#WomenInTech: Building a World-Class Startup in Canada with Kristine Steuart
Today the Nudge blog launches our Women in Tech series, a three-part interview series where we sit down with leaders in the Canadian Tech industry.
Interview with Kristine Steuart, CEO and Co-Founder at Allocadia
Menaka: Have you always wanted to run your own company? What path did you take to get here?
Kristine: There was always something in me that wanted to start my own business. When I look back, I don’t know exactly where that came from.
I worked in government, I worked in tourism, and then I did a co-op job at Crystal Decisions in Vancouver, and I found my home in tech. I’ve always loved the technology market: it’s new, it’s innovative, it’s fast, and I was drawn to it. After I had spent a great five years at Crystal, I had an itch to go start my own business.
I thought of a product to solve a pain-point I’d experienced firsthand as a marketer, because I thought there had to be a better way. That’s how Allocadia started.
Menaka: You founded Allocadia with your twin sister, Katherine. Was it natural for the two of you to work together and collaborate?
Kristine: Yes, and I don’t think it worked because we’re identical twins, but ironically it worked because we’re both different. We have complementary skill sets. Today for example, Katherine leads our product strategy, and she’s one of our biggest customer experts. I lead setting the company strategy, and align the team behind executing on the strategy.
It was important to have someone to go into business with. The challenges change throughout the years of course, but it’s really some of those early days that are the hardest parts of growing a business: those first hires or early partnerships, getting your first big enterprise clients, etc. Those were some of the most difficult things. We’ve really teamed up to make it work.
We launched in 2010, and we’re 85 people today. We’ve raised $30 million in financing, and we have great partnerships with leading marketing cloud companies like Marketo, IBM and Oracle, and we’re continuing to grow.
Menaka: Does having two women at the helm of your company impact things?
Kristine: I think it does. Our team is about 40% women today – in terms of gender diversity, that’s very high. We’re trying to create a benchmark for ourselves and maintain that high level.
For me, though, I’ve always worked with so many amazing women in tech, and so tech has always been about women role models in business.
The space where I do see a gender gap is in the Founder or CEO role. When I go to Founder or CEO conferences for example, I’m often the only woman. I have the same challenges as any founder or CEO – raise money, set the strategy, hire a great team – but there are differences. When I walk through the door into an investor pitch for example, I’m not always what people are expecting! There’s not a lot of pattern-recognition there.
Menaka: One of our common Canadian business stories is that a business grows to a certain size and then moves to the States. As your company gets bigger, have you felt that kind of pressure?
Kristine: No, we haven’t felt that pressure from our investors, our board or our team here. We feel strongly that we can build a world-class company in Vancouver with the talent we have in this city.
We’re also starting to hire people in different regions and the U.S., and we’re doing more remote video conference calls and making sure they feel included in our culture.
I go down to the Valley about once a month to meet with different customers, partners and investors, so we keep a connection there. But there’s not a need to move our headquarters.
Menaka: Allocadia has really leveraged technology in this way to continue growing. Do you think these new ways of connecting will help Canada keep our innovation and business here?
Kristine: Absolutely. Having a presence via social networks, video, phone, all of this helps us stay connected. It’s important for our team members, but equally and probably most importantly, for our customers! Our customers are all over the world, and it’s critical we create a connection and a community with our customers and for our customers.
That still doesn’t replace a face-to-face connection, but with all the new technology you can embed constant interactions into your culture to make the customer and team experience seamless. And yes, that’s a way to be innovative and grow from a Canadian headquarters.