How Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is helping to solve the problem of boardroom diversity

Since moving to Silicon Valley twenty years ago, Sukhinder Singh Casssidy has founded two companies, headed up Google’s Asia Pacific and Latin American operations, taken on the CEO role at multiple organizations, joined several boards, and become an angel investor. Her latest accomplishment? Launching theBoardlist, an online talent marketplace designed to get more women on boards.

 

 


 

 

In a 2016 survey, male and female corporate board members were asked why gender diversity was such a challenge at their level. The top answer given by the men? A “lack of qualified female candidates.”

It’s a belief that is unfairly holding women back — there’s a difference between not being in your personal network, and not existing. It’s also a problem that Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is aiming to solve with theBoardlist, an online, curated talent marketplace she founded to recommend, discover and connect highly qualified women leaders with opportunities to serve on private and public company boards.

Originally open to the US market, it launched in Canada in April of 2017. Sukhinder says the reception has been universally positive, because it offers a very specific and actionable solution to a recognized problem. “Busy people like it when you give them finite solutions. Especially on an issue like gender diversity, where there’s a lot of pent up frustration, and people feeling like they either don’t know what to do, or are getting called out for not doing enough,” she says.  

In the broad gender diversity landscape, she chose to focus on placing more women on boards because the impact can be immediate, broad-reaching, and relatively simple to attain. “You can have great thought leadership on your board tomorrow,” she points out. “It’s a way to affect the entire ecosystem, at an entry point that seems simpler.”

TheBoardlist tool actually grew out of an earlier initiative led by Sukhinder: the #ChoosePossibility Project. Surveying about 100 women tech entrepreneurs across the US, she hoped to paint an accurate picture of the female side of the sector, which had largely been covered in the press with a focus on the gender bias they faced, rather than the success they had achieved.

“I was frustrated by the negative narrative, while recognizing it was true,” Sukhinder explains. “I mean, are we just going to talk about how terrible it is again, or are we going to do something about it? I really wanted to use my voice, I wanted to see if other founders felt the same way I did — which is why I asked them to do the survey — and of course, there’s strength in numbers. I liked the idea of collecting data, so it wasn’t just me spouting my experience.”

Sukhinder has only had one Silicon Valley role where she’s felt gender discrimination — but she’s still aware of the problem. “You see that it’s real. I think the idea of unconscious bias has always been there, and I think for women — particularly if you’re unknown, don’t have your own network, and there’s no data — then I think you are subjected to a lot of subconscious bias.”

While she’s dedicated much of her time and energy to helping solve the problem in Silicon Valley (and beyond), she’s actually a transplant to the region. Born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Sukhinder immigrated with her family to St.Catherine’s, Ontario at the age of two. She was too young to remember the transition, but it left an impact. Seeing her parents rebuild their lives in Canada exposed her to “an immigrant work ethic first hand,” as well as her first look at the world of entrepreneurship. Her parents were both doctors, and after redoing their residency, were able to open a practice — which she says her father ran like a business.

After six years working in investment banking and media, Sukhinder moved from London, UK, to Silicon Valley because she ultimately wanted to become an entrepreneur herself. “I used to dream of starting businesses in my late twenties. My roommates and I would cook up all these ideas — we had no idea what we were doing. So I moved to The Valley to get close to entrepreneurship.”

She joined e-commerce startup Junglee in 1998, which was purchased by Amazon within a year. The five male engineer founders began a new journey towards angel investing. They were putting money behind another group of engineers that had created software for aggregating financial data, but lacked a business founder. They suggested that Sukhinder step in, and soon after she joined the founding team of Yodlee.  

Since moving to Silicon Valley twenty years ago, the list of Sukhinder’s accomplishments has continued to grow. She’s headed up Google’s Asia Pacific and Latin American operations, taken on the CEO role at multiple organizations, joined the board of TripAdvisor and Ericsson, and become an angel investor. And she has somehow made time to launch and champion theBoardlist while in her current role as founder and chairman of Joyus, a video and e-commerce start-up. It’s a journey that speaks to her intelligence and her drive, traits that she believes make her suited to The Valley.

“I found my tribe. I got to a place where my aggressiveness, my assertiveness, my hustle — those things that kind of make make me, me — seemed to fit. You’re surrounded by these incredibly smart people, and you think you’re ambitious and then you get there and you realize there’s a whole other level of ambition that’s kind of hard to believe.”

 

Five Tips For Financing Your Tech Purchase

In today’s business environment, you can gain a significant competitive advantage with the right technology investment. What do you do when you don’t have the funds to support the purchase? Follow these five tips for financing your tech purchase, courtesy of BDC.

 

By Marie Moore

 


 

As an entrepreneur, you know your talent and your ambition are limitless. You may find it surprising, then, that female-owned companies in Canada tend to be smaller and grow more slowly than those owned by men.*

And this lack of scale can be a limiting factor to your business’ success. To remain competitive, it’s important to wisely invest in your business — especially in the fast-evolving area of technology.

If you don’t have the cash on hand to invest in technology, these five tips can help you finance your IT purchase:

 

1. Create a budget that factors in all costs.

The first step in purchasing technology for your business is preparing a budget. To create an accurate estimate of the project’s cost, be sure to look beyond the sticker price. In addition to buying the technology, you’ll need to factor in implementation, training, maintenance and updates. You also need to consider how the IT purchase will impact your business. For example, a new website could generate significantly more sales, which will require greater spending on raw materials, production, and inventory – and which could create a cash flow delay before the sales dollars roll in.



2. Match the duration of the loan to the lifespan of the asset.

All technology has a lifespan. When looking for a loan, aim to have the payment period be equal to the expected lifespan of your new asset – the amount of time it should function optimally. Otherwise, you could still be paying off your loan when the time comes to replace your purchase. As a rule of thumb, computer hardware typically lasts three to five years, but do your research or ask your IT sales representative to help determine a reasonable lifespan, then look for a loan duration to match.



3. Understand what type of financing best fits your desired purchase.

The type of financing you qualify for will be impacted by the type of technology in which you are investing. Why? It comes down to collateral. A hardware purchase will offer you the most options, simply because the hardware can be used as collateral for the loan. In this case, your options include: an equipment term loan, which requires the hardware to be used as collateral; a working capital term loan, which may or may not require collateral; or a line of credit, which is most often secured by your accounts receivable. You may also be able to lease the hardware through the supplier or a financial institution. There are fewer options for software purchases or digital marketing projects, like creating a website, because, unlike with hardware, there are no assets that can be put up as collateral. Look into financing these technology purchases with a working capital loan or line of credit.



4. Go into your bank meeting well-prepared.

Before meeting with your banker to request a loan, be sure you have compiled all the information they’ll need to make a decision. That includes your financial statements, the thorough budget you created for the planned tech purchase, and your broader business plan — demonstrating what impact the IT investment will have. You will also need a personal credit score and a credit bureau report on your company. The process can be lengthy, so don’t approach your banker when cash is tight and timing is critical. Instead, reach out well before you need to make the purchase.



5. Consider options from several financial institutions.

While it’s true that increasing the amount of collateral you offer will generally lead to a lower interest rate, this shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when evaluating a loan. Reach out to a few institutions and see who can offer the best terms, from repayment options to required guarantees. You’ll also find variances in the amount of financing that will be made available to you.

 

 

The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kick start your journey towards business success.

 

 

* Canada Works Limited presentation of Women Entrepreneurs in Canada: Gaps and Challenges, Allan Riding, July 2014