Valerie Song, 26
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO
Life Story: Everyone and their sister wants what Valerie Song is cooking, and she has no problem making them wait so the product is as good as it can be. Since Song drew up the designs for AVA (Automated Vertical Agriculture) Technologies’ flagship invention, the AVA Byte, in 2016, the attention has been non-stop. The indoor garden–a small device that looks like a mini-speaker and automates plant care–earned her not just a top-three finish in last year’s Pitch for the Purse competition run by the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, but $2 million in funding from Vancouver-based Vanedge Capital, which had a representative in the audience.
Of course, the AVA Byte was supposed to hit the market last winter. “We’re super open about the setbacks,” concedes the UBC Sauder School of Business grad about her creation, which she says combines the organic quality of Whole Foods with the convenience of an espresso machine. “Running a business that is based on hardware and software and the Internet of Things, we didn’t consider all the things that could potentially go wrong or that we’d need a little more budget for. But as a result, it’s going to be a way better product and have a lot more features than we originally promised.”
Bottom Line: Vancouver-based AVA Technologies and its staff of seven hope to drop 5,000 AVA Bytes this spring, with another 20,000 units hitting stores later in the year. The company has been in talks about partnering with Amazon.com and Best Buy Co.