As we continue to celebrate International Women’s Day and take note of the many accomplishments made and significant improvements still to be gained in women’s social, economic, cultural, and political well-being, there are continuing concerns about the lack of top roles for women in specific sectors, such as technology.
There’s still “a need for role models” say the headlines; women are “rarely CEOs” opinion makers describe. Yet scratch that sometimes-bleak surface, stories abound not just of women making inroads in tech, not just starting and running their own companies, but also receiving the votes of confidence from investors and consumers that can help turn technological vision into business reality.
For sisters Shriya and Purva Gupta, immigrants to Canada who launched their own tech-enabled company here in 2020, this week’s announcement of $2 million in seed funding and a multi-year business contract with a leading public transportation system means company growth and further success.
It also signals that, despite the challenges they face, “Working in the tech industry helps you build the future everyday.”
Every day, Shriya and Purva tell their female colleagues to never have doubt in their abilities, despite the challenges (or headlines): “Be confident, keep building on your skills, seek out opportunities, be ready to go out of your comfort zone, and create a support system/group of cheerleaders that constantly boost your spirits.”
That kind of energy and enthusiasm surfaces daily, which is appropriate: Their company is Daily Blends; based in Toronto, it is out to revolutionize the food service industry using smart vending machines enabled by artificial intelligence.
Daily Blends uses its own data-centric retail platform to meet a growing consumer demand for healthy yet affordable food – a demand that’s only increasing in these times of inflationary food prices.
The company’s software analyzes real-time sales, inventory and user data from each vending machine it operates. Those consumer, location and network insights are used to optimize an end-to-end supply chain that offers customers healthy and affordable food with high product availability and minimal food waste.
The company’s smart vending machines serve up healthy, fresh food options for an average price of $6, notably less than the cost of a typical fast-casual meal.
And it will do so for millions of commuters in and around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, also known as Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe. The region is served by Metrolinx, one of the largest public transportation systems in Canada. Inking a multi-year partnership with Metrolinx, Daily Blends will operate and optimize a network of fresh food vending machines in multiple train and bus stations, starting at Union Station in Toronto, and offer fresh and healthy food to Metrolinx’s millions of commuters.
In addition to its agreement with Metrolinx, Daily Blends is powering smart vending machines at the University of Toronto, as well as regional hospitals and factories, with plans to expand aggressively in the U.S. later this year.
“We’re excited to bring affordable, healthy options to Toronto commuters and we look forward to expanding our reach with our additional funding,” said Shriya, Daily Blends CEO and co-founder. “The combination of powerful data insights and plug-and-play smart vending machines helps us address new-age, evolving consumer needs while keeping our model agile and removing the heavy capital and labour costs associated with traditional retail formats.”
“Technology is powering the world, and more than ever before we’re seeing it make our lives simpler each day. The thing that I’m really excited about is the AI tech we have developed that is helping make fresh, healthy food accessible to millions of people,” she added. “With our tech, we’re able to offer meals at the maximum freshness level, at the right time, and at affordable prices.”
In-house technology and algorithms at Daily Blends are used to generate actionable insights on accurate consumer demand forecasts, the best food assortments and offerings, product recommendations, and minimal out of stock situations.
The system can deliver promotions and other incentives while fuelling customer retention and optimizing delivery schedules.
On a path to success even before gaining her master’s degree in management, with a focus on International Marketing & Business Development, from the National University of Singapore, Shriya depended on a network of supporters and mentors:
“Yes, I have been very fortunate to have a solid support system that has pushed me to pursue my dreams in the tech space. One needs to think outside the traditional boundaries and issues such as gender gaps to carve out a path for themselves. There will always be roadblocks, but self-confidence and self-awareness are key to success.”
That tech confidence and self awareness was evident to the investors in Daily Blends, co-led by San Francisco-based Hustle Fund, a pre-seed/seed-stage fund based in San Francisco and Singapore and founded in 2017 by Elizabeth Yin, Shiyan Koh, and Eric Bahn, along with New York-based 2048 Ventures.
“Daily Blends is unique and is re-imagining the convenience of healthy food for on-the-go consumers,” said Elizabeth Yin, general partner of Hustle Fund. “Their strong back-end technology tied to third-party-vending machines makes them asset-light and highly scalable. We are thrilled to support the company and look forward to their growth and further success.”
As the Gupta sisters pointed out, they are not just working in the tech industry, they are not only running a successful company, but they are also building the future with their tech vision.
So, let’s not be surprised about women leadership in tech stories, whether headlines or under the surface!
“Not at all! Times have changed,” Shriya and Purva say – and they prove. “Women are an integral part of the tech landscape leading the way with superior innovation and challenging the status quo by bringing out new perspectives. Today, there are many more women tech leaders that continuously inspire us and help push boundaries to break the glass ceiling and emerge successful.”
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