World-changing innovation comes from everywhere. But when it comes to startups, funding has historically favored founders from particular demographic, geographic, and educational backgrounds. Here at Microsoft for Startups we believe that entrepreneurship should be open to all, and that anyone with an idea deserves the opportunity and resources to innovate and grow. We are committed to broadening access for all startup founders by removing traditional barriers to entry, enabling startups to be successful at each phase of their journey.
In the spirit of that mission, we’ve partnered with Antler to support founders all over the world. Together, we recently awarded Rising Entrepreneurship grants to an inspiring group of women founders who are building an industry-spanning set of companies. These non-dilutive grants are intended to help level the playing field in terms of equitable access to the funding resources that are so critical to startup success.
We are particularly proud to showcase these grant recipients alongside Antler. Antler is a “day zero” investor whose founders develop their ideas and validate business models through residency programs around the world. Their expertise in backing early-stage entrepreneurs readily complements Microsoft for Startups’ commitment to support startups from inception to scale. Collectively, we are united in our desire to broaden diversity in entrepreneurship and empower founders of every background “from day zero to greatness.”
Meet the recipients of our Rising Entrepreneur grants and their startups below. Follow us over the coming weeks as we share their founder journeys.
Adina Tilek, Co-Founder of DevX
Founded in 2019, DevX is a Singapore based digital learning company that provides accessible, curated content to individuals seeking to begin or accelerate a career in technology. The company brings together customized training programs with a community of like-minded learners who can virtually co-study throughout their learning pathway. Since launch, DevX has helped more than 500 clients land jobs at Fortune500 technology companies.
Adina was first inspired to make technology learning more accessible based on her experience trying to break into tech with a traditional university and bootcamp education. Prior to co-founding DevX, Adina led QA Engineering teams in Chicago’s innovative AdTech startup ecosystem where she built her product management and sales experience. She is now serving as Head of Product at DevX as the company looks to scale internationally.
Aigerim Tulekova, CEO & Co-Founder of Beyond Brands
Founded in 2022, Beyond Brands is a Singapore based company that is building a no-code monetization platform to help creators launch, grow, and scale their businesses. The company’s suite of tools enables creators to build websites, introduce audience engagement capabilities, find alternative ways to monetize, and host communities – all without requiring a single line of code.
Aigerim is a Kazakh-Australian entrepreneur, user experience designer, and content creator / influencer. Together with her Beyond Brands co-founder, she is leveraging her knowledge and background to redefine the future of the creator economy for creators, brands, and consumers worldwide.
Alexandra Kantor, CEO & Founder of Peri
Founded in 2022, Peri is a United States based company that is introducing an at-home saliva test that can evaluate oral health and determine susceptibility to cavities, gum disease, and other diseases linked to oral bacteria. The company’s mission is to inspire a proactive approach to dental health by transforming the way people take care of their oral hygiene.
Alexandra holds a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and has over 10 years of experience in the dental field. She is a practicing dentist who has started and owned multiple dental offices and who currently serves on the Board of an emerging dental software company. Dr. Kantor is also a proud mom of two.
Aruna Chawla & Karishma Rathaur, Co-Founders of Salad
Founded in 2022, Salad is an India based digital mobile app company that is building a cycle-synced lifestyle planner for women. The company’s comprehensive solution helps individuals manage hormonal health throughout the month by providing access to personalized and bio–individual plans while factoring in health goals, underlying conditions, and menstrual cycle data. The company anticipates a first quarter 2023 launch across the Indian market.
Aruna is a behavior change designer and integrative nutrition advocate who believes that women who have the resources to live in sync with their bodies can create a life that is powerful, healthy, and strong. After personal experiences in healthcare and more than six years of research, she was inspired to create Salad, a holistic wellness tool made for and by women, with the goal of enabling sustainable women’s health at scale.
Karishma is a former operations and growth-focused leader from xto10x and Uber, where she helped to scale the business 10x over the course three years. Her previous startup-focused roles also include Head of Customer experience at Swvi. Karishma co-founded Salad with a mission to help the 3.9B active menstruators in the world live their healthiest lives through cycle syncing.
