Nanotechnology, AI solutions among tech ideas pitched by female entrepreneurs at Beijing competition

Entrepreneur Jayantika Soni pitching Resync Technologies' AI energy management system to a panel of experts and investors at the She Loves Tech competition in Beijing on Sept 14, 2019. ST PHOTO: DANSON CHEONG

BEIJING - Nanomachines that can deliver cancer drugs and AI solutions that help restaurants modify their menus to increase sales - these were some of the ideas pitched by female entrepreneurs at a start-up competition in Beijing on Saturday (Sept 14).

Founded by a trio of women that includes two Singaporeans, the global female-focused start-up competition is called She Loves Tech.

Data scientist Chanikarn Wongviriyawong's start-up Eatlab uses artificial intelligence to study data from a restaurant's point-of-sale machine and CCTV footage to figure out everything from what flavours consumers like, and how much inventory to keep.

"We tell (restaurants) we can use data that they already have to add value to their business," said Dr Wongviriyawong, 38, Eatlab's chief executive.

She said Eatlab has helped a restaurant in Thailand triple its revenue in five months by streamlining its inventory and making changes to its menu. It will be going on trial at restaurants in Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Another firm, Resync Technologies from Singapore, has an AI-driven energy management solution that would boost energy efficiency and enable buildings equipped with solar panels to transfer power between them, said its chief technology officer Jayantika Soni.

Both women were among the 15 finalists that lobbied a panel of investors and market experts with their ideas and products. All were competing for a US$15,000 (S$20,600 )prize.

Into its fifth year now, the competition attracted over 1,000 applications from 20 countries and regions.

Ms Virginia Tan, one of the Singaporean co-founders of She Loves Tech, said she founded it along with Singaporean Leanne Robers and Filipina Rhea See to provide a platform for female entrepreneurs.

The goal, she said, was to move from being a competition for start-ups to becoming a platform for education, conducting boot camps for female entrepreneurs and starting a start-up accelerator.

Explaining the value of female entrepreneurs, Ms Tan, a 35-year-old venture capitalist, said women understand the problems that affect them and shop not just for themselves, but also for their households, "driving new patterns of consumption".

But they remained under-represented among technology entrepreneurs, something Ms Tan put down to a lack of experience.

"A lot of times women are building businesses for the first time, coming out from a stable job," said Ms Tan. On the other hand, male entrepreneurs might have held prominent tech jobs, which would aid them in getting funding.

Gender equality was also a big issue in some developing countries like India. Dr Soni said growing up she was told that girls were not good at math and could not be engineers.

"We definitely need more platforms like this to lift women up, there were always people in my life who said I was not good at this or that," she said.

Fortunately for Dr Soni, she did not take those words to heart. The 29-year-old went on to complete a PhD in power and energy from the National University of Singapore.

She quips: "I now design algorithms to make energy distribution better."

Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

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