2021 Honorees

Valerie Song


“I am a passionate and bold leader that loves growing both plants and people.”

Tell us about where you work and what you do there.

I am the CEO and Co-founder of AVA Technologies Inc! AVA is a Vancouver-based startup on a mission to give anyone the gift of growing. We invented beautiful indoor gardening appliances that use “plant pods” to help even the worst plant-growers become master gardeners.

I started my career in CPG brand management and sales. Abruptly, I made my transition into the startup world to work on something much more values-aligned. As a CEO, my day-to-day varies significantly, from setting the strategy for the company, cash flow management, investor relations, team management, sales, marketing, pitching, thought leadership, and fundraising.

How would you describe yourself?

While working in brand management and sales at blue-chip consumer product companies, I found a passion for brand building. I’ve launched, marketed, and sold products from organic granola to craft beer.

I’m also a proud advocate for diversity and inclusion within AVA and outside of AVA. You can find me volunteering as a guest speaker and mentor to youth and women in STEM, or coaching teams for case competitions.

Outside of work and volunteering, food makes me happy! I love to try delicious foods, cook new cuisines, and (for a non-food-related activity) go to the dog park with my pomsky Kai (@superkai).

What is your leadership style?

I am a passionate and bold leader that loves growing both plants and people. Our team mantra is “get growing,” and that’s an important attitude we all embody at AVA.

My leadership style is very reflective of Napoleon Hill’s quote: “You can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” I feel most gratified when my team members learn, improve, and accomplish what they set out to do. I invest a lot of time into growth and learning for the team through lunch and learns, workshops, and training.

What do you think has been your biggest professional success so far?

Shipping our product to customers for the first time felt great; it was the culmination of many years of hard work. There have been many things to be proud of, such as raising venture capital, but the biggest success is definitely being able to see a product that was once just an idea manifest and arrive into our customer’s hands.

Customers today have high demands, and our product was very complex to build. It had physical hardware, software, app, plant science, and design considerations, not to mention ensuring stability and costs. Additionally, we had the added unknown of COVID-19 just as we were getting our shipments. Challenge after challenge, we were able to ship our version 1 product finally out to our customers.

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What goals do you have for 2021?

Work goals: Close our Series A, hire our key roles, and secure our partnership. Personal goals: Get better at meditating, learn to cook new dishes, and (fingers crossed) play indoor volleyball again!

What do you think is the next big trend in eCommerce?

We’ve already seen the rapid digital adoption of online grocery shopping and meal kit deliveries last year; in coming years, I think cryptocurrency payments, financing plans, and last-mile delivery options will grow to be big trends for eCommerce.

Name an eCommerce brand you admire and why.

Aisle. First of all, they are a local Canadian brand, and the founders are amazing human beings. They actually were the first ones who inspired me to try out entrepreneurship. I recently purchased a few products from them, and loved the entire experience from visiting the website to checkout to unboxing!

They’ve put a ton of attention and effort into designing the experience for their customers, optimizing for mobile, ensuring rapid delivery, and above all I love that they list their impact metrics directly on the home page and per product. They have a true commitment to reducing waste and gender inequality with their amazing products.

What do you geek out over?

A delicious food experience, Marvel Phase 4, that new Netflix/Disney+ show, new CPG brands, a good deal at Winners, a nice spreadsheet with the perfect VLOOKUPs, leadership development, unsolved cases… the list goes on!