Priti Ambani is an engineer who began her career in environmental design. In recent years, she has sought opportunities on global teams, to grow early-stage startups, and creating impact through collaborative business models. The Collaborative Industry Expert at Tech Futures Lab, she is also the co-founder and COO of The Next Billion, an impact-driven enterprise that pools collective resources to invest in women business leaders. Ambani is also a newly appointed Visa’s Everywhere Initiative New Zealand judge.
We asked her about empowering women in tech and what motivates her.
What drives you to make a difference?
I think we live in incredible times and now, more than ever before, we are in a position to make a difference that means shared prosperity for all of us. I am passionate about investing in the potential of women around the world because this means that as women succeed, so do our children and society. We are also in the midst of technological and societal shifts that require a different mindset, for business and our communities. The opportunity to make an impact drives me.
What impact will tech have within the next decade?
Technology is already having a tremendous impact. The biggest changes we are seeing is the transformation of legacy businesses and its ripple effect through the economy. We have to rethink regulation, processes and business-as-usual. How we function as a society is set to change as definitions of work and employment are changing. We are in need of a new social contract that will underpin our tech enabled existence.
What set you on the path to becoming an entrepreneur?
I have an environmental engineering degree and started my career in engineering design. However, I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I was constantly looking to work on different projects. When my first son was born, I decided to pursue my interests in business with a number of internet based startups.
What is your approach to problem solving at work and how do you harness innovation?
Remove the layers of complexity and fluff to solve the core problem. I think we learn best when we expose ourselves to diverse people, situations, thoughts and opportunities. This is where innovation and creativity begins for me. It is not an isolated process but truly collaborative.
How can we empower and advance women in technology?
My favourite quote is ‘we cannot be what we cannot see’ and it applies to women in many ways. Women in technology need to be normalised and the rest of us need to see women leading the conversation in technology and taking a seat at the table. Women in tech are often unseen and invisible. We need to shine the spotlight on them and highlight their contributions. This approach not only helps these women advance and gain recognition but also helps younger girls and women choose a career in technology because they can ‘see it’. Visa’s Everywhere Initiative, for example, encourages startups to show up and innovate. One of their entry criteria is that those entering must have at least one female on their leadership team. These types of initiatives are important as they are examples of purpose led platforms that are proactively encouraging women in their fields of expertise to put up their hand to have their ideas heard, and more importantly, acknowledged and rewarded. I’m thrilled to be supporting the competition and to see what ideas are put on the table.
Also, in our Master’s programme at Tech Futures Lab, we are seeing gender parity in our cohorts. We believe this is because our leadership team is mostly female and that’s clearly visible.
What is your key advice to women who want to start their own business?
Around the world, women are leading smart, innovative, and impact driven companies, but they face similar problems as other women. They are not discovered and not seen because there is a gender media visibility gap. This is not just a feel good sentiment, because it impacts the success of the businesses these women run. I co-founded The Next Billion where we focus on enabling women as economic powerhouses. We have launched a platform that discovers and amplifies the stories of inspiring women led businesses. While women control 80-85% of consumer spending, businesses they run only receive a pitiful 2% of venture funding. We are helping women gain access to visibility that could in turn be a stepping stone for funding, markets and networks. My advice is to everyone, not just female entrepreneurs; we need to ensure we build the right ecosystem, one which helps these women succeed. Ultimately, it’s essential to our progress as a society.