It’s a pretty grim statistic: only 12 per cent of people “building the internet” are women. Yet 34-year-old Melburnian Sheryl Thai is doing her bit to inspire other women to claim leading roles in the digital arena.
A former corporate IT high flyer, Thai heads up networking platform The League, short for League of Extraordinary Women, which is hosting the upcoming Victorian Government-sponsored Run the World Tech-formation Conference where women will talk tactics for tech success.
Thai is certainly up to the task. Your classic overachiever, along with her work for The League, she also finds the time to fulfil her role as founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cupcake Central – a $3.5 million annual sales revenue spinner with 70,000 social media followers, 890 staff and five stores in Melbourne selling 25,000 cupcakes weekly.
Since 2013, eight Run the World conferences have been held nationally, with 400 women attending last year’s event. Touching on everything from e-commerce, apps, virtual reality and digital publishing, it’s designed to give speakers the forum to share and celebrate their achievements, and to inspire the next generation of Australian female entrepreneurs.
The success of both the conferences and The League has been helped along by government support. “Through introductions facilitated by the Victorian Government, we’ve met women entrepreneurs and companies in New York and San Francisco, who have been extremely supportive,” Thai explains. A great example of this was the ability to meet Holly Liu, the 2006 co-founder of San Francisco Bay video game company, Kabam, which sold for $1 billion in 2017.
That meeting proved especially fruitful. “Holly Liu spoke at our Run the World conference last year and took up a post as a Victorian Entrepreneur-In-Residence with Girl Geek Academy: her incredible story has inspired huge audiences in Victoria to dream bigger,” says Thai. Liu was particularly impressed that Philip Dalidakis, the Victorian Minister for Trade & Investment, Innovation & the Digital Economy and Small Business, pledged to only sponsor or speak at events where 50 per cent of the speakers are women.
So how did Thai come up with the conference idea? “After our experience overseas meeting other female founders and going through our own journey to raise funds, it opened up our eyes to how Australia was faring compared to the US,” she explains. The key takeaway was that there was plenty of catch-up required here in terms of diversity numbers in tech, and the conference is destined to redress that and inspire the next generation to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a career or business path. If you’re interested in networking with some of Australia’s finest tech minds, don’t miss it.
Hear from the experts at the Run the World Tech-formation conference on 13 April:
Starting as a salon booking app in 2013 and pivoting towards peer-to-peer beauty services following a merger in 2016, Glamazon has fast become Australia’s largest real-time booking platform, connecting 700 freelance stylists with more than 35,000 customers. Silvers, Glamzon’s Co-Founder and CEO, featured on Channel Ten’s ‘Shark Tank’ program, delivering “the most perfect presentation I’ve ever heard,” according to Shark, Steve Baxter, securing $250,000 on the show, followed by closing a seed round of $1 million.
The CEO and Co-Founder of chozun 途赞 – the world’s first travel ecosystem powered by artificial intelligence, data science and underpinned by blockchain and cryptocurrency – is a global rising star. An award-winning entrepreneur who launched a tech startup in China in 2016, Truda has since raised funding from institutional investors across China, South-East Asia and Australia. Truda and her co-founder Zia Word, became the first women to launch their own travel and loyalty cryptocurrency in the Asia Pacific region, with an Initial Coin Offering (an unregulated means to raise funds for a cryptocurrency venture) due for release in June.
In 2014, Kersh sold her venture ‘4Cabling’ – an online retailer specialising in technology cabling for consumers that she founded at the age of 21 – to private investors when its annual revenue was $10 million. Watching her parents run a small electrical business from home was a dot she later joined in building the first online trade-based website in Australia. Teaching herself to code, she filled a gap by using her platform to sell spare electrical products lying around the garage. From there, 4Cabling began. Being young, feminine, gay, entrepreneurial, curious and successful in a male dominated industry has given Kersh a decade-worth of stories and the learning that authenticity is a true leader.
Sharley is a brand and marketing strategist and co-founder of fashion-tech start-up Shop You; a personalised shopping app matching you with brands that suit your style, using artificial intelligence. With over 12 years’ experience, she has led marketing for iconic brands both in Australia and overseas, including Westfield, Diane Von Fürstenberg, Westpac and T-Mobile. Sharley also lectures at General Assembly and is an Advisory Board Member for IFAB (a global fashion think-tank). She has always had a passion for forging new ground, transforming retail and understanding the customer of today and tomorrow.
Part startup marketer, part digital strategist and skilled PR hacker, Gardner is the creative brains behind Finch. She’s brought fame (and some fortune!) to a long list of tech startups across Silicon Valley and Australia ranging from big data to fintech to gaming. When she’s not leading marketing, analytics or health kicks at Finch, Gardner is Head of PR at not-for-profit Girls in Tech Australia, where she champions women in STEM and entrepreneurship.
Lewis is co-founder and CEO of Scrunch, one of Australia’s fastest growing, data-driven influencer marketing platforms. Scrunch launched in late 2014, and since then has raised $3 million in capital, and launched a software digital model platform in Australia and the US, with headquarters in Brisbane. Lewis and her team have taken on massive advertising campaigns, collaborating with the likes of NewsCorp, Publicis Mojo, Under Armour, Swarovski and Youfoodz.