Microsoft’s female founders competition awards $2M to Latina Tech-preneur

Latina tech-preneur Cecilia Flores, CMO and co-founder of IoT tech startup Webee, was recognized as the winner of the Female Founders Competition, winning $2M for her business. 

female founders competition

Cecilia Flores, CMO and Co-Founder at Webee (Photo courtesy Cecilia Flores)

Originally from Salta, Argentina but based in San Jose, California, Cecilia is a tech-preneur passionate about the social impact of disruptive technologies and innovation. An advocate for inclusion and equal opportunities for Women in Tech, she is an active mentor of Stanford Latino Entrepreneur, an active member of the Vital Voices Network since 2010, and a board member of We-Evolution, a non-profit that leads the women third revolution.

In 2013, Cecilia and her husband, Lucas Funes, co-founded Webee, a technology innovation company that develops IIoT (Industrial-Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions for industrial and commercial markets. 

Webee was selected as a winner in the US Enterprise software category of the Female Founders Competition for its ability to achieve sustainable industrialization through easy-to-deploy solutions to reduce the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment. 

Backing Female Founders 

Did you know that last year, companies founded solely by women received less than 2% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups? 

Unfortunately, despite it being well documented that women-led companies deliver higher returns over time than those founded by men, female entrepreneurs continue to receive significantly less access to capital. This is what the Female Founders Competition hopes to change.

The competition, organized by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and partnership with Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and Mayfield invested USD $6 million in four winners. Two winners–one global and one US-based startup–were selected in each of the two categories: Deeptech and Software as a Service (SaaS). Webee was one of two winners in the SaaS category, receiving $2M for her business, while Deeptech winners each received $1M. 

female founders competition

Weebee video can be seen at https://www.webee.io

“We look for founders that are willing to go the extra mile and commit to tackle important challenges in the world,” says Tamara Steffens, GM t M12 Venture Capital. “We saw in Webee a combination of a technological vision with  strong purpose and the willingness to make it happen. The expertise of its founders and the proven track record make it possible to achieve the goal of sustainable industrialization.” 

How Webee’s IoT tech is revolutionizing agriculture

One of the key components recognized by the Female Founders Competition judges was Webee’s mission of sustainability. Webee has specifically been working within the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture industry to help reduce ineffecient processes that lead to food waste.

Webee Corporations has developed a unique, no coding visual approach to building complex IoT applications for the industrial and commercial markets. Their products enable customers to benefit from IoT technology without impacting operations and obtaining an immediate return on investment. 

For those who may not be as familiar with the world of tech, IoT refers to the Internet of Things. IoT technology is defined broadly as “objects that ‘talk’ to each other.” It is everything connected to the internet. It’s about networks, devices, and data working together in communication. From your phone to smart-refrigerators, home security systems, and automated light fixtures, these all operate as part of IoT. 

So what does this have to do with agriculture? And how is Webee working to help the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture industry? 

Well, IoT has become a crucial component in the current agricultural industry, helping to eliminate food waste. 

“One-third of all food produced in the world every year goes to waste, and 40% of that comes from inefficiencies during manufacturing processes,” says Cecilia. “IoT is a key enabler of the ‘Third Green Revolution’ to achieve efficient production and sustainability.” 

The original Green Revolution has Latino roots, originating in Mexico during the 1940s. This first revolution began as a means to develop new, disease resistant crops. Through the use of technology, scientist Norman Borlaug began conducting research in Mexico to produce a disease resistant variety of wheat that would also produce a high-yield of crop. This technology then spread across the globe in the 50s and 60s, revolutionizing food production by allowing a single plant to produce far more crops than ever before.

Now, IoT is spearheading a new Green Revolution by helping to combat food waste in the manufacturing process through what is being called “smart farming.” 

Like our smartphone and smart-houses, smart farming is utilizing technology to make farming more efficient. By using a system of sensors, farmers are provided with a mobile application that receives input and data from the sensors. These sensors can be used for a variety of functions such as crop monitoring, watering, cattle monitoring, and greenhouse automation. With IoT, smart sensors collect information on the soil, which help assess the quality of the soil and crops. Smart sprinklers are also set to water plants when soil reaches a certain level of dryness. This helps reduce wasting water and is cost friendly as well. 

These are just a few of the many ways IoT technology is helping to revolutionize the agriculture industry. 

“We work tirelessly to continue our deployment to reduce the impact of the inefficient manufacturing processes on the environment,” says Cecilia. “Our mission is to democratize the adoption of disruptive technologies to achieve sustainable industrialization.” 

With the USD $2M investment from the Female Founders Competition, Webee will be continuing the expansion in the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture industry and help reduce the impact of Food Loss on the environment. 

You might be interested: A Latina innovator on becoming a successful Tech entrepreneur

Webee and COVID-19 

In addition to their work in the Food and Agriculture industries, Webee has also been involved in helping industries across the globe transition their manufacturing processes during Covid-19. 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, we have seen industries across the globe impacted by the virus. Supply chains were quickly shut down worldwide causing many companies to re-examine their supply chains and how they will ensure continuity in the event of the next crisis. 

Technology, such as Webee’s IoT and AI tools, will be a key ally in this transitional process. Automation and AI can help take over the redundant tasks in the supply chain of production, reducing human error and allowing employees to stay safe at home with their families without disrupting the supply chain. 

Cecilia Flores and Lucas Funes with their daughter, Lisa. (Photo courtesy Cecilia Flores)

We are only seeing the beginning of where IoT tech will go. But in order to ensure future innovation and development, it is important that more companies follow in the footsteps of the Female Founders Competition to create opportunities for women in tech and female founded companies to receive the necessary support and financial backing to continue producing innovative technologies. 

Victoria Arena

About Victoria Arena

Victoria Arena is a writer and student, passionate about writing, literature, and women's studies. She is bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. In 2017, she received her Associates in Fine Arts for Creative Writing from Brookdale Community College. Now, she is working toward her Bachelor's in English Literature at Montclair State University. Along with literature, Victoria is interested in Gender and Sexuality Studies, which she is pursuing as a minor, focusing closely on women's issues, gender inequality, and LGBT issues. These studies provide her with a feminist lens, which influences her work from both fiction to academic writings.
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