Recipient: Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada
Total Fund Allocated: over $2 million
As women entrepreneurs look to expand their businesses and reach new international markets, they often face barriers that challenge their ability to succeed. With a Government of Canada investment through FedDev Ontario of over $2 million through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APF Canada) is helping address these challenges. The APF Canada is providing direct support to 100 women-led Canadian companies and indirect support to an additional 500 companies as they enter and grow into Asian markets—an area traditionally underrepresented by Canadian women business owners.
Led by Founder and CEO, Natalia Mykhaylova, WeavAir is evolving the HVAC industry through its award-winning sensor technology which attaches to ventilation systems and collects data to improve filtration efficiency. With this data, companies are able to better monitor and warn building managers of inbound chemicals and pollutants affecting indoor air quality. This sensor technology has proven effective not only at detecting hazardous material caused by metal particles, but also micro particles which can transmit viral infections, like COVID-19.
Due to the importance of WeavAir's product on improving air quality, Mykhaylova was selected by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada to serve as one of the first delegates of the Canadian Women-Only Business Mission to travel to South Korea to enter into the annual Seoul Global Challenge in 2020, an international research and development competition, which in that particular year, was calling for proposals to reduce hazardous fine dust levels in the Seoul Metro subway system; a top priority for the city which transit system serves over a billion commuters annually.
By leveraging research and collaboration with its partners in South Korea, WeavAir was awarded the competition's 2020 Best Innovation Award. Receiving this award was instant brand recognition for the company and for potential Korean partners and investors, whose support has led to Weavair's technology being installed in many parts of Seoul Metro. In fact, Seoul's Mayor, Park Won-soon has since praised Weavair's innovation win as an important first step toward the city reducing fine dust in its metro system.
Seoul's Metro System is analogous to that of Canada's Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), both being enclosed subway systems with similar wheel and rail mechanics, which produce hazardous fine metal particles that enter passenger and worker lungs. Weavair believes that its success in Korea will lead to further success in Canada providing an to test its innovation in our subway systems. This will prove to be crucial for Canadian transportation as populations continue to rise in Toronto and other main cities, eventually beginning to reach similar numbers to that of Seoul Metro.
With support from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, WeavAir is only one example of the women-owned and led Canadian companies that have been given a significant networking opportunity overseas. Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada is working hard to help women break into markets that have been traditionally dominated by men mostly due to limitations for women caused by traditional gender roles in Asian societies. However, since her time spent in Korea, Mykhaylova has noted that she has already seen a positive change in attitudes and behaviours towards women entering the Korean market, especially amongst the younger more progressive male population. By adapting to cultural differences, being highly motivated and showing perseverance any women-led business, in Mykhaylova's opinion, can be successful at strengthening these partnerships and penetrating the Asian markets overseas.