Alice Announces Close of First Financing Round

Alice (previously Circular Board), the world’s first machine learning business advisor and first digital accelerator, announced the close of its first significant equity-based funding round. In an era when inclusive entrepreneurship is a social and economic imperative, a diverse group of investors have put their money and time towards the only existing, scalable solution to business advisory. Signia Venture Partners led the $1 million seed round with participation from investors Jean Case, Sherpa Capital, Zehner LLC, Shatter Fund, Cathie Reid and Lovell Family Limited Partnership/Ann Lovell, president of Women Moving Millions.

Alice is also pleased to welcome Zaw Thet, partner at Signia, and Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur in residence at Dell, to the Board of Directors. On the near-term horizon, Alice will also be announcing the addition of substantial non-equity capital to support the company’s growth trajectory.

While fulfilling a social mission, Alice is also committed to innovating technology that removes barriers and opens doors for entrepreneurs. “Advances in machine learning and AI are transforming the world around us. At Signia, we are particularly excited about Alice as a solution application to bias and sexism in business and in providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to build their companies faster and more efficiently than ever,” said Thet.

Deemed the “Siri for entrepreneurs” by media, Alice democratizes access to business solutions by connecting women and other underrepresented business owners to opportunities, knowledge and communities. Through the application of machine learning, Alice is also able to predict the unique needs of each founder and proactively recommend content to save them time and money and to accelerate growth. Since January 2016, the company has served thousands of woman-led companies from six continents, and its 268 accelerator alumni have raised more than $35 million in capital.

“At its core, Alice provides entrepreneurs with the tools, access to capital, advice and networks they need to succeed, regardless of where they come from or who they know,” said Carolyn Rodz, founder and CEO of Alice.

“Since the company began nearly two years ago, we have been fortunate to maintain a strong financial position through programming and partnerships with major organizations, like Dell Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, Urban Decay, Kauffman Foundation, U.S. Small Business Administration and the United Nations Foundation. The close of this financing round allows us to double down on our growth strategy and reach more underserved entrepreneurs throughout the globe,” Rodz continued.


“Have you ever seen innovation wheresomeone didn’t take a risk?” –Jean Case


Women and minorities are the fastest growing segment of business owners, yet the statistics around their access to capital and influential networks are not aligned with their potential to contribute to economic growth. Alice aims to create a new playing field for these entrepreneurs, with the simultaneous opportunity to use emerging technology to reach a $3.5 trillion global market.

Investor Jean Case, CEO of Case Foundation and Chairman of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees, said about Alice, “Ensuring women founders and entrepreneurs of color have access to the same funding, networking and mentoring opportunities as traditional founders will strengthen our economy and make sure that anyone from anywhere has a fair shot at the American Dream. I am supporting Alice because it helps break down barriers and brings female entrepreneurs the tools they need to scale and succeed.”

Learn more about Alice at




Meet Nancy Foster, Senior VP of Human and Corporate Resources at Husky

As Husky’s Senior Vice President of Human and Corporate Resources, Nancy Foster is an experienced human resources practitioner with extensive oil and gas experience, both domestically and internationally. She is a graduate of the Harvard Advanced Management Program, and has served on numerous committees and is dedicated to giving back to her community of Calgary, such as the YWCA of Calgary. Yet despite her current success, Nancy’s journey hasn’t always been upward and linear. Find out more below.

Want to hear more from Nancy and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.





My first job ever was… As a cook in a diner — I was 15.  My first professional job was working at Home Oil. I worked in special projects accounting and my role was to gather all the necessary information/documentation to submit claims for both the provincial and Federal Petroleum Incentive Program which was brought in as part of the National Energy Program in late 1980.


I chose my career path because…  I knew it would offer me exciting opportunities to learn and grow in my career. Most of my roles have required me to influence vs. dictate, which has led me to being able to influence culture to be more diverse and inclusive.


My proudest accomplishment is… That’s easy — my four kids and now grandkids too.


My boldest move to date was… Moving to Norway to take over as Country Manager. I had never been there and didn’t speak the language. My husband took a leave of absence from his busy career so that I could accept the opportunity.


I surprise people when I tell them… By the time I was 28, I had four children and a growing career.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Put your hand up. Although there has been no formula to my career, there has been one constant: a willingness to put myself forward for work.  


My best advice from a mentor was… To accept that while I could have it all — a family and a great career as a leader where I continued to learn and grow — I couldn’t necessarily have it all at once.


My biggest setback was… Beyond the numerous downturns that I have worked through, personally, shutting down the Norway office.


I overcame it by… I always tell people that it’s so important — no matter what your job is — to surround yourself with people who give you authentic feedback and a boost of confidence. Many of our traditional support systems — such as extended family members — are less available to provide support because of their own busy schedules. So we need to continue to build our community of mentors to embrace and empower us. And it’s important to remember that you don’t have to hang your hat on just one mentor. I like to think of mentoring in moments.  


