6 Tech Wonder Women To Watch In 2019

Mic Mann
Mar 28, 2019

We at SingularityU South Africa understand the importance of gender diversity and inclusivity within the tech space. Close to half of the speakers at the second annual SingularityU South Africa Summit 2018 were women who are leading the way in various fields of exponential technology, such as virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, biotechnology, AI, and robotics, among others.

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we have compiled a list that celebrates some of the foremost women in the African and global tech space, many of whom are also entrepreneurs, and we have included some of their fun facts and personal motivations for 2019.

We hope this list will encourage young female graduates to embrace exponential technologies, so as to disrupt the gender stereotypes that the tech space should be dominated by males. It’s no longer uncommon to see women, such as Maggie Timoney, Heineken USA’S new CEO, disrupt a traditionally male-dominated industry. We all need to be agile to change and be open-minded enough to embrace positive change to benefit all of humanity. Enjoy these 6 Wonder Women!

Catherine Wood

Catherine Wood

Catherine Wood is best known as the founder and CEO of ARK Investment Management LLC, which manages and advises over $7 billion in assets globally. Its investment focus lies in disruptive innovation in the public markets, as ARK believes innovation is the key to growth, but it is often misunderstood and underestimated by traditional investment managers who focus too much on traditional sectors and short-term price movements.

As a thematic investor, Catherine Wood—who recently was named one of the Top 50 Bloomberg influencers—is passionate about the efficient allocation of capital to its highest and best use. She focuses on technology-enabled disruption that cuts across economic sectors, geographies, and market capitalizations. Catherine believes that this type of investment strategy delivers returns beyond any broad-based investment benchmark. This is why she believes innovation should be a component of every investment portfolio.

At the SingularityU Exponential Finance Summit taking place in Cape Town, South Africa in late May, she will talk about the five innovation platforms that are going to be multi-trillion-dollar industries in the future, such as DNA sequencing, robotics, energy storage, next-generation internet, and blockchain technology.

3 fun facts about Cathie that most people don’t know:

  1. If not working in finance, Cathie wanted to be a ballerina or cure cancer.
  2. She was a member of a contemporary Christian singing group and released an album.
  3. While in high school, Cathie was voted friendliest her sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Her personal motivation or quote for 2019:

“Truth wins out.”

Tanya Knowles

Tanya Knowles

Tanya Knowles is the Chairperson of the South African Financial Blockchain Consortium (SAFBC), which comprises more than 50 members including the country’s largest banks, financial institutions, regulators, and consulting and legal firms, as well as start-ups. She is a faculty member of Singularity University South Africa and has been internationally recognised as one of the leading women in blockchain technology.

Tanya Knowles is intimately involved in a number of use cases in the financial services sector and the South African blockchain community. She works on numerous initiatives related to cryptocurrencies, tokens, securities, and regulation in the blockchain space. Tanya also advises various government departments on the current and future impact of the technology.

One of her foremost projects includes the implementation of Self Sovereign Identity (SSI) using blockchain technology. This new layer of the internet allows every person to share and control their personal data and digital identities in any interaction, from a bank FICA process to a doctor’s consult.

With her Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) as well as a Certification in Blockchain Technology from MIT and close to 20 years’ experience in capital markets, Tanya is looking at the opportunities and challenges around the issuance and trading of Security Tokens using blockchain technology in South Africa. They promise to transform our concept of asset ownership and overcome some of the shortcomings of the Initial Coin Offering hype.

3 fun facts about Tanya that most people don’t know:

  1. Tanya spent close to 20 years being classically trained as a singer and initially pursued a career in musical theatre until switching to commerce.
  2. Tanya has an absolute passion for architecture and bought her first home magazines at the age of 14.
  3. Tanya’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs definitely has coffee close to the top of the list!

Her personal motivation or quote for 2019:

“I learned to always take on things I'd never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.”—Ginni Rometty, Current Chair, President, and CEO of IBM

Anita Schjøll Brede

After Anita Schjøll Brede completed the Singularity University GSP, she co-founded Iris.ai. Today, it is one of the 10 most innovative artificial intelligence start-ups in 2017, according to Fast Company. This AI science assistant reads, digests, and connects scientific knowledge and aims to become the world’s first AI researcher within the next decade. Iris.ai aims to democratise access to science—it reduces the time (up to 90%) needed by R&D departments to map existing research and removes some of the need for deep domain expertise—allowing more people to solve more difficult problems.

Anita is versatile and holds numerous interests. In the last decade, she has graduated from six universities, Singularity University among them, and spanned nine industries. She has developed an e-learning tool, reduced energy consumption in the process industry, facilitated the creation of a Kenyan solar light business, organised entrepreneurial conferences, and attempted to disrupt the recruitment industry.

She was recently named one of The World's Top 50 Women in Tech 2018 by Forbes and Inspiring Women in Tech by Inspiring Fifty Nordic. She is a twice TEDx speaker, as well as a 500 start-ups and TechCrunch Disrupt Start-up Battlefield alumna.

3 fun facts about Anita that most people don’t know:

  1. Anita always ends up with such a weird mix of hobbies.
  2. Anita has a metal workshop licence.
  3. Anita can do pole dancing, roller derby, and cross-stitching.

