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Meet 13 of the World’s Most Talented Women

By Georgie Mallett
27 July, 2019

Last year, Entrepreneur First hosted its 5th Asia Investor Day. Hundreds of investors gathered in the auditorium of Singapore’s National Library to see 24 teams pitch. It was EF’s fifth cohort from Singapore, its second from Hong Kong, and its first from Bangalore.

Investor Day is the culmination of six months’ intensive work. In the first three months of EF’s programme, the cohorts meet up to 100 potential co-founders; when they’re not meeting people, they’re working on themselves and refining their Edge. After that, they spend another three months working relentlessly to build a world-changing company. At the end of the process, which in another sense is just the beginning, each team delivers a two and a half minute pitch. That’s 150 seconds to tell a packed auditorium why your company is worth investing in.

Gayathri Natarajan, Rimjhim Agrawal, Elmira Soghrati, Praapti Jayaswal, Gordana Ilic, Bhargavi Vijayyakumar, Adinda Savitri, Jaime Ng, Priya Surya, Karishma Kamal Galani, Entela Benz, Avlokita Tiwari, Laina Emmanuel
Gayathri Natarajan, Rimjhim Agrawal, Elmira Soghrati, Praapti Jayaswal, Gordana Ilic, Bhargavi Vijayyakumar, Adinda Savitri, Jaime Ng, Priya Surya, Karishma Kamal Galani, Entela Benz, Avlokita Tiwari, Laina Emmanuel

This Investor Day, almost half of the pitches we saw were delivered by some of the most talented women in the world. They have a staggering 31 degrees between them, from institutions like Harvard, NTU and NUS. Together, they have worked within EY, MIT, TripAdvisor, MySpace, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. Many of them are second-time founders and a number of them held C-level positions before founding their own companies. They have 15 publications between them, including two books.

Karishma Kamal Galani graduated with an MA in Educational Technology from Harvard, before going on to do research at MIT’s Media Lab. Karishma had spent three years trying to find someone to start a company with, but after joining EF, she met her co-founder Ramsri Goutham Golla within one week. Together they have founded Aurora, which generates K-12 assessments using AI. Karishma opened her pitch with two questions, “Could you teach sixth grade science through the latest Ebola outbreak in the Congo? How about third grade English – grammar, sentence structure – through the Harry Potter novels?”. Aurora is building a world where learning is personalised, dynamic and fast.

Pitching for Aarogya AI was Praapti Jayaswal, who did her PhD in tuberculosis research, and then spent over 12 years as a researcher at top institutes such as All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences. Her co-founder, Avlokita Tiwari, is a computational biologist, with an MA in bioinformatics. AarogyaAI is an AI-enabled SaaS that diagnoses drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in hours instead of weeks.

Priya Surya is a Y Combinator Fellowship alumni, with an MPA/ID from Harvard. She is the previous Head of New Market Growth for Asia at Bima Mobile Microinsurance. She co-founded Plover with Jonathan Summers-Muir, a startup verteran, digital graphic designer and full-stack web developer. In her pitch, Priya tells the audience, “When you have children you start to wonder, what would happen to their lives if something were to happen to you?” Plover provides detailed legacy planning, allowing us to plan what happens to our loved ones after we’re gone.

Dr Entela Benz is a  two-time CEO and is trained as a quant. She has 16 years’ experience in the financial industry and academia (Adjunct Professor at HKUST), and holds a PhD in Financial Engineering from Swiss Finance and Banking Institute. Together with Dr Saurabh Singh, a climate scientist with a PhD from NTU, she co-founded Intensel. Using the CFD engineering approach and financial modelling, Intensel translates climate risk into a dollar value. “That’s language businesses understand” she says, making them far more likely to adopt solutions that mitigate climate risk.

Rimjhim Agarwal is completing a PhD in AI in psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences. Her co-founder, Laina Emmanuel, has worked with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Netapp, and has a degree in healthcare business. Together, they founded Brainsight.AI, which, for the first time, is bringing MRI-based diagnostics to psychiatry. With neuro-psychiatric disorders costing $650B each year worldwide, it’s a huge opportunity for impact. Laina says, “The problem is that because the brain is such a complicated organ, there are no standardised biological tests.” Brainsight are using AI-based imaging biomarkers to identify and classify disorders such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Dementia.

Bhargavi Vijayakumar has an MBA from ISB and has spent over a decade working with corporates like EY, Daimler and Novartis. Three years ago, Bhargavi quit her job to become a CFO-on-demand for startups. At EF, she met Ankit Parashar, an engineer and long-time entrepreneur, and together they founded KOUNT, a digital finance platform for small and medium businesses.

Jaime NG is a technical and data-driven CMO with over 18 years of experience working in the US, UK and SEA. She has built MarTech and AdTech platforms for top companies including MediaCorp and TripAdvisor. Most recently she led both marketing, product and technical teams as CMO in RedMart and NTUC Link. At EF, she co-founded MatchCast with Truong Dac Binh, a technical and UX practitioner who has led technical and product teams for the likes of Microsoft, BBDO, UniLever and Toyota. MatchCast is an AI-powered ad-tech platform that helps brands scale their audio advertising through podcasts.

Dr Gayathri Natarajan has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from NUS with 8 years of experience working with industries and government agencies to commercialise innovations in sustainable chemical processes. Her co-founder, Dr Elmira Soghrati, has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from NUS and is a technical expert with 6 years of experience in product development, material chemistry formulation and design of advanced material. Their third co-founder is Dr Mahesh Nathan, an expert with 8 years of experience in insulation technology. At EF, they founded KrossLinker, which develops insulation material for bio-pharma packaging. KrossLinker’s aerogel technology translates to $4.2B in savings for biopharma companies.

Gordana Ilic has a PhD in chemistry from NTU and 7 years of research experience in chemical synthesis and water treatment. She is an internationally-awarded scientist, as well as a ‘Top Change-Maker of 2012’, as named by World Learning. Gordana’s co-founder, Akshay Jain, holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from NUS and is a specialist in activated carbon technology. In her pitch, Gordana says that we are unknowingly surrounded by activated carbons. Not only that, they determine a lot: how long your phone or car battery lasts, the quality of the water you drink, even the air you breathe. That’s why they founded MESOTOPE, which uses chemistry to increase efficiency in these applications by up to 300%.

After graduating from the NUS Computer Science program, Adinda Savitri co-founded a technology studio where she designed and wrote operations software in construction, manufacturing, and pharma. Her cofounder is Caleb Tutty, who has spent 10 years engineering data platforms for brands like Coke, Dreamworks and Oreo. Their company, Nucon, helps to detect faults in architecture, engineering and construction, from misaligned windows to burst pipes. Using AI, Nucon will interpret and prioritise inspection reports at scale.

At EF, there are no gains to be had from thinking small. These individuals were selected to join the EF programme not just because of their talents, but because of the size of their ambition. They are motivated by the possibility of global impact, and their companies are built in pursuit of a better, more efficient, more accessible world.

You have a unique opportunity to make an impact on the world, just by virtue of being born. Entrepreneur First believes the best way to capitalise on this opportunity for impact is to become a founder. The individuals here, among the hundreds of others currently going through the EF programme, are just getting started.

To apply to join Entrepreneur First, click here.

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