Work/life balance is… About choices. I think you have to value quality over quantity. You have to embrace the imbalance because the work/life equilibrium will never be a 50/50 endeavor. Kids get sick on work days. Work projects blow up during hockey playoffs. Life happens and you need to forgive yourself and do what you can.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… That I have two dogs — big ones who are a great source of enjoyment to me and my husband.


I stay inspired by… Continuing to learn. Asking questions, reading — by staying involved in a not for profit which helps keep me connected to the larger Community.


The future excites me because I see so many opportunities for Husky, our city, our province and our country.


My next step is… To keep learning — through my work at Husky, through my volunteering and eventually through Board work at a for profit company.



Want to hear more from Nancy and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.

Meet Krista Pell, Vice President, People & Performance at Ausenco

An experienced international business leader with 20  years human resources and talent management experience, Krista Pell is recognized for her strategic, exuberant and hands-on approach to people and performance. Throughout her career, she has proven her drive to develop and implement people management and organizational development strategies and solutions that create systemic change, enhancing the engagement and effectiveness of all employees. But did you know this impressive executive was once a star on the rugby field? Learn more about Krista below.

Want to hear more from Krista and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.





My first job ever was… I had a newspaper route for the Guelph Mercury.  After that I worked at the mall food court for a small ice cream and snack shop called Fast Eddie’s.


I chose my career path because… I always loved the combination of coaching others and consulting leaders on how to improve their business outcomes. This evolved perfectly in to a career focused on People and Performance.


My proudest accomplishment is… My daughter.  She is 9 years old and is thoughtful, kind, well-traveled and understands diversity in our world.


My boldest move to date was… Leaving my successful role and moving across the world, which I actually did twice! Once from Canada to the Cayman Islands and then 7 years later I decided to leave that role and move back to Canada.


I surprise people when I tell them… I compete at a world level in CrossFit and that I have competed on the world stage in rugby and cheerleading. Quite a unique blend!


My best advice to people starting their career is… Ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to participate in discussions that scare you a little bit.  This is where all the learning happens.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be myself and use all the experiences I have had in life, that is when I will be most successful.


My biggest setback was… I think I have been fortunate in that I don’t look at any one thing as a big setback. There have been lessons learned but for the most part I feel that I have been on a forward trajectory.


I overcame it by… Anytime I have felt like I was being stagnant in my role or development I looked at how I could challenge myself to do something to change it!


Work/life balance is… Critical to happiness. It looks different for everyone and changes for me on a weekly basis, but I value my personal life as a priority and that is what makes me more successful in business.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I actually don’t know! Probably that I led the Cayman Islands Women’s Rugby team to a NACRA (North America Caribbean Rugby Championships) in 2010, I don’t think that is on the internet.


I stay inspired by… The fact that there is still so much learning and improvement I can do in everything I am involved in. It keeps me hungry!


The future excites me because… I feel that I am very comfortable in my understanding of how I can positively impact others and make a difference in my career and personal endeavours.  When you have a very clear understanding of who you are you also have clarity in how to maximize your accomplishments!


My next step is… I hope as exciting as the past 20 years of my career has been. I sense some changes in the future!




Want to hear more from Krista and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.

Meet Sarah Walters, Vice President, Human Resources at Cenovus Energy

As Vice-President, Human Resources at Cenovus Energy, Sarah Walters knows how to build a team that is effective, skilled, and inclusive. With more than 20 years of international strategic HR and organizational development experience gained within the rail, National Health Service and oil & gas industries, bringing large scale, multi-skilled teams together is her bread and butter. But her journey to the top of HR hasn’t been without risk, setbacks, and surprising twists.

Want to hear more from Sarah and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.





My first job ever was… Debt Collection Officer for local government in the UK


I chose my career path because… I love the impact people can have on organizational performance and I just love the variety that comes with my role.


My proudest accomplishment is… My current role and position on the Leadership Team of Cenovus Energy.


My boldest move to date was… Asking my husband to quit his career and move to the USA with me, especially when he had a far more senior role than I at the time.


I surprise people when I tell them… I took an assessment to be a train driver and passed.


My best advice to people starting their career is… Be open to all opportunities, make the best out of all of them, be positive, be inquisitive and always be kind.


My best advice from a mentor was… Be confident, be authentic, dive in and embrace the challenges that are put in front of you.


My biggest setback was… As with many people, we all suffer from setbacks during our careers but I am a big believer that this is how we learn, develop and grow.


I overcame it by… In all the setbacks I have had in my career, I do my best to find the positive, find the learning and focus on finding the best outcome possible. Then share those learning’s with others to help them avoid the same pitfalls!


Work/life balance is… Having the discipline to know when to stop and go home! Finding efficient ways of working and keeping it simple – don’t overcomplicate things. Recognizing the importance of your support network outside of work and being as committed to them as you are to your work.


