What do you want for your company? Ask any business owner and at its most simplistic, the responses are very similar and center around the idea of wanting to build something successful. But as varied as the products and services that each of you provides, is how you define your success. Are you looking to positively impact a specific subset of the general population? Or reverse environmental damage? Do you want to simplify a process? Or improve efficiency and performance at a systemic level? Just as success can be different for every business owner, so is the journey to achieving that.
Meet Shirook Ali, Founder and CEO of Ecosystem Informatics Inc. (ESI), a company developing customizable technology solutions for organizations to monitor and accurately capture a wide array of environmental data using a mobile platform. ESI can then provide its clients with real-time insights as well as predictive modeling and scenario specific simulations. By utilizing data analytics and artificial intelligence, ESI aims to equip organizations with actionable insights to optimize operational efficiency, mitigate risks, improve economic performance, and maximize environmental sustainability. And that’s where the potential of this technology becomes exciting: think of the implications in urban planning, design, and infrastructure, agriculture, general industry regulation, disaster management, policy change, and healthy and sustainable living.
But why does any of this matter? Any conversation pertaining to Shirook’s professional background and experience, why she founded her company, and what continues to motivate her, focuses on a singular theme – impact. With an extensive background in industry (Blackberry and Celestica) and academia (Sheridan College, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario, University of Waterloo, and University of Guelph), venturing into entrepreneurship and innovation by forming her own start-up seemed a natural progression given her depth of understanding of foundational technology. And what a journey it has been so far.
Most of you would probably agree that the road for an entrepreneur is not always easy. Working countless hours, being a jack of all trades, carrying financial burdens, knocking on endless doors to secure that first customer, or attending numerous events to establish your network. Those are likely common challenges that all innovators could agree upon. But what about something more personal? Such as a language barrier? Your cultural background? Your gender? There are an abundance of resources available for specific sub-segments of the population but Shirook’s journey is inspiring. As a young female student, she not only chose to study engineering but also focused on the automotive and transportation sectors which have always been heavily male dominated. However, consider that in addition to that dynamic, Shirook immigrated to a new country to complete her education, navigating the typical challenges of post-graduate studies while also adjusting to the social and cultural norms of a country that was entirely new. Yet she continues to forge the way for those that follow with her academic and research contributions and now professionally as a female entrepreneur, CEO, and business owner. Most recently, Shirook was named to an inaugural Women in Cleantech cohort supporting women scaling their clean technology companies and selected to participate in a Women in Cleantech bootcamp hosted by the Canadian Consulates in San Francisco and New York City. Individual achievements aside, as a company, ESI has also received significant accolades:
- Identified as a company to watch as it evolves from ‘Challenge to Champion;
- Secured equity investment in an oversubscribed Seed round
- Selected as an Innovation Factory 2021 Lions Lair Pitch Finalist;
- Awarded the Mississauga Board of Trade Clean and Green Award.
And that is just within the past 12 months.
The landscape for women entrepreneurs in the automotive and transportation industry is changing. General Motors Canada recently made headlines by sharing that of its 1,200 recent hires for the Ottawa Assembly Plant, more than 50% were women. And there is increasing acknowledgement that as leaders and innovators, women offer a fresh perspective to a traditionally male dominated sector. So what advice does a successful female founder offer to young and aspiring female entrepreneurs and leaders? Shirook notes “Measure your value by your impact and not exclusively by income. Being an innovator is an exciting journey because when you share your passion of why you do what you do, it energizes others and provides motivation to continue. There are excellent resources available to support female entrepreneurs so take advantage of them. The team at CITM has provided us with invaluable support that not only supported us during the earlier stages of our start-up but have helped us gain traction for the future.”
ESI has been on a rapid trajectory over the past two years which Richard Dunda, Director, CITM expects will continue. He notes, “At CITM, the innovative companies and start-ups we work with represent a diverse, creative, and exceptionally knowledgeable group of visionaries. ESI is an excellent example of a start-up that brought a solid understanding of foundational technology but needed our support to identify product testing opportunities and pilot project collaborations to advance their technology solution. Their potential for growth and suitability across a wide range of industry applications will be exciting to watch.”
In terms of what is next for ESI, we can be sure that as its Founder and CEO, Shirook is onto something because she has followed her own advice for success: not only has she identified a professional focus allowing her to have an impact on the environment and for the future, but is following a pursuit that she is truly passionate about.
To learn more:
- Watch our client feature: Ecosystem Informatics Inc. – Impact and Scale as a CITM Innovator
- Learn about ESI’s recent Air Quality Pilot Project with the City of Hamilton