Cat Sampson-Gómez & Fernanda Sampson-Gomez, Co-Founders of Celzo
Founded in 2022, Celzo is a United States based food and beverage company that makes hemp-infused sparkling water inspired by Latin American flavors and culture. As a women-, LGTBQ+-, and Latina-owned company, Celzo is diverse from its core. Through its beverages, the company seeks to promote a Mexican-style cure for stress and anxiety and to help consumers find happiness in adversity.
Cat was one of the first 50 employees at Uber, where she witnessed the company grow from seven to 400 cities. Cat’s background of helping launch and scale Uber in Los Angeles, Mexico City, and across numerous cities gave her firsthand experience with quickly growing a brand’s footprint. Prior to founding Celzo with her wife, Cat served in a global marketing role at Expedia Group.
Fernanda, a native of Mexico City, spent over nine years of her career at TV Azteca, the top TV broadcast station in Latin America, where she focused on product commercialization and product placement. She subsequently founded her first company, Clarocrte, a boutique video content agency catering to clients such as Walmart and Volkswagen, prior to obtaining a Masters in Technology Commercialization from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.
Cathy Huang, Founder of Gudwork
Founded in 2022, Gudwork is a United States based company that is building a two-sided digital network to connect emerging professionals with startup–based opportunities. The company’s platform provides students access to freelance projects as well as a supportive network of peers and founders to build project-based portfolios and launch their careers. In turn, startup founders can access vetted student freelancers so they can offload tasks and focus on building.
Cathy is a serial entrepreneur who has spent her career starting companies and joining early-stage startups alongside the founding team. Across these roles, Cathy has operated in a range of industries, gaining experience in markets as varied as international healthcare and direct-to-consumer sustainable seafood. Her firsthand knowledge – gleaned from watching all startups continuously struggle to find enough time, resources, and money – inspired Cathy to solve this problem by founding Gudwork.
Cori Sue Morris, CEO & Founder of Retreat
Founded in 2020, Retreat is a United States based company that provides comprehensive, science-backed programs and educational resources related to psychedelics and microdosing. The company aims to help people improve mental health and wellbeing through a signature microdosing coaching program, private online community, and telehealth offerings.
Cori is a third-time entrepreneur with two successful exits, including a media company and a marketing agency. Her 15 years of experience building and scaling consumer startups span Founder and Head of Marketing roles at Havenly, Usual Wines, UrbanStems, WeWork, Curex, and Tailwind. As a self-ascribed wellness junkie and mycophile, Cori loves empowering people to achieve their full potential.
Erin Rowe, CEO & Founder of Allspring
Founded in 2021, Allspring is a United States based company that is building a mentorship platform to make coaching, advice, and counselling more accessible to young professionals as they navigate tough career decisions. The company connects individuals with a career team to increase the likelihood of getting hired or promoted. Allspring’s B2B, SaaS-based services are available to individuals, corporates, and community-based organizations.
Erin is an experienced HR leader whose previous roles include Deloitte Consulting, the College Board, Webflow, and Pinterest. While managing a multi-million dollar HR budget, Erin realized that many corporate learning and coaching solutions do not meet employee needs, inspiring her to found Allspring to improve employee productivity, self–reliance, and confidence. Outside of work, Erin enjoys hiking, skiing, swimming, and training for her next marathon.
Khanh Lê, CEO & Founder of Inflow
Founded in 2022, InFlow is a Vietnam based company that has launched a supply chain and manufacturing platform for fashion brands. The company’s solution enables small and medium businesses to easily source, track, and manage production by providing connectivity to a wide network of suppliers, an effective supply chain management system, and secure payment options to conduct transactions.
Khanh founded Inflow with the goal of creating a turnkey solution for brands to unlock scalable product manufacturing. Khanh’s professional experience spans roles in Business Strategy, Marketing Strategy, and Product Development. She is a seasoned entrepreneur who was previously on the founding team of NextFit, a mobile application focused on the fitness industry.
