Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Marija Butkovic, Co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella & Women of Wearables

Published

on

(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Today’s interview is with Marija Butkovic. Marija Butkovic is a business, PR and marketing consultant who has worked across a range of projects in different industry sectors, including legal, journalism, IoT, tech and fashion.

She is a co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella – a wearable tech startup behind the
world’s smartest fashion tech umbrella, and Women of Wearables – an initiative that
supports, connects and empowers women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and
VR/AR. In both businesses, she also performs the role of a digital marketer and PR
strategist.

women-wearables_logo


What makes you do what you do?

I always wanted to create an impact, not only for myself and people I’m close with but for a much bigger community. It took me some time to find a perfect project/idea that clicks all the boxes, but then again, nothing is perfect, it only has to be perfect for us, right? Entrepreneurship was a way to go for me. It allows me to be creative which is a must-have in anything I do, whilst bringing diversity in my everyday life. I would say that anyone who has the itch to challenge a status quo and change things, needs to try his or hers luck as an entrepreneur. I honestly believe that our future can and will be changed by entrepreneurs.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I started my professional journey as a lawyer and wasn’t involved in the tech industry at all for many years. In 2013 I became a startup mentor in one of Croatian startup incubators as well as a tech journalist. This allowed me to gradually switch from more traditional legal background to a tech one. As many entrepreneurs, I never felt strong enough to take a plunge and leave my day job for something less stable and risky. And then I moved to London (2014). My team and I set up our business Kisha and created world’s first smart fashion tech umbrella which got me into the world of the wearable tech industry. At that point, I was hooked and I knew my journey is definitely set to be entrepreneurial one. While working in Kisha, I soon realized how wearable tech industry suffers from a lack of women, not only female founders, but also product and UX designers, smart textile designers, and entrepreneurs in general. At this point, my co-founder Michelle Hua and I decided to change something which was the very reason we founded Women of Wearables (or just WoW). Women of Wearables aims to inspire, support and connect women in wearables, IoT, fashion tech and AR/VR industries. We are not only building a community of women in these industries and connecting them with each other, but we are also offering support, mentorship, workshops and visibility.  So far, the interest has been overwhelming with women from India, US, UK, Canada, UK and many other countries in Europe and Asia.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?

In full honesty, I somehow cannot imagine myself working only on one single project at the moment. 9-5 working hours was never my thing. Yes, this means that as a startup founder you have to be prepared for endless to-do lists, wearing multiple hats, as well as many sleepless nights, but it goes with the territory and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

I never got the chance to have one, but I do have people I admire too. An inspirational woman like Dr. Sue Black here in UK, who is an amazing woman and a role model; and Jenny Lee, one of the most respected and valuable self-made tech investors in China. And then, there are everyday people I meet in the tech community in London that are best examples how persistence and focus can get you anywhere you want.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

First of all, you have to be prepared for endless learning. Learning never stops. Reading a lot, talking to more experienced people in the industry, and sometimes learning from other people’s mistakes, is what makes me and my team evolve and grow. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing people in Kisha, who not only have been my coworkers but my friends. Same goes for Women of Wearables, Michelle (my co-founder) and Rachael (our assistant) are people I couldn’t imagine to be without in my professional life at the moment. I think it’s really important to work with people that make you a better person. I know it’s not always the case, but I honestly think that you should like and respect people you work with as much as possible. It goes without saying for co-founders. Only then you’ll be able to transfer that work and company culture to other people you bring into your team.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Consciously, as much as I can. Wearables industry is still men dominant sector, which is a general reflection of the male to female ratio in tech. Wearable tech teams are very often run by men, they hire male designers and developers, and implement technology that is most appealing to men. What this means is that ultimately they’re not addressing a huge chunk of their potential customers – women. This is why In Kisha, our Head of Design is a woman on purpose. Companies should be interested in building a community with an equal amount of female employees as male. That starts with the kind of company culture you foster. The other issue is that people don’t always know where to look to find female talent. Throughout the hiring process, companies need to be careful not to discriminate anyone, including men, but there are female tech groups that ought to be approached as part of the hiring strategy. Technology corporations and conference organizers have a duty to ensure there is a diverse range of speakers (including men, women and people from different backgrounds) to allow equality and opportunities for everyone. Although we are the women-in-tech organization, we welcome everyone into our community as participants and speakers, because this problem cannot be solved without everyone participating. We also need more female role models. You cannot be what you cannot see. So I’m hopeful that we won’t need as many women-in-tech groups in the future because gender equality will have been reached. Same goes for diversity in general.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Be professional, kind and compassionate, and ask others for same. And stay humble.

Advice for others?

In 2017, Women of Wearables will deliver workshops in London and Manchester to girls between the ages of 11-18 to make their own wearable and e-textiles projects. This encourages more girls to enter STEM by equipping them with the skills they need to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. It also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted to making a tangible product. Only by collaboration and education can we empower more women to participate in tech. Our aim is to create opportunities for women in this industry to connect with each other and help ensure not only their businesses and ideas succeed, but for the wearables industry to succeed.


To learn more about Women of Wearables, please see http://www.womenofwearables.com/.

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

Published

on

Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

Published

on

Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Trending