Connect with us


Women on Top in Tech – Monica Kang, Founder/CEO of InnovatorsBox



(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.)

Here is our interview with Monica Kang, an Asian American entrepreneur based in Washington DC, who focused on empowering people with creativity. Monica is the CEO & Founder of InnovatorsBox.

R2_InnovatorsBox_Logo_Name-NoBackground&border (1)

What makes you do what you do?

Creativity is really important no matter what you do and it is what keeps me alive. It increases productivity. It allows one to see things from different perspectives and it helps people get through depression. Being creative means being open to possibility and learning to be resourceful, especially when trying to solve a particularly tricky problem. On a personal note, it is what gets me out of the situation where I feel stuck and helps me regain my energy.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I went to a lot of conferences and expanded my network greatly in the past year. Relationship building is one of the most important elements that helps my business grow. I really treasure those relationships. I share the updates of my business with my network to seek out help, feedbacks, and advice. At the end of the day, I have my go-to person who can lift me up through difficult times, give me guidance, and bring out the best version of myself.

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)?

First, the organization or the industry that I was in earlier didn’t have space for me to make as much impact as I do now with my own startup. With InnovatorsBox, I have much more flexibility to create the program based on my own vision and understanding of the industry. The business model InnovatorsBox has combined B2B and B2C. When I first started InnovatorsBox, many people in the creativity field didn’t even think it was possible to have both combined as a service enterprise. If I were to keep my day job while I was working on my own startup, it would have drained my energy and I would have lost my focus and not have thrived in either role.

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 have many mentors that I am so grateful for. They have been helping me immensely along my startup journey. However, many of them are not in the same industry as mine. I have mentors in the law profession, real estate, finance; I also have a mentor who is a small business owner, and mentors who have been in the Corporate America for a long time, and or being as independent consultants in their own field. These people outside of my industry help me even better because they give me a fresh view in what I have been creating. As an entrepreneur, you need a broad network of mentors to create your business as you will face all kinds of problems in different facets that by limiting your mentors in your own industry won’t help you solve problems in the long term.

How did you make a match and how did you end up being mentored
by him?

I met many of my mentors through networking events through introductions. Those people are the ones that may not share the similar experience with me. However, they are knowledgeable in the fields that I need guidance or help. People in my support system are also the ones that constantly challenge me and point out my mistakes without hesitation. They may not have the fancy titles but they serve my needs the best. Those with great titles might be the ones that I want to become, but they may not have time to invest in me. Ultimately I encourage people to look for the ones that can provide you with the most practical guidance from different angles and challenge you on a constant basis, instead of the ones with great titles but limited time to invest in you.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

As a minority woman entrepreneur, I have been consciously vocalizing and encouraging diversity in the entrepreneurship ecosystem that I am in. I found myself in extreme minority. As an Asian female entrepreneur, I found that there is very limited number of female Asians in VC world, in business owners’ category, and in board room. Also, the subgroup that I identify myself in- Korean Americans, has even smaller number of people in the entrepreneurship community. Many Asians in the entrepreneurship community are South Asians, Pakistanis, or Chinese Americans. When it comes to statistics, it appears that Asians as a minority group have a pretty high percentage of business ownership, but it is essentially the ownership of mom-and-pop shops, which mostly are restaurants and convenience stores, rather than the innovative business enterprises that our generation have been striving to create.

There are a few challenges that we face as Asian Americans in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and that is why I am very vocal about diversity. We don’t have enough Asian entrepreneurs to begin with, which makes it harder for anyone in this group to pave their startup journey, compared to African Americans and Latinos. Therefore, there are not many people that you can easily find to talk to about many struggles or challenges we face culturally or socially as an ethnic group. Second, Asian community is very divided that some of them are pretty well-off, whereas others are middle class or below. However, the impression that well-off Asians leave to the society makes it harder for people to believe many struggles that first generation Asians face. Another thing is that many first generation Asians in my age group have seen the sacrifices their parents make in order for them to get a good education and live an affluent life in America, so they don’t want to blow away a comfortable life with stable salaries by taking risks like starting a business. This explains why there is a huge population of Asians working for corporate as an “invisible force.” The Asian population is also divided into its subgroups, unlike African Americans. There are Chinese Americans, Taiwanese Americans, Hong Kongnese, Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, Southeast Asians etc. Each group has their strong culture and identity, which makes it extremely hard to unite as one ethnic group either on a personal level or on a professional level.

Advice for others? What does it take to be a great leader in your industry?  

It depends on your definition of what a leader means to you. Everyone’s definition is different –many will think leaders are the ones that are the most successful in their profession, the most well-known, or the most affluent. To me, a leader is the one who makes an impact in the community through inspiring and developing people in the community, and that’s what I am trying to become.

