World IP Day: Canadian women accelerating innovation

World Intellectual Property Day 2023 – Celebrating Creativity & Innovation (

"In 2023, we celebrate the 'can do' attitude of women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs around the world and their ground-breaking work. Women in all regions are shaping the world through their imagination, ingenuity and hard work, but often face significant challenges in accessing the knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to thrive."

– World Intellectual Property Organization

World Intellectual Property (IP) Day is celebrated every year on April 26. This year, the theme is "Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity". The Canadian women in venture capital featured accelerate innovation by investing in entrepreneurs and creators. They have a unique understanding of the challenges that women entrepreneurs face and overcome. Kristina Milke and Rhiannon Davies are forging a new path in the Canadian venture capital ecosystem—not only are they thriving in a male-dominated industry, they prove that women hold an integral role in driving the economy.

Kristina Milke:

Headshot of Kristina Milke

Kristina is one of the general partners at, a venture capital firm that invests in innovative seed-stage technology companies in Western Canada focused on business-to-business software markets. She is an angel investor, an A100 member, and sits on various boards. She supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Edmonton by mentoring and participating as the Chair on the Board of Advisors with Venture Mentoring Services, a world-renowned mentoring program with a local branch operating at the University of Alberta. Kristina is also a mentor in the Edmonton Women in Finance organization and the Canadian Women in Venture Capital organization.

What do you do that accelerates innovation?

I spend much of my time coaching and mentoring founders on a variety of topics, including financial literacy, so that they can make good decisions that help advance their companies.

What inspired you to become an angel investor?

I completely believe in small businesses. Every large business was once a small business. We need to support the idea of creating a business and then, as a community, help those risk takers to advance their businesses to a scale up.

What are some of the challenges women face with IP, and how could it be improved?

In general, there needs to be more education around what is considered IP, how and when to protect it, and what risks there are with the various options. Like financial illiteracy, there is a similar IP illiteracy.

A piece of advice for women innovators and creators?

Women tend to have a mindset of trying to do it all and it becomes unsustainable. I just had this conversation with a woman founder. A team approach with the right members can help ensure diversity of skills, thoughts and approaches.

What is the best piece of career advice you've received?

Be open to opportunities. If you are too fixed on one specific outcome, you might miss alternative opportunities that could be a game changer.

Is there a woman in the IP or innovation world that you find inspiring?

Jana Rieger of True Angle. Jana is so dedicated to her product and company and leads with such grace and tenacity. I have not shared my observations with her directly, but I think she is really fantastic.

Rhiannon Davies: Sandpiper Ventures

Headshot of Rhiannon Davies

Rhiannon is a founding and managing partner at Sandpiper Ventures, a seed stage venture capital fund investing in women and women's innovation. Rhiannon has driven the target identification, due diligence, acquisition, integration and move to profitability of many companies. She believes in the need to support entrepreneurship and innovation to deliver meaningful change in business, community and social development. She actively supports this belief by serving as a mentor and angel investor.

What do you do that accelerates innovation?

We invest in innovative early-stage companies commercializing innovative technologies led by women entrepreneurs and business leaders. We are a team of ex-CEOs with global company scaling experience and, in addition to providing all important capital, we help those companies to scale, providing targeted support and problem solving based upon our operator experience.

What inspired you to become an angel investor?

I believe that technology is one of the primary levers to solve many of the most significant problems faced in our world today such as the climate emergency, broken healthcare systems, food security. These solutions require capital and experienced support to realise their potential for change and to achieve the necessary scale to impact change. I am fascinated by incredible technology solutions and hold a deep admiration for the creators and inventors involved.

What are some of the challenges women face in the IP ecosystem and how could we improve things?

The innovation ecosystem is structurally inequitable. Women led-companies receive 3% of capital, the cheques that they do receive are smaller and they do not have the same access to other support constructs as their white-male counterparts. Good IP protection is expensive, good advice is expensive and women generally do not have equal access to either. This puts the structures of women-led company ownership at risk, puts ownership and protection of IP at risk. IP must be structurally protected with a solid strategy from a very early-stage. For many early-stage technology companies, IP is the most significant value within the company and poorly protected IP or an overly diluted company construct makes a company 'uninvestable' in future rounds and opens the company to risks from competition that many early-stage companies are not able to survive.

Piece of advice for women innovators and creators, or any woman in the IP world?

Protect your IP early and well, keep reaching out until you find the right advisors. Take care in entering partnerships with customers and co-developers until your IP is protected… But protecting IP takes time and money, so balance IP protection carefully with your need to keep moving fast.

How can women in the IP ecosystem support each other? How do you lead by example?

Women in tech often lack networks. Be that network for each other. Keep an open door for cold outreach and share your connections, help each other gain access. We need to help each other to find the right support.

What is the best piece of career advice you ever got from someone?

Don't be afraid of anyone. No matter their level of seniority or what they have achieved, they are all just people, pick the ones you admire and learn from them.

Is there a woman in the IP or innovation world that you find inspiring?

I am inspired by many women in the tech and innovation world. One incredible one is Leah Ellis, the CEO and Co-Founder of Sublime Systems. Leah is a scientist turned tech-entrepreneur who is commercializing a breakthrough process to make low-carbon cement that performs like cement but without the negative environmental impact. Leah and her team recently closed a $40 million (USD) funding round. Leah is an extraordinary example of a women-business leader with a deep-tech background, who co-invented a process, protected that process and is now scaling her technology and her company to be massively successful and deliver a massive impact.

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