Julia Elvidge is the past President and co-founder of Chipworks, a company that sold patent and technology intelligence related products and services to large international electronics companies. After selling Chipworks to its largest competitor in 2016, Julia remained active in the tech community by working with companies and founders as an advisor and investor. Additionally, Julia is a member of the Canadian Institute of Corporate Directors and sits on boards in the tech and investment space, including ventureLAB’s Hardware Catalyst Initiative advisory board and the Capital Angel Network.
My proudest accomplishment is…helping to create a company culture at Chipworks where people wanted to come to work each day. I have never seen it done as successfully, before or after. We achieved this by treating people with respect and being consistently open and transparent, even when the news was hard to hear or did not reflect well on senior management. Over time, we built a solid trust relationship with our employees.
I surprise people when I tell them… that I am an electrical engineer. I didn’t intend on studying engineering initially and never really considered it at first. I ended up in the Sciences without much of a direction. After wandering for a while, I finally decided that Biomedical Engineering was my passion. Back then, Biomedical was only a master’s program, so I enrolled in second year Electrical Engineering and studied my heart out –– I was determined to catch up for lost time! The semiconductor industry was just starting to boom as I got my first Co-op jobs. I loved the work experience and quickly fell in love with microchips and the buzz of the industry. I never went on to do that master’s degree, but I have no regrets.
My best advice to people starting out in the tech industry is… knowing your customers is key to success at any stage of a company. At the beginning, asking potential customers open questions to understand their pain points helps you design your product before you write a line of code. The more time you spend understanding these customers and finding ways to test your product ideas on them, the faster you will get to market with the lowest development costs. Later on, as the company grows, don’t become a CEO that is only focused internally on operations. It is important to get out and talk to your customers and understand how their businesses are changing so that you are preparing your company for their future.
My best advice from a mentor was… ”This opportunity won’t be available in 5 years.” I was a founding member of Chipworks but I didn’t have the funds to invest in the business at the beginning; my contribution was “sweat equity.” Later on, my mentor discussed an offer that had been put in front of me for a significant portion of the company and the role of President. My very first response was “No, I am not ready for this right now, my kids are too young. I want to do this 5 years from now.” We talked for a while, but the most important thing he said to me was, “This opportunity will not be available in 5 years.” He was right and I took the offer. Today, I am happily retired based on the proceeds from the sale of Chipworks. I am very glad that I took his advice.
My biggest setback was… I asked my daughter –– now 28 years old –– what she thought my biggest setback was and she said, “Wasn’t it when you gave birth to my brother and I?”. My first reaction was shock, and then I quickly corrected her. I think of my time with the kids when they were young as a wonderful break from the working world and a time to fully enjoy being a mother –– and not any kind of setback.
I stay inspired by… women leaders and founders that are changing the world by just being who they are and leading the way for others (#SeeHerBeHer). The more representation we see, the more our children and their children will consider it normal for half the corporations in the world to be run by women.
The future excites me because… I am part of a movement to create more women-founded technology businesses so we can finally change the numbers and get more women involved in the tech industry.
We have tried a lot of things, but women still don’t hold enough roles in the C-suite or the boardroom of technology companies. As recently as 2016, men had 4 times more tech jobs than women –– a number that has changed very little in the last 20 years or more.
I believe we can achieve more diversity for women and minorities in tech companies by supporting women founders to start, grow, and scale their companies into $100 million dollar enterprises –– and beyond.
My next step is…now. I am an early-stage advisor at Invest Ottawa, and a Capital Angel Network board member/investor and a co-founder of SheBoot. I have the enviable role of working with many amazing entrepreneurs and supporting them on their journey.
SheBoot is a bootcamp for scalable technology and technology enabled businesses with women founders. It was created by women leaders and investors, and helps founders get their businesses ready for the investment stage.
SheBoot’s first cohort in 2020 had fifty women leaders supporting ten women-led businesses as coaches, board members, workshop leads, or providing legal and finance support. In addition, ten of these women took $10,000 from their own pockets and put it towards the final pitch prize of $100,000 at the end of the program. This was later matched by non-dilutive funding to provide a first prize of $150K, and a second prize of $50K.
I know that if I am successful in SheBoot, I will make Ontario, Canada, and the world a better place, because it will get more women into the C-suite making decisions and women are more open to making diverse workplaces work!