Alex Amouyel: Executive Director, MIT Solve
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Alex Amouyel to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Alex Amouyel: Solve is an initiative of MIT that finds tech entrepreneurs from around the world, and brokers partnerships across its community to scale their innovative work— driving lasting, transformational change. At Solve, we believe there’s talent and ingenuity everywhere; regardless of geography, gender or education level, which is why we source ideas through an open innovation platform. However, innovators need access to critical funding and support in order to scale. Too often, there’s a pioneer gap, especially for under-represented entrepreneurs. In one study, women-led startups received only 4.4 percent of venture capital funding—despite providing better returns.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
AA: There are several prize competitions out there, but few are open, and almost none support winners after they get their prize. Solve is different. We’re committed to open innovation, and we support our Solver teams for 12 months after they’re selected. We realized we were onto something as our platform quickly grew to 50,000+ people, and our valued partners contributed over $5.5 million in prize funding in the last two years.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
AA: Our Solver teams are incredible, and seeing our role in their impact is rewarding. Whether through an AI-powered platform providing teacher support in the UK, digital infrastructure for the maritime fuel supply chain in Denmark, or a digital database managing blood donations in Nigeria, our community is united by a common goal of solving tough global problems. That inspires me every day.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
AA: I look forward to seeing more women recognized as tech innovators. My hope is that we have created a path through which young women with great ideas take action, gain recognition, and raise funds to scale their initiatives.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
AA: Women at the top of innovative organizations enable change in all outcomes. I built Solve with female leadership hardwired into our organization; six out of our seven leadership team members are women. Solve Challenge judges have selected an increasing number of women-led organizations; from 45 percent in 2016 to 63 percent in 2018, for our third cycle of Solver teams. Furthermore, research shows that women-led organizations provide stronger ROI (return on investment). Investing in women is an investment in the world.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.