We can accomplish amazing things when we support each other, and the story of Janice Diner and Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs is a testament to the power of friendship and women supporting women. These two incredible individuals first met through tech events in Toronto and have since fostered a personal and professional relationship that is built on trust, mutual respect and willingness to support each other. We sat down with the two of them to discuss how they have helped each other reach new heights professionally and their experiences in tech.
Janice Diner is a founding partner and CEO of Horizn and a member of Peerscale. Horizn is a growth stage company that helps financial institutions dramatically accelerate digital adoption with both employees and customers. Horizn has proven impact with some of the world’s largest financial institutions including RBC, Lloyd’s, U.S. Bank, Nationwide Building Society, and others. The platform has helped launch product in 50 countries and in 15 languages. Janice is a career entrepreneur, creative director, and business technologist with a passion for emerging platforms and disruptive technology in the learning and marketing space and is an active supporter of women in tech.
Jasmin is Director Tech Finance at BDC and a corporate partner of Peerscale. With over 14 years of experience, she has helped numerous Canadian entrepreneurs finance and grow their businesses. Jasmin has the unique ability to recognize and leverage the marketplace potential of emerging companies and has assisted many of Toronto’s brightest small and medium-sized businesses to establish themselves in a very competitive market, including Horizn.
The two of you are extremely accomplished women in tech and both of you do work to support other women in tech. Tell us a little bit more about that and your own path to supporting each other.
Janice: My background is in the ad business, I was one of the few women creative directors. Though I was aware of the lack of women in the industry, it was not something I thought about actively at that time.
I was a mom, I was raising kids, I worked hard, and I played hard. I didn’t set out to do things that other women had not done. I just set out to do my thing.
The first time I became acutely aware of the lack of women was when I was asked to be a judge in Cannes. I was asked what it was like to be a woman in the ad business and I gave a really bizarre answer, I said, “well I would have to know what it is like to be a guy to know the difference.”
It was the first time I was asked that question and knowing what I know now, I cannot not think about the lack of women in different spaces.
I was in that 3% in the ad business and it was not until I got into the tech side that I really felt and saw what a glass ceiling was. And I hit the glass ceiling when I tried to raise money.
I can honestly say, that is when I became much more conscious of all the incredible women I have in my life. There are some women in my life that have become my friends, confidants and business partners. Women who went against the grain, women who have courage, stamina, and grit and Jasmin falls into that category.
There is a new-found camaraderie in female friendships and I really cherish that.
Jasmin: I wasn’t used to having that camaraderie earlier in my career either. One thing that I know is that I have Janice’s support. We have the kind of friendship, whereby we will stop everything to help each other. That kind of support is a rare gift.
Sometimes we even know what is on each other’s mind before we talk about it. I truly believe that once you find your tribe, it is easier to bond, and we should support each other.
Janice, you mentioned that raising money is when you first hit the glass ceiling, can you elaborate on that experience?
Janice: In the early days, I dipped my toes in what would have been early-stage series A and it was clear to me that the room wasn’t right. I didn’t speak to a lot of investors, but I was a senior professional and I know what it is like to win in a room.
At that time, I was advised by someone pretty senior to put a male CEO in place if wanted to raise. He wasn’t being unkind to me, he shared with me what he saw as the truth. So, I had to make some decisions and I thought ‘what am I going to tell my daughter?’
As it was, we were revenue positive and didn’t necessarily need to raise money and I decided not to. I have since built the business with capital and other forms of financing that are more in line with who we became and now my inbox is full of VCs wanting to give us money.
This is how I see it – money is fuel to run your business and you need the fuel to run your business successfully. However, there are many different types of fuel and you must choose what best suits the business needs.
When did the two of your first meet and how did your relationship develop?
Jasmin: I don’t remember where we first met, it was several years ago and we are both in the tech industry. We were always at business events together and meeting up with each other. There weren’t a lot of women in the room and we gravitated towards each other and it pushed us closer together. We kept each other company.
When did you two make the decision to enter in a business relationship? How did it happen?
Jasmin: We always talked about what we could do for each other, but that wasn’t what came first. Our friendship came first – a friendship based on mutual respect and admiration for each other as professional women in the industry. A bond of trust was formed and when the time was right, we did business together.
Janice: I think Jasmin poked at me a bit [laughs]. My earlier experience of raising money made me hesitant and Jasmin challenged me and encouraged me to put a proposal on the table. She knew we were ready, even before I was completely sure about it.
Jasmin: We had a lot of conversations and I knew that there was a lot of potential but Janice was hesitant to take money and so I kept just talking to her about the benefits and how it would help her grow the business and the different types of capital that were available and the benefits of each for the business. After enough time had passed and we established a stronger friendship, we got there.
When did you two join Peerscale and what has your experience been like?
Jasmin: I have been a corporate partner of Peerscale for almost three years, but I knew about the organization for several years prior to joining. That was one of the other things that I pushed Janice to do. She got introduced to the group and I told her to go for it.
Janice: I have only been a member of Peerscale for a little over a year but there is an element of support available in the community that is hard to find elsewhere. Peerscale is definitely an incredible network for tech CEOs to run with, bar none. I feel that I could pick up the phone and call people for support, I can write an email when I have a problem and I learn every time I meet my peer group.
I am happy to go on the record and say that it was a smart business decision for me to join Peerscale. There is a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes at a startup and it is great to meet other folks who are going through the same thing and are willing to help each other.
Thank you, Jasmin and Janice, for chatting with us.