Some of the advice I learned along my way is being patient. You can’t and won’t get to where you want to be in a short period of time. It takes a long way and it’s a marathon. Always assume good intent from people and learn from people. Always be ready to learn. Be sure to be sustainable and take care of yourself. You can’t burn out and you need to work strategically and smart, on the basis of working hard. There is no work-life balance as an entrepreneur, so you need to know how to balance your energy. Seek out mentors and gather people who can help you get to where you want to be. Be consistent in your deliverables or service. I particular don’t agree with people saying “fake it till you make it” about confidence. I do think you need to prepare yourself enough to feel confident as you walk into a meeting. Preparation gives you confidence and it builds up.

To learn more about InnovatorsBox, please see

We are 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 us here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.

This article was co-written with
Sophie Tianying Li.


Sophie Li_imageSophie Tianying is a woman advocate, with a professional background in accounting and finance. She has working experience in New York, London, and Dublin in various sectors including banking, public accounting, and FinTech startup. She has devoted herself in UN Sustainable Development Goal in gender equality by starting women initiatives in STEM education, global women mentorship and spotlighting minority women leaders in the tech industry in Asian Entrepreneur Magazine.


Is International Women’s Day just another Tokenism?



Yearly on 8th March around the world, we celebrate a day for women. This year that was 2 weeks ago, before this article was published.

A Question for You:

Did we change for the better after that day? or

Did we just all go back just to Business as Usual?

And if so, why?

As a psychologist and conscious leadership coach, I work to change mindsets to do more good in the world. We all know bad habits are hard to change. Ignoring Women talent and needs is a bad habit. Calling attention to it once in a while is simply not just not enough, it also assuages leadership guilt. The guilt alone does not lead to sustainable efforts to transformation.

We all know one International Women’s Day yearly is simply not enough.

One women’s group in your company is not enough.

One women’s breakfast in the technology conference is not enough.

One Women’s March is not enough.

But it is the start.

It’s the start. We need to join forces.

Join forces with leaders who read #MeToo and ask themselves what we must do today to reduce and end such harassment. Tech Leaders who are aware of the power of money and resources lying in the hands of a few heightens potential bullying and unwanted sexual advances. Leaders who actively act to counter or stop abuses and want to create new workplace cultures. Leaders who promote women on merit, but who also look to sponsor, mentor, and support more women to the senior leadership tracks.

We need a critical mass to tip Gender Parity to become the new norm. We need to dialogue and language new ways of being and leading in the world. We need daily, weekly, monthly habits to make gender parity the daily actionable. What is your daily actionable to not just gender parity, but inclusion and diversity in all aspects of our work and life? Let’s build the momentum by increasing connections across companies, countries, and communities. This article brings insight to what we can do next and communities you can support.

On March 8th, at 1880 , a private club where one of the focuses in women’s leadership, the Salon discussion was on “Undressing Feminism”. Participants spoke frankly about unwanted sexual advances and what both men and women can do to stop work and national or religious cultures where such actions are deemed normal. One husband joked about how he told his wife he was attending the event and she told him to shut up and listen carefully. We were all listening carefully and we spoke as a group with a transparency that is rarely found in conservative Asian culture and even in rather Westernized Singapore.

Who we heard from:

Matthew Spacie at Magic Bus

He spoke of his work in the non-profit and called out the terrifying statistics that should not be hidden or ignored.

This is an average Indian girl’s gender based obstacles throughout her lifetime

There are about 600 million women in India. They have the highest rate of infanticide of girls. Women are 56 times more likely to die before the age of 5 years as compared to boys.  If a girl does get to go to school; up to 53 percent drop out and only 1 percent graduate. 40 % of the women are married off as children.  If she gets to have a job, 40% are in unregulated work which means they can be bullied, paid less, and anything else without any external regulatory bodies to assist.

Aware’s Executive Director, Corinna Lim:

If the vision is – a society where there is true gender equality – where women and men are valued as individuals free to make informed and responsible choices about their lives. Then we look towards Aware, Singapore  as a resource – for their mission is to remove all gender-based barriers so as to allow individuals in Singapore to develop their potential to the fullest and realise their personal visions and hopes.

In fact, after the #MeToo movement came out, there were 80% more calls to sexual harassment center in Singapore. And Corrina shared how one in ten women in Singapore has been physically abused by a man. Do know that AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, the only centre that supports victims of sexual assault and harassment  can be reached at  6779 0282.

Survivor of War, Human Trafficking, and Sexual Assault, Lurata Lyon:

Forgiveness is what is needed to heal and also to take the lessons and give ourselves strength. She shared how she was molested in Singapore by a British expat and she immediately grabbed his phone to keep him there while she called the police. Her two children were with her and thankfully a local pregnant woman came and stood by her as the man tried to force her hand to let go of his phone. She reminded the audience that this could not have been the first time this man acted in this unacceptable manner, yet how many others had let his behavior slip through our silence.