Neha Juneja, CEO & Co-Founder of IndiaP2P
Founded in 2021, IndiaP2P is a licensed, India based company that has built a peer–to–peer lending platform. The company creates high-yield, diversified, high-quality investment products composed of curated retail loans from credit-worthy women borrowers. IndiaP2P enables retail investors to create monthly, passive income streams and earn up to 18% per annum.
Neha is a second-time entrepreneur, having previously co-founded and scaled Greenway, India’s largest clean cooking enterprise, where she developed multiple credit partnerships catering to women borrowers across rural India and sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to Greenway, Neha worked on setting up a derivatives trading platform. She is an industrial engineer with an MBA from FMS Delhi, has been recognized as an Echoing Green fellow, and is the recipient of entrepreneurship awards from Businessworld and L’Oreal.
Nuong “Micky” Nguyen, Founder of Petgotchi
Founded in 2022, Petgotchi is a Vietnam based mobile game company. The company utilizes augmented reality to connect users with the companionship of animal friends in the virtual world. Petgotchi’s platform includes community-based functionality where people can connect with other pet lovers.
Micky is a passionate and experienced entrepreneur with more than eight years of experience in the creative design and fashion industries. She previously co-founded Monki Monki, an innovative creative agency that specialized in working with fashion industry clients.
Parul Shukla, Co-Founder of Gladful
Founded in 2022, Gladful is an India based direct-to-consumer food brand that makes protein-rich foods without trans fats, preservatives, or cholesterol. The company caters to urban Indian households in which a significant percentage of adults and children are protein deficient and is focused on providing convenient, ready-to-eat, high protein, high fiber options. In its first year since launch, Gladful has served more than 60,000 consumers.
Parul is a consumer packaged goods specialist and previously spent 15 years building and scaling brands at Mondelez India. As a mother searching for high protein foods, she noticed a gap in the Indian market and decided to leverage her professional and personal experience to launch a new brand aimed at the snacking segment. With Gladful, Parul hopes to build a sustainability-focused company that is good for both body and planet.
Rebecca Widmer, CEO & Co-Founder of BitVision
Founded in 2022, BitVision is a Vietnam based fintech company that develops cryptocurrency asset management and accounting software. The company streamlines financial operations for businesses that use blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFTs. BitVision’s products help CFOs and CPAs manage essential accounting and reporting requirements for digital assets in an easy, transparent, and regulatorily compliant manner.
Rebecca, a native of Switzerland, is a finance professional whose career prior to BitVision included work for the Swiss tax department and private client financial accounting. As a founder, she is passionate about providing high-quality solutions to clients to make their work more efficient. Rebecca credits practicing yoga and Afro-Cuban dance as a vital source of energy to balance out the demands of being a startup founder.
Sarah Hilmy, Co-Founder of Oddysee
Founded in 2022, Oddysee, is a Singapore based company that has launched a travel app designed to help groups of friends collaboratively plan, organize, and book holidays together. Oddysee allows users to discover cool places and share the best travel tips from around the world.
Sarah was born and raised in the Maldives and spent 10 years living in the UK before eventually returning to Asia. Prior to founding Oddysee, she worked as the Head of Sales and Marketing for an exclusive-hire private island in the Maldives, a country renowned for luxury tourism. Sarah’s extensive experience in the travel and hospitality industry as well as her global background have lent her a unique perspective into the needs of the travel-minded consumer.
Sharon Li & Vanessa Chen, Co-Founders of CHOYS
Founded in 2022, CHOYS is a Singapore based insurtech company that provides a holistic wellbeing subscription service to help organizations customize employee benefits. The company’s platform uses data analytics to create a benefit experience for every employee based on their personal needs. CHOYS serves as a digital Chief Wellbeing Officer, enabling employers to deliver a more humanized, data-driven work life culture while enhancing employee impact.