If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I am a grannie to a 6 year old boy.


I stay inspired by… Surrounding myself with positive and driven people and finding the positive in any situation.


The future excites me because… Who knows what new learnings it can bring and how it can make things better for everyone – I love to see progress.


My next step is… Who knows! I have never really planned any of my moves but have always embraced them when they have presented themselves!




Want to hear more from Sarah and two other power-house female energy executives? Join us in Calgary on October 4 for our luncheon event Women In Power: Calgary’s Senior Executives Weigh In.

An Unconventional Path: How Valerie McKenzie-Flynn Went from Stay-at-Home Mom to Entrepreneur to HR Director

Valerie McKenzie-Flynn’s career to date has been anything but ordinary. But the human resources director with Oxford Imaging and mother of two wouldn’t have had it any other way.



By Hailey Eisen



Valerie McKenzie-Flynn’s work experience started much younger than most, when at the age of 12 she found herself running her family’s campground in Cape Breton — with the help of her younger sister — while both of her parents worked full-time. “My grandmother was an entrepreneur, and the campground was hers,” Valerie explains. “After she passed away we continued to run it, but since my parents both had jobs my sister and I ran the place, took reservations, managed and ran the on-site convenience store, cleaned the washrooms, mowed the grass — essentially from the ages of 12 to 16, we ran the show during business hours.”

Her adult career has continued to be anything but ordinary. Valerie’s first few jobs out of university were in human resources, first in insurance and then in a US-based high-tech startup. A layoff in the mid-1990s happened to coincide with her first pregnancy, so Valerie decided to take the time, and severance, to figure out what she wanted to do next.

She was starting to think about going back to work when her son was 18-months-old — and then she found out she was pregnant with her daughter. “All plans for work were postponed at that point, and I decided to focus on being a mom for a few years,” Valerie recalls. “While I had always been very career-driven, this was a fantastic part of my life and I’m very happy I made that choice to be home with my kids.”

While she did take on the occasional freelance project, and consulted many individuals within her network after layoffs or during career transitions, she spent most of her time being a full-time mom. After a few years, she started to crave a challenge and decided to look for something that would allow her to go back to work but also be there for her kids.

In 2009, Valerie joined the Guelph Business Enterprise Centre, and with the support of this local incubator she was able to take an inspiration born out of a dinner conversation with her friends, and turn it into a business.

Channeling her late grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit, Valerie started This Box Rocks, a care-package assembly and delivery service that reached university and college students across Canada. Inspired by the wonderful care-packages Valerie’s own mom used to send her when she was in university, the web-based company allowed busy parents to customize care-packages online and have them delivered right to their child’s dorm. Things were going quite well for This Box Rocks — Valerie had earned some media attention, found a business partner, and had begun to partner with a few university residences in southern Ontario — but she was still investing almost all of her earnings back into the company.

To help supplement her income, Valerie decided to seek out part-time work. It was around this time she came across an HR Manager role with Oxford Medical Imaging, a Kitchener-Waterloo-based startup with 25 employees, focused on diagnostic imaging. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to work part-time while continuing to run This Box Rocks,” she recalls. “The only glitch… Oxford ended up growing explosively and my job very quickly turned into a full-time position.”

While she had offers to purchase This Box Rocks, she couldn’t bear to let it go to someone else, so she parked the business. Her focus was on growing Oxford Medical Imaging, which very quickly became a mid-sized, GTA-based corporation with 200 employees across Central and Southwestern Ontario.

With her strong human resources background and startup experience, Valerie was able to bring a great deal of knowledge to Oxford. She worked closely with the company’s CEO to build the management team. She also created and launched a performance management program and in-house training program, and implemented ADP’s Workforce Now system, including the Payroll, HRIS, and Applicant Tracking Systems. Within two years she was promoted to HR director. “I’ve been really lucky to be part of this company, to be able to watch it grow and evolve, and experience success — I’m really glad I chose this route.”

Valerie’s kids are now 9 and 11, and she’s managed to find a new balance that works for her family. “There were times when the company was in high-growth mode, that I wasn’t able to handle it all well, but I’ve learned to be proactive, to get the support I need to ensure things run smoothly at home, and to pick my battles, and focus on what really matters.” It’s been an exciting career, and there’s lots more to come. “There are lots of changes happening at Oxford all the time,” Valerie says. “You never know what’s going to happen next.”



In partnership with ADP, we’re highlighting the importance of strong leadership in finding, attracting and inspiring the talent to move organizations forward. Our evolving workplaces succeed when diverse voices and passionate leaders come team up. By celebrating Canada’s inspiring leaders, we can understand and nurture what it takes to build a better workforce. ADP provides the technology and expertise that helps Canadian organizations of all sizes to build and inspire the workforce they need to succeed.