Ten finalists were selected from those who applied, and each founder was given two minutes to pitch their venture and three minutes to answer questions from a panel of Toyota Tsusho executives. Ventures ranged from social enterprises that reduce restaurant food waste and support fair trade artisans, tech platforms to fulfill niche needs and companies that provide accessible water and create books for adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Alwar Pillai, founder of Fable Tech Labs—an accessibility platform that companies can use to engage people with disabilities in user-testing and direct consultations—won $3,500 to scale up her venture.
“Events like the BridgingTheGap to Her Forum are important because it builds a community, a support system and a safe place for female founders,” Pillai admitted. “Finding advisory groups and mentors can be challenging. Such events help in reaching the right people.”
However, Pillai wasn’t the only one to go home a winner. After the forum, Stephania Stefanakou, co-founder of design-technology startup House of Anesi Inc.—whose first product, the Anesi Bra, can adapt to women’s body and breast changes and reduces back pain—won the wildcard audience pick online, with a prize of $1,000.
“BridgingTheGap Forums allow women to dream more but also take action upon those dreams—networking with other women and realizing that everything is possible and helping one another’s business ventures,” said Stefanakou.
The remaining finalists also had the potential to be considered by Toyota Tsusho for future partnership and investment opportunities.