Josette Landry, Founder of Streamline Genomics: From Techstars to a Woman of Influence

In April 2018, Josette Landry, Founder & CEO of Streamline Genomics, was graduating from Techstars NYC and heading back to Montreal after three intense months of work, dedication, and growth. Almost exactly one year later, we sat down to talk about her experience, how Techstars remains a part of her entrepreneurial journey and her participation in the upcoming Women of Influence — The Next Frontier event on May 15th in Montreal.

Josette Landry’s entrepreneurial journey began while working towards her Ph.D. in Genetics at the University of British Columbia, when she co-founded a consulting firm that provided bioinformatics services to the Vancouver biotechnology sector. It’s this experience that ultimately lead her to start Streamline Genomics, a platform that helps clinicians and researchers benefit from genomic sequencing without the need for data analysis expertise.

Streamline Genomics was still in its early stages when the startup was accepted into Techstars. Reflecting on the effect the accelerator had on her company, Josette mentioned how the program gave her startup a boost in credibility and provided validation.

It basically de-risked the company in the eyes of many people. Techstars was a major reason we were able to obtain several government grants and when we receive resumes from candidates, our participation in Techstars is often mentioned.

While Josette notes how the accelerator was instrumental in building a solid foundation for Streamline Genomics, she also points out how her relationship with Techstars goes well beyond the 13 weeks of the program.

Even a year later, I still talk with Alex Iskold, managing director of the Techstars NYC program, on a monthly basis. We dissect challenges together, and he’s always providing helpful insight.

The relationship with Techstars extends beyond Alex. For example, the first half of our call was a discussion evaluating various ways to approach a complex partnership talk in progress. Another one she mentioned was getting a reply from David Brown, Techstars co-CEO, offering help on an ask listed in her monthly update email.

Now that Techstars has established an accelerator in Montreal focused on AI, Josette’s connection to the Techstars Network has evolved. Along with other local alumni, she met all founders during the first week of Techstars Montreal AI 2018. She shared her own experience at Techstars NYC and as she was interacting with them, she could feel a strong sense of belonging and desire to support founders as they were joining Techstars.

While the benefits of the Techstars worldwide network continue to bear fruit for the Streamline Genomics team, it wasn’t an easy decision for Josette at first. Before joining Techstars, the company was building good relationships with hospitals and medical research centers in Montreal, and moving to New York City for three months had the potential to hurt that momentum. Another concern holding her back was personal: she would have to be far away from her husband and children for three long months. Having as a role model and mentor a female executive who had gone through something similar, made her confident she could also do it.

The impact and importance of female role-models came up a few times as our discussion got into the topic of women in tech.

Diversity is improving. Half the companies in our Techstars NYC class had at least one female founder, and we had a good representation of origin and ethnicity. That’s great, but it needs to get better.

A good example is how too many tech conferences assemble panels:

Organizers think of top names they want and reach out to them without first making sure they are about to form a diverse group or not. Sure, the objective is to have the best panelists, but that doesn’t rule out diversity.

Josette insisted on the importance of not seeing diversity as an impediment to quality:

I’m not making the case that we should accept a panelist of lower caliber so we include a female or someone for a minority group. Doing that would actually hurt more than it would help. But, it would be disingenuous to claim a group consisting solely of white males is the best panel and not an inherent bias in who we feel are the most interesting people an audience could hear from.

We ended our conversation debating on the pros and cons of positive discrimination. In Josette’s mind, it comes down to a chicken and egg problem:

Sure, we can’t expect instant 50/50 representation at the head of institution that take years to renew their leadership. However, we must have affirmative action to ensure new leaders represent all genders and origins. Otherwise, we’ll never get to a balanced representation.

Diversity and inclusion is a long term play. Fostering promising leaders and highlighting role models from minority groups is how we’ll attract more people to join a field in which they might not feel welcomed. Such a role model is what made Josette take the plunge to join Techstars NYC, and we hope events like Women of Influence will have the same effect on young women in the audience.

Managing Director — Techstars Montréal AI