Asian Feminist Role Model, Activist, and Burlesque Artist, Sukki Singapora:

“Someone has got to be brave. If it is not you, it’ll have to be someone else. So make it you.”

Sukki braved her family’s strict culture and Singapore’s public indecency laws to fully express herself in her choice of art and profession, burlesque. She left us wondering why should sensuality be repressed? What is the world so afraid of? Her choice of expression was initially considered a crime in the public decency act of Singapore. Now she is a champion and face of freedom of expression for women in socially restrictive countries.

These conversations can evoke small changes in public consensus which will bring about swift changes in the societal consensus, that’s why we have political debates during the elections.  We are part of that dialogue, debate, and actionable steps and accountability. It’s our call to not let International Women’s Day fall on deaf ears. Let’s not just have one token discussion on one day set aside, but make such discussions a daily act.

Thanking Matthew, Corinna, Lurata, Sukki, and Marc Nicholson panel moderator and co-founder, 1880 for allowing their stories to inspire and confront us all again with the unknowing discrimination and bullying we may be supporting under our own roofs.

Like this piece?

See my article on International Women’s Day

Continue Reading


Women on Top in Tech – Vidya Vellala, Founder and CEO of Faasthelp



(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.)

Vidya Vellala is the Founder and CEO of Faasthelp, a 24/7 (round the clock) customer support on any business application through Artificial intelligence powered products. It analyzes what the customer is asking using natural language processing, machine learning and processes that to give the accurate responses to the customers instantly. Vidya is an Entrepreneur with a passion for innovation and latest technologies, having 17 years of Technology Experience. She won the India’s Best Startup CTO by Dell EMC.

What makes you do what you do?
I believe technology can solve any problem. Innovations in technology can improve the quality of life and the quality of work people does.
I am grown with a mindset which says self-sympathy is the enemy of self and hard work consistently without expecting a result will open bigger pathways. What I am doing is the combination of all.
Being an entrepreneur is an eternal learning which I love and I enjoy playing with technology and challenges that is the reason why I am doing what I am doing today.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Updating myself with the latest technologies is a must. Having said that, that alone is not sufficient. Always thinking positively, fighting against the fears, perseverance, and working hard helps.
I am lucky to have a big support from my family. My sisters who are also into technology field, make my life more beautiful and meaningful, to share not only the personal but also technical matters with them.

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)?
With the bigger goal of supporting the future generations, this is the beginning. It had to start somewhere. In the very long journey this is the first step that I took.
My current startup is Faasthelp. We build artificial intelligence products.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him?
There have been many mentors at all stages of my startup. A startup eco system has brought me too many friends and mentors who have been very helpful at every stage of my startup and I am thankful to all of them.
My primary mentors in my life are my parents. The spirit of entrepreneurship was ignited when I was a kid and my mother was managing her small industry. The strong value system, sense of service, and responsibility towards the society is instilled in me by my dad. The strong urge to do something by myself was driven by my parents. They are the role models and driving factors.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I take personal interest in grooming and nurturing talent. I have established processes that identify the potential talent and to groom. I play to the best of their strengths and encourage them to take risks. My business needs also drive me to develop new skills and grow them. I value emotional intelligence and so is the strength of my team.

Do you consciously or subconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and subconsciously support diversity, this again I can say got from my parents, my dad always wanted all women to be empowered and my mother had more women in her work force.
I have mentored women entrepreneurs, especially in their technical initiatives as I come with a vast technical expertise. I have extended my entrepreneurial connections to other women entrepreneurs. Our organization has more women representation.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be a great leader, you have to be a good leader, for that you must be a good human being, driven by high values, honesty, and ethics with great empathy for the people around.
Motivating the team, being a good listener with persistent hard work is a general thumb rule. Now there might be several ways to implement these and depending on the industry the implementation might differ but the ground principles remain same.
Entrepreneurship is continuous learning and I encourage others to do the same. Aim high and work towards the set goals is a way to go. I believe mindset to do service is also a way to become a good leader.

Advice for others?
Always be positive and create a positive impact on everyone. Have your values defined and do not compromise on them at any cost. Each small step taken towards the big thing is important, value them and go ahead, you will succeed surely. Success is something which we define our self and it can be achieved from any field and anywhere, on the way keep helping others.
The present focus is to develop the startup which I have taken up and my next idea is to continue to innovate and create technology products which will improvise human life.

If you’d like to get in touch with Vidya Vellala, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Faasthelp, please click here.

Continue Reading