Meet the Female-Founded Startups We’re Bringing to Cannes (and See How They’re Pushing Their Industries Forward)

Today, with our fourth-annual Startup Academy just a week away, we’re excited to share that Campaign has written about the eight companies that will be joining us in Cannes. What did we learn from the 250+ applications we received? What do these founders and their businesses say about the rapidly evolving marketing and advertising industries? Throughout our selection process, we identified a few key themes that speak volumes about where we’re headed.

The eight female-founded companies that will be joining us in Cannes.

The only constant? Everything is changing…

It’s hard to read about the marketing or advertising industries without coming across a few key storylines.

Brands will need to act fast and adopt technology to get ahead and stay ahead of disruption.
Agencies will need to rethink their model as brands increasingly bring creative teams in house, searching for time and cost efficiencies.
Millennials and Gen-Z consumers increasingly expect the brands they love to understand them — who they are, where they are, what they care about — and create experiences that are as seamless as, say, ordering an Uber.

So what’s the solution?

The fourth-annual Cannes Startup Academy with R/GA seeks to address this shifting industry, bringing eight forward-thinking female founders to the festival to share their innovative products and services with global brand and agency leaders. (On the flip side, these corporates will spend time advising and coaching the founders, fostering an “innovation exchange” that is beneficial to everyone).

… and the future looks like this.

Throughout our application process, we reviewed more than 250+ applications from female founders hailing from all over the world — and as we dug into the companies, we identified a few key patterns emerging. Here’s what we found.

Insights reign supreme

The irony of living in the “information age” is that brands and agencies still struggle to identify meaningful insights about their consumers, their behaviors, and their beliefs. Social listening platforms, once celebrated for their ability to analyze sentiment, are no longer sufficient in a world where competition among digital brands is fierce and unrelenting. As a result, startups are developing new platforms and tools for data capture, going beyond traditional demographic to provide marketers with actionable information.

Perksy, founded by Toronto native Nadia Masri, is powering in-the-moment research with millennials and Gen Z through mobile. Brands and agencies can use Perksy’s SaaS platform to create custom research surveys (called “Stacks”), distribute them to hyper-targeted consumer segments, and receive responses and analytics in real time. As compensation for their participation, consumers receive gift cards from over 100 brands like Nike, Nordstrom, and Delta.

“If culture is constantly changing, it’s important for brands to receive constant feedback from their audience to ensure they’re keeping up,” Nadia Genevieve says. “If they aren’t moving at the speed of culture, they’ll be left behind and disconnected. It will impact the entire brand experience.”

Versus, based in Nigeria, gathers online and offline consumer insights to give companies a complete picture of the African consumer. According to Chief Operating Officer Chika Uwazie, sixty percent of Africans are unmeasured — due in large part to a vast “informal economy” in which customer behavior isn’t measured. Yet the continent represents a huge opportunity for brands: half of the population is between ages of 16–35 (signaling major buying power), and in Nigeria specifically, more than 65% of people are shopping online.

Finally, Snapcart is approaching consumer research from another angle. They’ve built an app that incentivizes consumers to photograph and upload photos of their receipts in exchange for compensation, gathering valuable information about what in-store purchase behavior. Using machine learning, they’re able to analyze receipt content to extract valuable item-level information, which is then shared with brands and retailers.

Co-founder Teresa Condicion explains that this can have a huge impact on how brands think about things like merchandising and pricing

“We’re trying to disrupt Nielsen,” she say. “Agencies and brands spend trillions of dollars in marketing without gathering actionable data around offline purchases.”

Mixed reality is the medium of the future

Speak to Camera IQ co-founders Allison Wood and Sonia Tsao and they’ll convince you that just as we witnessed the birth of email marketing and social media marketing, we’re now in the era of “camera marketing.”

Camera IQ’s technology integrates OS platforms, AR toolkits, and native apps into a single fabric to make it easy for brands to create mixed reality content — also known as “camera content” — and distribute it across their social platforms. (Brands can also integrate Camera IQ’s SDK into their existing applications.) The company is indicative of a larger trend: startups going directly to brands and convincing them that they’ll help them create content more quickly and cost-effectively than their large agencies could.

“We’re focused on the camera because that’s where consumers are,” Allison says. “Our clients are coming to us knowing that they need to expand their [augmented reality] strategy and looking for a scalable solution.”

The demand for transparency isn’t going away

Another headline you’ve probably come across quite a lot: demands for transparency in advertising are not going away. “The world of digital advertising is a nightmarish joke… out of control,” said New York Times CEO Mark Thompson last year. “You couldn’t think of a more dangerous environment for a brand.”.

For years, marketers have increasingly looking for ways to capture insights around their ad performance and brand safety. That’s why Loren Rochelle founded NOM (Not Ordinary Media), helping advertisers see through the black box that is exchanges, publishers, and DMPs.

“Advertisers would come to us and say ‘we’re running media with a third party partner, but we want to make sure that our content is showing up in the right places’,” she says.

The next generation of social media will be smarter

As a millennials and Gen-Z grow up with social media, they expect more from the platforms they interact with. Why shouldn’t you be able to shop without leaving Instagram or chat with a customer service representative with leaving Messenger? As a result, countless startups are building products and services that makes these channels smarter.

Smartzer, founded by Finland native Karoline Gross, has built a technology that seamlessly makes any brand’s video shoppable, whether that’s on their own website or across any of their social channels. Brands simply upload their video content to Smartzer’s platform, where it’s tagged at an item level — and embedded with hotspots so brands are able to see who’s clicking on what. When a consumer comes across a video in their Instagram or Snap Stories, all they need to do is swipe up to shop.

“Since millennials and Generation Z spend so much time interacting with videos and images on social media, shoppable ads are one of the best ways to introduce them to new brands,” Adweek asserts. “By allowing them to buy a product seconds after discovering it, retailers increase the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase.

Planable, co-founded by Moldovan Xenia Muntean, is bringing intelligence to the industry in a different way. She’s built a collaboration platform that creative teams and their clients can use to produce and approve social media content quickly and seamlessly — helping them work at the speed of culture.

“User experience” and “brand” are one in the same

As brands expand across channels and build out their digital ecosystems, it has become increasingly important for them to meet their audiences where they are. That means laying the groundwork for an experience that’s consistent across every single consumer touchpoint.

Enter chatbot solutions like, a company that’s helping brands better reach and serve their consumers via messaging and voice channels. This conversational strategy is crucial for brands that are serving the digital-first consumer, says co-founder Clara de Soto. These experiences are what come together to form a consumer’s opinions about a brand.

Coming together at Cannes

Throughout the Academy, founders will have the opportunity to pitch their solutions to the global brand and agency leaders at Cannes — gaining valuable insights from the kinds of people they sell to every day. Yet for the reasons outlined above, we believe the weeklong program will be equally valuable to corporates looking to navigate their changing industries.

“Our founders are uniquely poised to help brands and agencies unlock new market opportunities, understand their consumers in new ways, and embrace new technologies and behaviors,” says our Managing Partner, Stephen Plumlee. Most importantly, by focusing on female-founded companies, the Academy will connect industry leaders with pools of innovation that may have been under-utilized or overlooked, he says.


The Cannes Startup Academy will run from June 16th to June 22nd, culminating with a company showcase on the Innovation Stage. To learn more and stay in the know, follow @rgaventures on Twitter.