Ask Pam CEO says quotas necessary to encourage diversity following Google Demo Day: Women’s edition

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A couple of weeks ago, Ask Pam — a cloud startup that centralizes the day-to-day operations of hotel concierges on a single platform — received a game-changing call. They were one of twelve startups selected to participate in the Google Demo Day: Women’s Edition from more than 800 applications from 65 countries.

“Just being nominated presents an incredible opportunity,” said Pamela Alfred, co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based Ask Pam.

“I didn’t have a lot of investors in Canada at the beginning. They don’t want to take risks.”

Two short weeks to prepare pitches with big Silicon Valley investors is not a whole lot of time. Although this is certainly not the first time Alfred and Patrick Finken, co-founder and CTO of Ask Pam, had to pitch in front of investors and risk capital specialists, they needed to rework several aspects of their pitch. Appearing in front of such big players is obviously a different challenge.

“We spoke with advisors to improve the financial aspect, the message, and all the little details that require a lot of thought, like speech pronunciation,” said Alfred.

The trip out west was very well-organized, and “It went very well; we spoke with an audience that understands the business,” Alfred said.

Three days before Demo Day, meetings, workshops, and conferences were planned with each of the invited startups. The Blackbox accelerator even condensed its two-week program into a day and a half in order to share their expertise with the participants.

After Demo Day, Ask Pam had the opportunity to continue the conversation with a crowd of investors. “We continued to make connections and a lot of people came to ask us questions,” said Alfred. “Google Demo Day was a great opportunity and will really make a difference for us. It’s not just about building connections — they also help develop the ecosystem.”

“At first, I wasn’t necessarily a fan of an event exclusively for women, but if we want to see representative figures [in the number of women entrepreneurs], it’s going to take quotas,” said Alfred. “In the end, [this type of event] encourages women to participate and it’s a good thing to give them a voice, to restore the balance. ”

Google Demo Day was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the expertise of the mentors on site, especially considering the difference in approach of our neighbours to the south compared to the Canadian way. “I didn’t have a lot of investors in Canada at the beginning,” said Alfred. “Canadian investors don’t want to take risks.” This is a major distinction, as US investors emphasize a global view of the company and tend to struggle less with the numbers. “Canadian investors should take more risks because otherwise people go to the United States and do not come back,” she said.

Given the limitations of the Quebec and Canadian markets, Ask Pam is now building sales in New York, among other cities, and is also looking into setting up an engineering team to extend the functionality of its platform.


Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin has completed a master’s degree in Literature specializing in Quebec’s contemporary dramaturgy at the University of Montreal. She worked as a journalist in Toronto, covering the news of its Franco-Ontarian community, and has been reporting on the Montreal startup tech ecosystem since 2016. She is currently the Communications advisor and community relations at HEC Montreal's entrepreneurship hub.

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