Janice Taylor is a force to be reckoned with.
In just nine years, the Kelowna resident went from Googling “how to start a tech company” to being the force behind an app that helps young people safely transition to online life. That, in turn, has sent her jet setting across the U.S. and influencing change in a male dominated industry.
Take this month for example — Taylor brought Mazu Family to meetings in San Fransisco and New York. Then she went to LA to represent Canada in a Women in Tech event at the Canadian consulate, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau had a number of U.S. speaking engagements that week, pitching Canadian globalism and the country’s new fast-track visa as reasons why Silicon Valley companies should consider Canada as a place to do business and spend money.
Canada is offering a two-week, fast-track employment permit for certain workers, dubbed the “global skills strategy visa.”
Government-sponsored billboards in Silicon Valley pitch: “H1-B Problems? Pivot to Canada.”
Taylor already sees the benefit of working in Canadian tech.
“All my 24 staff is in Kelowna and I live there and my children go to school there,” she said.
Being in transit as often as she is is a significant undertaking, but the work is valuable and that fuels her.
Mazu is a free app that gives kids, and their families, a forum to communicate on. Through it they can focus on their favourite sports teams and specific interests. For kids to use the app they have to have a parent’s approval and potentially interaction.
It’s what Taylor refers to as a “digital village.”
“We don’t use ‘like’ buttons, we don’t follow things,” she said, explaining that its the antithesis of traditional social media, which preys on the desire to be liked, validated, and rewarded.
“The content in our digital village is tagged with our core values. We filter so there is no bad content or bad language.”
There was such a gap in the online world when she started the app, that it’s turned heads and Taylor has managed to raise $7 million through angel investors to get it off the ground.
And the idea has fuelled her as she worked to navigate a male dominated industry.
“If you look at the statistics today, only five per cent of all tech companies are run by women,” she said. “In the City of Kelowna there are only two other female tech company founders and they’re co-founders.”
Getting to the top of a male dominated industry has been a slog and Taylor has some war stories.
“I’ve had men ask, ‘can I touch your hair,’or ‘your hair is distracting,’ ‘who takes care of your kids when you travel’ and ‘are you planning to have another baby?” she said.
What’s been the worst, however, is those who doubt she has the expertise on the issues she’s trying to address through the app, to be in the industry.
“ It astounds me. I have 14 year old on social media, I have friends, we talk … as if I won’t understand this population,” she said. “In the last two years there’s been a 50 per cent increase in girl suicide. It’s the first time in history that girls are killing themselves more than boys. Who better to solve that problem than a mother?”
For more information go to https://mazufamily.com
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