We are thrilled to have Dil Khosa on the judging panel for our Rise Up Pitch Night on 23 November 2021.

Dil is the founder of Athena X Project, which aims to build authentic, safe and inclusive startup communities such as the Women Tech Founders NZ group. Dil is on a mission to grow NZ's emerging startup ecosystem. She has worked in various roles from investment to hands-on operational leadership roles at many tech start-ups such as Parrot Analytics, Narrative Muse. She is also StartupGenome’s Ambassador for NZ, a Programme Manager and Business Coach with Catalysr, an accelerator for migrant and ex refugee entrepreneurs, and an advisor for women-led startups and NGOs. She was one of EY’s 2015 cohort of Entrepreneurial Winning Women. She is a creative thinker, operator, analytical problem solver, people leader and entrepreneur with a mission to support and invest in startups built by diverse founders who tackle some of the world's pressing problems.

What has been the highlight of your career?

People! Meeting inspiring founders and founding teams, some who become friends for life.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome and how did you do this?

Burn out. I took some time off to work on myself, lots of therapy, medical attention, retreats, time off, self-care, reading, processing trauma etc - things that rebuilt my energy.

How has Covid changed you personally and your business?

Covid has made me realise that the gender gap and wealth gap is larger than I ever thought it was. It brought out lots of emotions and empathy for me. We are grateful to be here in NZ, but the rest of the world, including my birth country Malaysia and my family there, still grapple with it. It has completely obliterated lives and livelihoods. For my business, it gave me time to hone in on who I really wanted to serve and where I wanted to spend my energy - and that is with underestimated entrepreneurs in STEAM i.e. women, immigrants, ex refugees, and other marginalised communities.

What or who inspires you?

Lately I’ve been inspired by former refugee entrepreneurs that I have been coaching, some of whom have been through the most unimaginable experiences, are experiencing disabilities, trying to integrate into a new society - all while maintaining their strength and drive. Their resilience - that inspires me.

Over my career, I have also been very inspired by women leaders in tech such as Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, Bozoma Saint John, CMO Netflix.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Everyone has a story and a unique gift to impart to the world, including myself. Our potential is limitless, just be yourself - if we can only get our minds to quieten the inner critic!

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs in NZ?

You will face challenges that your counterparts don’t have to, in a male-dominant system, however, you have to stick to your guns. Build with heart and without burnout. Set the culture of your company. Investment is not always needed, but if you do need it, get it from the right spaces and people. Surround yourself with a support group of women founders, a peer group of support and advice, or family and friends. Most importantly, look after yourself and build resilience.

What three things can’t you live without?

Meditation, my four siblings and dog, coffee :)

Best book, tv show or podcast you’ve enjoyed this year?

Book: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

Podcast: huberman lab

TV Show: LOTS, too hard to list them - but any women-led or woman-directed show goes on top of my list :)

Get your FREE ticket to our Rise Up Pitch Night on 23 November in Hamilton.