By Darya Soufian
This year for International Women’s Day, the DMZ put together an esteemed list of women making an impact in the Canadian tech ecosystem.
The DMZ received almost 600 Women of the Year nominations from across the country. The tech community helped to curate the final list of women from diverse backgrounds and industries. This included startup founders, corporate leaders, emerging youth and more.
Women of the Year award winners featured four Ryerson alumni—Rebecca Rose, Snita Balsara, Tara Deschamps and Maayan Ziv—who now have careers as journalists, founders and investors.
Studeo CEO Rebecca Rose is among the Ryerson alumni who were named. Rose co-founded the automated interactive storytelling platform in 2013, along with her now-husband, Nir Betan, and friend Brodie Hanbuch.
It all began when the Toronto native met her husband near the end of 2008, almost three years after graduating from Ryerson’s film studies program. Betan was running his own advertising agency at the time, and Rose began working there around her own job at in-sync Consumer Insight Corp.
There, the two started to think about launching a new business venture together, and the idea for Studeo was born.
Rose says she felt like there was a gap in her education, so she returned to Ryerson in 2011 to get a masters of business administration with a specialization in technology and innovation. She wasted no time, getting to work on her new business idea before she finished her master’s program.
“I see my role as someone there to impart the knowledge that I’ve gained as someone who has been there and doing it for so long”
Together, Rose, Betan and Hanbuch developed a platform that packages existing photos, videos and clips together into an interactive storybook with an editorial-style layout.
“When you do that and you create a narrative out of content, you have the ability to engage the audience consuming it in a much more emotive, human way,” Rose told The Eyeopener. “It creates opportunities to add content that you wouldn’t normally think about adding, like lifestyle video clips and other accentuating media that brings it to life and creates an experience. Storybooks are an evolution of media—we like to call it experience media.”
Rose described Studeo as an automated interactive storytelling company because they built a proprietary platform. Studeo uses artificial intelligence that allows them to input whatever media they’d like and the system automatically does the rest.
“If we input a set of images and no other data, it automatically creates an interactive storybook complete with the full narrative, slideshows and even the copywriting,” Rose explained.
Rose hopes to make a positive impact on the people who join the company. She said she strives to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued.
“We couldn’t do all of this without the entire village of people that are working on this project, they amaze me all the time,” said Rose. “I see my role as someone there to impart the knowledge that I’ve gained as someone who has been there and doing it for so long. I hope that everyone who has an experience with us and has maybe moved on had a valuable time with us.”
Snita Balsara is an investor with Graphite Ventures, an early stage venture platform that helps founders take their companies to the next level. She’s been an investor for nearly a decade and started out managing Robert Harjavec’s Shark Tank portfolio.
She graduated from Ryerson with a bachelor of commerce in information technology management, eventually getting her masters of business administration at York University.
Balsara joined the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund—an early stage venture capital firm based in Toronto—in 2016. She is also a founding member of the Canadian Women in VC community, a group that gives self-identified female venture capitalists the opportunity to network and support each other.
She is also a founding member of the Diversity and Inclusion Small Council, a platform to help underrepresented tech founders.
Tara Deschamps has been a full-time business reporter for The Canadian Press for about two years. She graduated with a bachelor of journalism from Ryerson in 2014, and has since worked as a freelance reporter for numerous publications including the Toronto Star, The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail and The New York Times.
She currently covers technology, cannabis and real estate at The Canadian Press. Deschamps is also a three-time Society of Business Editors and Writers Canada winner.
Last but not least is founder and CEO of AccessNow, Maayan Ziv.
Ziv graduated from Ryerson’s RTA media production program in 2012. She eventually returned for her masters of digital media, graduating in 2015.
She is an entrepreneur and disability activist, and founded AccessNow in 2015. The digital platform mobilizes communities by allowing users to see and rate the accessibility of various places and experiences across the world.
Ziv speaks internationally about diversity and inclusion and has won several awards. She was recognized as one of Caldwell Canada’s Top 40 under 40, WXN’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada and received the Governor General’s Innovation Award.