“My advice to women looking to succeed in the industry would be to find your people and allies.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Month, we wanted to take a moment to sit down and chat with some of the amazing female leaders in our community. First up is the brilliant Yasmin Topia, who has made waves in the worlds of AI and e-commerce. Grab a cuppa and prepare to be inspired.

Let’s begin at the beginning. I started my career as an IT recruitment consultant, moving into more business development and sales focused roles at Adecco and PwC. When my CSO Dr Luke Robinson told me about his research on making AIs curious to improve help human<>AI collaboration for quicker and faster AI learning, I immediately wanted to explore something with such high transformative potential. I was only supposed to be an interim CEO to identify our first use case. But upon exploring industries where Luke’s research could make a real impact, it became obvious that e-commerce and, specifically, fashion presented the biggest opportunity. Fashion and online shopping are a hobby of mine – knowing first hand its limitations and challenges for consumers, I knew I was the right person to solve the problem’. Sounds like it was meant to be.

But we want to dig deeper into the transforming role played by AI in e-commerce.

Online shopping for fashion is broken. A search for a red dress on Farfetch retrieves 1000+ results, 70% customers drop off by page 3 of search results, and over 95% of items are not discovered. Visual-only search takes customers down visually similar rabbit holes. Sociate’s curiosity-infused generative AI personal shopper sees and speaks just like a human, allowing customers to tell her and show her what they like. This way, she can learn their unique taste and show the things they will love quickly to boost conversion by circa 20%’, explains Yasmin.

We are keeping our eyes peeled for the launch of Sociate’s PoC to via our first customer website Hardly Ever Worn It on March the 15th, and so should you! But first we want to test Yasmin’s clairvoyance and we ask her what role she sees AI playing in the future. ‘AI and ecommerce are inextricable. In the future, I believe that we will not have websites. Rather, our favourite brands and retailers will be like contacts in our phones, and we will simply call them up. You will never again have to spend hours click and scrolling (unless you want to, of course!)’, Yasmin says. A scrolling-free future? Please, sign us up!

Back to Sociate, we are curious as to how Yasmin and her team go about identifying the most impactful information for AI learning.

‘We conducted independent trials via a market research agency in 2021. Curiosity and self-aware metrics allows our AIs to generate the best questions to collect the most important information, delivered in the most appropriate voice tone. Tone is important, in that it emotionally engages humans to share more and relevant information which helps the AI improve. Fun fact: our experiment showed that women preferred the “self-aware” bots by over 30 points compared to men. The ability to show humility and a little uncertainty in conversation landed much more favourably with females’, says Yasmin.

We take this chance to ask her what she thinks the biggest challenges faced by women in the industry are.

‘Someone told me an interesting statistic that men apply for roles if they can confidently perform just 40% of the job specification, whilst women want to be able to say they can do all of it. If that is true, I think this is one the biggest factors to the lack of gender balance in the sector. Deep tech needs women, it needs our insights, our experience and our intuition. I think I can safely say Sociate would not have uncovered the online shopping problem as a promising use case if it had not been for me at the helm’ says Yasmin. We’re pretty sure she got that right.

But she has more coming and we are all ears: ‘If you are interested in deep tech and you don’t have an AI, science, or academic background, believe me it’s fine. My advice to women looking to succeed in the industry would be to find your people and allies. You can have all the money in the world but you can’t build alone. When people believe in you, they are so generous with their time, networks, advice and support. And make sure you give back too, keep paying it forward. Finally, don’t worry about the people who didn’t believe in you because of whichever pre-conceptions they came to the table with. After all, though we only get less than 2% of VC funding, and 53% less capital, we are 63% more successful delivering higher returns.’ Let’s go!

How about a quote she lives by?

‘If it’s meant for you, it won’t miss you’, she says, but immediately clarifies – ‘Which, to be clear, doesn’t mean you don’t have to work for it. Or it will come easy! Put in the graft, keep going and it will pay off, maybe not always in the way you wanted it or how you thought it would’.

Finally, the time comes for our own humble brag: ‘I never know who I am going to bump into on any given day at Home Grown and the exciting things they themselves are doing and building. Getting to know and talk to people working in so many diverse sectors and coming from different backgrounds means I always get to learn something valuable’ Yasmin says.

We are glad that Yasmin’s experience at Home Grown has been fruitful, and our conversation is a testament to the fact that female entrepreneurs can not only make it but make it big. Here’s to many more success stories and valuable lessons learned within our Home Grown community!

If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.