is Marita’s vision, which is to make robots accessible to everyone.
LORNA & BEL
Led by Lorna Swinstead and Bel Wood
Combining wearable technology with high fashion, this exciting brand from two east coast Australians, Lorna Swinstead and Bel Wood, offers ‘smart handbags’. A female-centric technology described as the perfect fusion of function and fashion, the handbags carry an in-built smartphone charger for women on-the-go. While the idea has worldwide appeal and international expansion is an exciting possibility, Swinstead and Wood are purposely taking it slow, waiting for the right time to take their product beyond Australian shores.
Led by Naomi Simson
Currently one of Australia and New Zealand’s most well-known gifting and experience brands, RedBalloon had very humble beginnings. Founded by Naomi Simson in her home with just $25,000, RedBalloon has grown steadily year-on-year, even regularly appearing on sought-after lists such as ‘The Great Places to Work by Business Review Weekly’ and the Deloitte Fast 50 for Australia. Simson has also enjoyed personal success off the back of her business, appearing as a judge on Channel Ten’s TV show ‘Shark Tank’ and publishing her own book entitled ‘Ready to Soar: Turn Your Brilliant Idea into a Business You Love’.
Led by Deb Morrison
Based on the sharing economy model, PetCloud, also referred to as ‘the Airbnb of pet-sitting services’, connects dog owners with trusted pet sitters as an alternative to kennels. Founded by dog lover Deb Morrison in 2015, the app has been listed on Forbes.com for ’60 Women-Led Startups that are Shaking Up Tech Across The Globe’. Deb’s vision is as big as her love for her pooch, earning PetCloud endorsement by RSPCA Queensland as well as Greencross & Petbarn.
Led by Grace Chu
This Melbourne- and Sydney-based leading search marketing agency turns over more than $30 million a year. Started by Grace Chu, around the same time she became a mother for the first time, her aim is for FirstClick to surpass $100 million in revenue. Chu has a strategic plan to grow the business and we’re sure that we will hear more from her business expansion this year.
Led by Robyn Foyster
Sweep revolutionises the retail industry, shifting the existing customer experience to a digital one. Powered by artificial intelligence, augmented reality and geolocation technology, Sweep allows users to discover the best deals around them both online and in stores. Robyn Foyster, a keen female entrepreneur, is the driving force behind Sweep and also the proud owner and publisher of Women Love Tech, The Carousel and Game Changers.