Sharon previously led the Innovation Mindset team within the Chief Technology Office at Barclays, where she worked closely with startups, universities, and governments to incubate innovative fintech solutions. As the CEO of CHOYS, her goal is to transform the way organizations take care of employees. Sharon is a qualified Chartered Global Management Accountant and was recognized by Tech Women 100 and the Women in Fintech Powerlist in 2021.
Vanessa is a second-time founder whose previous experience includes working across China and Southeast Asia for companies such as Weibo & Momo. Her first startup was a mobile solution for tourist refunds that gained traction with over 300 merchants and 500k followers. Vanessa holds a degree in Actuarial Science and Economics from the State University of New York and is a passionate proponent of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Yu Zhen “Yuzu” Tay, Co-Founder & CMO of Re:cast AI
Founded in 2022, Re:cast AI is a Singapore based artificial intelligence company that enables businesses to create localized content at scale through an intuitive web app. The company leverages generative AI to help brands produce consumer advertising that is more representative and reflective of the populations they are trying to reach. Re:cast AI’s mission is to build a fair, unbiased, and inclusive world using technology.
Yuzu formerly held Sales and Marketing leadership roles in the healthcare and media industries, experience she now leverages as the Head of Product Marketing and Brand Communications for Re:cast AI. She holds a degree in Biomedical Engineering from the National University of Singapore. Away from work, Yuzu enjoys lifting, cooking, and singing.
Thao Hoang, Co-Founder & COO of Shelfi
Founded in 2022, Shelfi is a Vietnam based company that is building a digital co-retailing platform to connect brands with verified retailers. The company’s solution will provide seamless inventory management and point-of-sale capabilities for brands seeking to expand their footprint in both physical world and e-commerce retail spaces.
Thao hails from a Vietnamese American family with a long history of entrepreneurship. She has lived, studied, and worked in three different continents over the past 15 years while gaining a breadth of experience across multiple industries. Her path to becoming a startup co-founder took Thao from insurance and banking to e-commerce to commercial property, and now, to the Chief Commercial Officer of Shelfi.
Thuong Luu, Co-Founder & COO of Edupops
Founded in 2022, Edupops is a Vietnam based company that promotes education and learning through readily consumable, 1-minute videos. The company positions its solution as a micro-learning app that can teach users something new about a selected topic in a digestible and engaging fashion.
Thuong was inspired to build Edupops based on her love of learning. Before starting her entrepreneurial journey, Thuong worked for large enterprises in Europe, including Proctor & Gamble. She holds an Engineering degree in Architecture and Environmental Engineering from University of the West of England and in addition to Co-founder, currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Edupops.
Trang Nguyen, Co-Founder & CCO of NEOLOKA
Founded in 2022, NEOLOKA is a Vietnam based company that provides efficient, last-mile delivery solutions, helping companies cut logistics costs and improve customer satisfaction. The company partners with a network of businesses that act as service points to streamline the delivery of goods across Vietnam.
Trang co-founded NEOLOKA as a second-time entrepreneur driven by a passion for product-market fit. Her prior career in Business Development provided ample learning opportunities, where she often discovered a discrepancy between customer pain points and the types of solutions companies are attempting to sell. Trang credits these insights and experiences with putting her on the path to entrepreneurship and thus empowering her to build the right tools to address customers’ actual needs.
Wanjun Yap, Co-Founder of gool.
Founded in 2021, gool. is a Singapore based company that is building tools to simplify the creation of enduring brands, from ideation to launch. The company’s platform helps users conceptualize a design, source white-label products, and make strategic decisions about target market and audience.
Wanjun co-founded gool. with a vision to champion the entrepreneurial spirit in every creator. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, she held Sales, Business Development and Brand Management roles across the retail industry, most recently as a Business Development Manager at Lazada. In launching gool., Wanjun has united her passion for innovation and determination to make a lasting difference in the world.
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More about Antler: Antler believes the responsibility of the venture capital (VC) industry to be an engine of positive global transformation has never been greater. Their second ESG and Impact Report shares learnings on how VC firms can help companies move the world forward and create sustainable value from the outset.