Naysan Saran is a former scientific programmer at Environment Canada who is passionate about using Machine Learning to solve today’s environmental issues. In 2016, she participated in – and won – an aqua hacking competition, where she met her future co-founder who was finishing his PhD in water quality. Together, they knew they could create a business that would make an impact.
Today, CANN Forecast leverages Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to protect water supply, public health and aging infrastructure through two solutions: InteliSwim and InteliPipes. InteliSwim is a predictive model that forecasts the concentrate of E. coli in urban water bodies using Machine Learning, while InteliPipes is an AI-based algorithm that helps municipalities identify at-risk pipes before they break. Currently, CANN Forecast works with ten cities and four provinces in Canada and is looking forward to expanding their work across the country and around the world.
While scaling the company isn’t an easy task, Naysan is up for the challenge. To date, one of the biggest obstacles has been gaining credibility. “We are competing with huge consulting firms,” she says. “So acquiring credibility with governments has been one of our biggest challenges. It is difficult to demonstrate that we have the track record, that we have solutions that can help them.” Winning the hackathon certainly helped, and winning their first contract with the city of Montreal gave them the chance to prove themselves. What’s also helped, is the backing of SheEO.
The impact of the SheEO sisterhood
In 2020, CANN Forecast was selected as a SheEO venture – a moment that has helped Naysan move her company forward, thanks to both the funding and the mentorship she has received.
Launched in 2015, SheEO brings women Activators and entrepreneurs together to grow female-led revenue-generating ventures. The model is based on women being radically generous to one another with funding and active mentorship. The visionary model pools money from 500 women (the Activators) and loans it at zero percent interest to women-led ventures. To qualify, Ventures must be at least 51 per cent women-owned, led by women, revenue generating, and be creating a better world through their business model, product or service.
With a dedicated coach, Naysan can reach out at any time for advice and support. In fact recently, while going through a period of increasing fatigue, her coach’s recommendations (including she read the book “The Power of Full Engagement”) helped her change the way she manages her day and draw from different sources of energy. “We sometimes forget that we are not machines,” says Naysan. The SheEO mentorship helps us navigate difficult times through an understanding of what we need – not only as entrepreneurs, but also as human beings.”
How SheEO Activators Invest in Women
SheEO Activators invest in themselves and other women when they gift their money into a perpetual fund that is designed to support women for generations to come. From there, they can vote for Ventures, participate in learning circles and make connections with founders for ongoing guidance and mentorship opportunities. And because they invest on their own terms, they can participate in all or none of these things. Either way, becoming an Activator is described as joining a community of radically generous women who work together to transform systems to create a sustainable and equitable world.
“The SheEO experience continues to be the most profound experience in my life. It’s life-changing personally and professionally,” says Lisa Tepper, who is starting her fourth year as an Activator in the U.S.
“No matter the challenge at hand, women around the world are making a profound impact in their communities, fields and industries.” says Alecia Aquino, Director, Commercial Financial Services Strategy, RBC, “To me, being an activator is about being part of a global community of radically generous women, supporting and learning from one another.”
While women can become Activators at any time, SheEO is in Activator Season, with a push throughout October to boost the size of the fund and the community to help select the Ventures at the end of November.
Plus, during these challenging times, which are disproportionately affecting women, SheEO’s community is funding and supporting as many women-led Ventures as possible so that more people can be working on the world’s most pressing issues through innovative business models.
This is good news for Naysan Saran, who is working hard on solving water preservation and infrastructure problems. When asked about paving her own way in the male-dominated tech field, she says the opportunities outweigh the challenges, largely because of organizations like SheEO who are dedicated to lifting and supporting women. “The main challenge [with being a woman in tech] is internal, in the sense that you won’t see a lot of people who look like you around the table,” she says. “So you need to be comfortable with being different. But this very challenge is also an opportunity, because if you shine and demonstrate excellence and professionalism in your job, it will leave a greater impression on the people around you.”
And because SheEO has her back, she knows she can navigate difficult situations, overcome challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that exist for her – and other women – to change the world.
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