Her personal motivation or quote for 2019:

"'Self-care' isn't all about soft bubble baths and candle lights after a long day. It's sometimes real hard, and it's about things like speaking up for yourself, making the difficult but right decision, setting boundaries, saying 'no,' and daring to be honest."

Geci Karuri Sebina

Geci Karuri-Sebina

Published author Dr. Geci Karuri-Sebina is part of the SingularityU South Africa faculty with a focus on urban futures, including smart cities, networks, urban planning, governance, and development, as well as innovation systems.

She was recently appointed to support the Advisory Panel on Land Reform by South African president, Cyril Ramsphosa. The panel will advise on policy matters associated with land reform, restitution, redistribution, tenure security, and agricultural support across the country. Geci is co-curator of Vunja, a trans-local multi-lateral sci-art project of The Emergence Network, which alongside activists, professionals, academics, artists, speakers, and the African diaspora aims to contribute to the universal call to decolonisation.

Among her many roles, she is an Associate of The South African Cities Network, a Council Member on the South African Council of Planners, a visiting Research Fellow at the University of Witwatersrand School of Governance, and the national coordinator of the Civic Tech Innovation Network.

Her list of accolades are endless: Geci is also a founding director of the Southern African Node of the Millennium Project and co-Founder of Foresight For Development. Her work has led her to become an Associate Editor for the African Journal for Science, Technology, Innovation, and Development as well as the African Regional Editor for the bimonthly Foresight - the journal of future studies, strategic thinking, and policy.

3 fun facts about Geci that most people don’t know:

  1. Geci loves music videos and wants to direct them one day (mainly hip hop).
  2. Geci enjoys sci-fi teen flicks (yes, Twilight, Runaways, etc.)...the influence of teen and tween nieces and kids!
  3. Geci is part of a girls club in Alex (township near Sandton) – nine years and still going strong! She is really committed to the idea of sisterhood.

Her personal motivation or quote for 2019:

“When you are lost: slow down, get out of the way, seek useful questions, learn.”

Kim Hueltt

Kim Hulett

Kim Hulett loves the subject of hacking reproduction as well as the ethical, socio-economic, and cultural implications of longevity and human “upgrades.” She is a member of the newly-announced SingularityU South Africa faculty with a focus on biotechnology, advanced reproductive technologies, and longevity.

She is the founder and CEO of the South African-based biotechnology company Next Biosciences, which combines medicine, science, and technology to empower individuals to invest and take ownership of their future health and wellbeing. With all the exponential advancement in technology, health is becoming more personalised, enabling people to not only live longer but also be healthier and happier, which will inevitably have other socio-economic impacts on education and the future of work, earnings and investments, personal relationships, and the environment, among others.

Next Biosciences is leading the way in reproductive health and offers services such as stem cell banking, carrier screening, NIPT, and preimplantation genetic testing, which eliminates the risk of passing genetic diseases onto children. In the near future, the cost of these services will come down in line with Moore’s law, and this technology may be an inherent part of reproductive medicine; soon, we will not be debating if we should make use of this technology but rather why we aren’t.

Her company also produces biological products from the placenta: a human amniotic membrane product called AmnioMatrix that aids healing in various medical procedures, as well as umbilical cord blood serum eye drops known as OptiSerum, used in the treatment of ocular surface diseases as well as the treatment of severe dry eyes. Next Biosciences is ISO-accredited and has a licence to manufacture and distribute medical devices in South Africa.

The future of health is here.

3 fun facts about Kim that most people don’t know:

  1. Kim does everything to empower and educate her kids.
  2. Kim loves playing the piano and started playing with her kids five years ago.
  3. Kim can do the splits.

Her personal motivation or quote for 2019:

“A great company is more likely to die from indigestion of too much opportunity than starvation from too little.”


Jaya Baloo

A familiar name on this list is Jaya Baloo. She is one of the world’s Top 100 cybersecurity specialists, and CISO of KPN Telecom, Netherlands’ leading telecommunications provider. Last year she was listed on Forbes’ ‘100 Women Founders In Europe To Follow On Twitter And LinkedIn,’ alongside Anita Schjøll Brede. Jaya is no stranger to the stage at international summits and conferences. She is an expert speaker on subjects around Quantum Computing, lawful interception, mass surveillance, and cryptography. Her talks also explore what motivates hackers and how this information can be used to strengthen innovation in this space. She talks about the future of hyper-connectivity between all things, which will create increased capabilities but also further dependencies.

At the launch of the SingularityU South Africa Exponential Finance Summit—happening in Cape Town, South Africa in late May—Jaya will present insights into the current trends on cybersecurity and the importance this has within the financial sector.

Jaya, who is a SingularityU Netherlands faculty member, works with an information security team of highly-driven specialists. Working in the information security arena for the past 18 years, she has worked for global telecommunications companies such as Verizon and France Telecom.

2 fun facts about Jaya that most people don’t know:

  1. Jaya is a private pilot in training.
  2. Jaya is also a mother of three surfers.

Her personal motivation or quote for 2019:

“In times of peace, prepare for (cyber) war.”