Katica Roy is CEO and founder of Pipeline, an award-winning SaaS company using AI to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity.

Five questions with Pipeline Equity

25 November 2020

5 minute read

Katica Roy is a gender economist and the CEO and Founder of Denver-based Pipeline, an award-winning SaaS company that leverages artificial intelligence to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity.

Katica Roy is a gender economist and the CEO and Founder of Denver-based Pipeline, an award-winning SaaS company that leverages artificial intelligence to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity. The Pipeline platform was named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2019 and Fast Company’s 2020 World’s Most Innovative Companies. In 2020, Katica was named the 2020 Colorado Entrepreneur of the Year.

In 2017, Katica was named a Luminary by the Colorado Technology Association, in 2018 a Colorado Governors' Fellow, and in 2019 she was among the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business. She has also received a Gold Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year. Katica is also an industry entrepreneur, thought-leader, and frequent editorial contributor and speaker. Her articles have been published by World Economic Forum, NBC, Fast Company, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and more.

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

I am the daughter of an immigrant and a refugee. My father and three eldest sisters escaped from Hungary after the fall of the 1956 Revolution in Hungary and arrived at a refugee camp in Austria. Less than two months into his stay in the refugee camp, President Eisenhower sent Air Force One to bring 21 Hungarian refugees to the US on Christmas Day 1956. My father and sisters were on that plane. As a parent, I wonder what that felt like, going from running for your life to watching your daughters climb the stairs of Air Force One to freedom. I am here in the US today and had the opportunity to start Pipeline because one person in a position said: “Not on my watch.” And ultimately that’s why I created Pipeline. To say: “not on my watch,” to ensure that the men, women, boys and girls coming after me have equitable access to step into a life the size of their dreams.

02. How do you feel being a female founder gives your startup a unique advantage?

Female founders are a better investment: female-founded startups generate 78 cents for every dollar invested in their companies, whereas male-founded startups generate 31 cents for every dollar invested. And yet, in 2020 we’ve seen an almost 40% drop in funding for female founders. We need investors to increase their investment in female founders, especially as a key lever to accelerate our economic recovery from COVID-19.

03. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?

I’ve learned many important lessons since launching Pipeline. Here are my top two.

First, our brains are not wired to make us happy. They are wired to keep you safe. As an entrepreneur and executive, I’m often faced with situations in which my fight or flight instincts kick in. My goal has been to rewire my brain so that I can feel a certain way but not necessarily act on the feeling.

Second, I learned how to get clear on my “why.” In the beginning, shortly after launching Pipeline, I was advised to use my story of fighting to be paid equitably (twice) to build the brand. I thought folks wouldn’t care about my story and only care about how Pipeline can help them, but that turned out not to be true. In fact, my story has powered the company and supported our brand-building efforts. More importantly, my story has enabled folks to see themselves in the journey to equity for all.

04. How has the pandemic impacted your company?

By early April, my team and I knew we needed to act — somehow, someway — to be of service to others during these difficult times. We brainstormed ideas that quickly led us to launch two campaigns to cope with the economic burden of the pandemic.

We first launched a gender mainstreaming campaign to ensure policymakers allocated the trillions of fiscal stimulus dollars being pumped into the economy efficiently, effectively and sustainably. Gender mainstreaming is one of the sharpest public policy tools we have to ensure the unique experiences and needs of all genders are considered in the budget allocation process. The second campaign we launched was in support of female founders — ensuring their companies’ solvency through the economic downturn.

I also recognised that our customers’ needs were changing, and so we launched a new module within the Pipeline platform called Talent Finder™. The Talent Finder module is an AI-based solution to help organisations create equitable business continuity plans at the push of a button.

05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?

Instead of sharing advice, I’ll share what propels me through difficult times, because everyone, regardless of gender, will face challenges on the road to entrepreneurship. When I’m faced with challenges, I think back to the decision my father made in 1956 in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution. My father risked his life and the life of his three daughters to flee to an Austrian refugee camp. Thinking of the hardship and turmoil he faced serves as a reference point for me to understand my situation. It reminds me to never give up and to be brave. And as Billie Jean King says, the pressure is a privilege. When I feel overwhelmed, I recalibrate my point of reference by asking how I can be in service to others. This recalibration takes the focus off my challenges and allows me to use my unique talents to help others.

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