Dawn Jutla – Leading Blockchain in Atlantic Canada

    Dawn Jutla | Winner of the 2018 Woman Entrepreneur Award – Atlantic

    “Here is one big change the world can expect. Consumers will soon demand a list of materials and their production sources; just like ingredients. Consumers are already tweeting #whomademyclothes, and workers in Bangladesh and other developing countries are tweeting back #Imadeyourclothes with pictures of themselves”

    Dawn Jutla is the founder and CEO of Peer Ledger

    a software technology company that creates and distributes blockchain applications that reduce major risks in gold and cobalt mines, refiners, and brand manufacturers.

    This leading woman entrepreneur leads a first-class, all-in-Halifax team of talented software engineers passionate about corporate social responsibility, blockchain technology, and value creation.  

    After receiving her Master and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the Technical University of Nova Scotia, she spent more than 20 years in multi-disciplinary R&D and consulting in computer science and business from the Sobey School of Business, where she currently holds the post of the Scotiabank Professor of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

    In 2009, she received the World Technology Award for IT Software for R&D contributions to online privacy. Three years later, she founded the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Sobey School guided by a passion to work with entrepreneurial minds.

    Startup News had the opportunity to sit down with Dawn Jutla to learn more.

    SN: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

    DJ: When the insight hit me that blockchain is the ultimate tool for responsible sourcing; sourcing that respects workers and their rights, the environment, and economic and social factors across global supply chains, I also realized that the reason I was so attracted to this vision, and so keen to implement it in a startup was because of my life and work experiences and my international background. I am British-born, Caribbean-raised, and Canadian for the past 25 years.

    My experiences include seeing and experiencing injustice. As a successful academic with a Ph. D. in Computer Science in a field dominated by men, I’ve seen lots of gender politics. We all know that there are fewer women in STEM, and most of the research points to the way boys are favored over girls in science classes – girls are shier about their opinions and not encouraged to speak. Men often discount women’s abilities and attributes such as technical know-how, drive, resilience, and leadership capabilities. These, of course, have ramifications in the real world and the world of startups in particular.

    Throughout my career, I’ve seen people uplift each other, and done my fair share of uplifting too, but also, unfortunately, experienced some who use disrespect for political advancement or to express misinformed power.  Women disrespecting other women (men) usually had to do with situations where women had risen through the ranks feeling insecure and disempowered and choosing to use the worst management tactics to reinforce themselves as leaders to make it through the infamous glass ceiling. Fortunately, this is changing, and I find that today’s more progressive women are more interested in networking, supporting and learning from each other especially in the context of technology and fund-raising, and breaking through the glass ceiling on merit and support from other women.

    And because I believe in opportunity for all regardless of country, creed, sex,  orientation, position, or circumstance this makes me an internationalist and an entrepreneur.”

    SN: What is the biggest lesson you have learned to date?  

    JD: I learned how to cohesively align my company’s values, culture, and its products. I learned that my leadership, our company’s values, and culture, and our product are intrinsically connected/coalesced around responsibility.  A leader is someone who takes on the mantle of responsibility for their team, their organization, their community. Responsibility is a concept that encompasses many values: high among them are respect, accountability, trust, and ownership.

    • Respect. Although respect is earned, there’s a baseline of respect that is owed to everyone regardless of what and who they are. This is a basic respect for human dignity. That should be true in a team as well as in society.
    • Accountability. Globalization is a movement towards the integration of societies and economies. There’s been a backlash against this movement in the name of sovereignty and cultural identity, and also in defense of workers’ rights. That makes sense to an extent, but I believe globalization is here to stay. If so, then global corporations (meaning most corporations, even small ones in this day and age), will need to be held accountable – responsible for the communities they impact, not just the ones they appear to operate in.
    • Trust. The kind of leadership compatible with respect is collegial. All opinions are worthy, and anyone who speaks is respectful of other people’s time and attention. With collegial leadership comes trust. I trust my team to know what they are doing. We hire self-directed people who understand the concept of responsibility and don’t just sit around waiting for directives.
    • Ownership. With responsibility quite normally comes a sense of ownership. When we give out shares, we expect recipients to grasp that this is their stake in the company, their ticket to ownership, and therefore to empowerment and investment. It’s amazing how this is not necessarily a given. Ownership makes for quality output and a great work ethic, but also for an interest in the general welfare of the team and in its overarching goals. It’s interesting how the notion of responsibility permeates all aspects of an enterprise, and in our case, is also our product – Responsible sourcing!

    SN: What advice do you have to those starting up today?

    JD: Create a cultural grid for your company early on. It will help align all aspects of the enterprise and make your decision-making in every aspect of your business easier!

    SN: What is the one thing you think we need to do as a nation, today, to position Canada as a global innovation and entrepreneurial leader?

    JD: Increase Canada’s responsiveness and responsibility quotients. Some tactics are:

    • Remove barriers for gender, age, occupation that don’t fit the investors’ “young male” pattern to encourage more people to become and succeed as entrepreneurs.
    • Actively support disruptive businesses with social purposes that are meant to dismantle the status quo. You can’t do good without undoing established practices. Implementing such a change requires high degrees of innovation; it requires teams and mindsets to be agile, flexible, adaptable so they can respond to requirements in the marketplace. Diversity in teams is important. And actively fund people of all types and orientation through highly transparent programs.
    • Canada has always been a responsible country protective of international human rights and a proud peacekeeper. We can make Canada more responsive and its brand even more responsible. Indeed responsibility in the modern era implies responsiveness. It’s no accident that the two words have the same Latin root: “respondere”; to answer. Responsibility is answering to someone or to ideals; responsiveness is answering to change.  

    SN: What is your message to the world?

    JD: Here is one big change the world can expect. Consumers will soon demand a list of materials and their production sources; just like ingredients. Consumers are already tweeting #whomademyclothes, and workers in Bangladesh and other developing countries are tweeting back #Imadeyourclothes with pictures of themselves. The demand for labelling with source information will become international law. Europe has already passed such laws. Winning companies will be the ones who anticipate regulatory changes and earn consumer goodwill. We at Peer Ledger will launch the MIMOSI SaaS this Fall to help companies respond to the consumer demand. Our MIMOSI product leverages a trust and audit-based technology (blockchain) that provides companies with the ability to do the right thing socially and also differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

    Specifically, MIMOSI enables organizations to easily add responsible, blockchain-based sourcing, traceability, and anti-counterfeiting controls to any subset of high-value- or social- or safety-relevant items in their existing supply chains.  Through MIMOSI, companies will collaborate to directly benefit the communities they impact, respect human rights and the environment, reduce key compliance and safety risks, speedup recalls, and provide the consumer with ethical assurances.

    Globally, Peer Ledger intends to be in every area where sourcing impacts: responsible minerals, responsible manufacturing, responsible farming, responsible fishing, responsible forestry, responsible fashion, responsible brands, and responsible government. Canada’s MIMOSI product WILL BE an international game changer for social good!!!

    Blitzscaling will happen for this product. Maybe, just maybe we could make it happen here in Canada versus somewhere else!