One of the reasons we started this series of interviews of Women in the tech industry is that it is still largely a men’s world. Combine it with manufacturing, it gets even trickier. This week we talked to Antonia Christou, the perfect example that Women also belong in this sector!
Hi Antonia! What do you do and what brought you to Asia?
I work for WeAre, a manufacturer of aerospace, medical and automotive components. I spent 5 years in the aerospace industry and almost 2 at WeAre France. I wanted to find a more challenging role with international exposure. When I heard about the launch of “WeAre Innovation Hub” end of last year, I jumped on the opportunity without hesitation! Today I am in charge of our Innovation Hub and Startup Accelerator in Singapore. We source startups, define and run co-development projects, and we develop strategic partnerships.
Another corporate incubator, how do you differentiate from others?
There are 3 main reasons why our offer is better than most of current corporate incubators and accelerators:
1. Win-win relationship There is a real business interest between WeAre and Startups through co-development. We integrate every projects in our factories and business model. We help them scale-up by giving them access to our market, our regulations knowledge and client base.
2. Real industrial use cases We have integrated our accelerator in our factories. This means the startups work directly in the workshop with the machines. They can test their products in real life use-cases and best adapt them to industrial applications.
3. Dedicated fund for innovation Together with our partner Leonie Hill Capital, we have created a dedicated innovation fund. We invest in Startups to develop Industry 4.0 flagship technologies. By the way I have some exciting news, we made our first investment. Our first startup has a unique solution for advanced manufacturing. We will announce it officially very soon!
In a nutshell, we want to help startups thrive, and use our co-development program as a building block to be ahead of the game!
How do you source your startups?
We source them through different channels. – We launch partnerships with the Singaporean Universities to be at the heart of innovation. – We collaborate with other accelerators, to offer real industrial use cases. – Finally we take part in emerging technologies and deep tech events, conferences and startup awards. We’re also launching an open challenge very soon to identify the best startup ideas!
We have many ongoing projects. For instance we have advanced discussions with 4 startups to develop industrial PoC in our factories on IoT, Data Analytics and Robotics projects. We are also in discussions with key players of the Singaporean innovation ecosystem for partnerships.
And I can share our latest breaking news: WeAre is a corporate partner and Gold sponsor of Slingshot startup competition!
Why Singapore and not the US or China?
Our strategy is to combine our Innovation Hubs with our major factories – in France, Japan and Singapore.
Singapore is one of the best places in the world to be an entrepreneur. There are several reasons to that. For instance its strategic geographical position in South East Asia, or he presence of key players in our industries. It makes Singapore the perfect place to start our Innovation Hub. You may not know it, Singapore has quite some manufacturing facilities too!
We will very soon announce new plant projects combined with Innovation Hubs in China and India. Stay tuned!
Handling tech issues in manufacturing environment, how dare you do it?
Our CEO Philippe once told me: « Women see innovation in a different way than men ». So he chose to put women in key positions in our Innovation Hubs around the world. And to be honest we are rocking it up 😉!
In less than six months time, we have achieved a lot. We have launched big partnerships and we are working on several proof of concepts in Singapore. We also confirmed several events in Tokyo, and we already made one investment in France!
But it’s true that the combination of Manufacturing and Tech industries can be pretty challenging for gender parity. We must give to women opportunities to prove themselves.
To achieve that I am committed to raise people’s awareness, help train women and give them the skills and confidence to launch themselves.
How do you bring more diversity?
I am also part of “Female French Tech”. We are a community of women and we want to raise awareness on diversity among local communities in APAC. To do this we organise women-centric workshops, events, and partnerships with associations.
We now want to partner with universities and identify young female talents. We will then help them to develop their abilities.
So if you are a female (aspiring) entrepreneur, join us to bring more diversity! Let’s change the tech sectors so that they’re no « men’s world » any more!
Last, I would love to find out more about you and your projects so reach out to me if you want to chat!
Antonia, thank you ! Get in touch with us @ womenfrenchtech at gmail dot com In collaboration with Amel Rigneau & Sophie Guo