Powerful Women in Consumer Technology 2019: Karina Costa
To see the full 2019 class of Powerful Women in Consumer Technology, please check out the program's home page.
Tell us a little about your career history.
My career started in 2009, when I founded Glutone, a company that created waste solutions for food retailers. Since then, I have founded and directed multiple startups in the technology industry. This includes co-founding BET Ventures, an NGO that creates a unique 24-hour competition for startups to receive funding, and later, Fábrica de Startups S.A. in Lisbon, one of the earliest accelerators and investment arms for tech startups in Portugal.
I then joined Techstars, headquartered in Boulder, Colo., as the global director of Startup Next, a pre-accelerator program operating in many cities worldwide. In 2017, I architected the Techstars Anywhere accelerator program, a mostly virtual accelerator that uses technology and the Techstars mentor network to work with companies based anywhere. Techstars Anywhere became one of the most competitive programs at Techstars and while running it, I worked closely with one of their portfolio companies, LynQ Technologies, which ended up hiring me away from Techstars. At the time I met LynQ, I had been an entrepreneur and investor for nearly 10 years, which took me to live on four different continents and work with over 100 companies. There was something very special about LynQ and the team that was compelling and I felt very attracted to. Given the company’s stage and momentum, we saw an opportunity for me to join to help build and grow a very powerful team and culture, which allows me to apply a lot of my learnings from working with several other companies in the past.
Now, I am the president of LynQ Technologies. LynQ Technologies is changing how data is communicated, allowing any device to transmit low-bandwidth data for miles without infrastructure -- in a manner that’s uniquely difficult to intercept, detect and hack. The ecosystem begins with the company’s first product, our own smart compass, capable of secure, peer-to-peer location of people, groups or assets for miles without the need for phones, networks or infrastructure.
LynQ's selection to Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2018, $1.7 million pre-sale (top .009 percent of Indiegogo campaigns, all-time) and sales to the U.S. Army and Air Force, demonstrates clear demand.
What attracted you to a career in consumer technology?
My father was an inspiration to entrepreneurship and consumer electronics. He was an entrepreneur, electronics and wireless engineer, and an inventor who has spent most of his career in hardware. I grew up in Portugal where the word “entrepreneurship” was unfamiliar to me until the age of 17 when I joined the London School of Economics for an entrepreneurship program. Ever since I started my first company in 2009, I realized I wanted to play an active role in startups and help young companies realize their true potential. The world of entrepreneurship is filled with the most talented and inspiring people building the cutting-edge technologies that are changing people’s lives and helping the world advance. Some of the industries that I’ve been particularly curious over the years include AI, IoT, robotics, UAVs, genomics, brain computer interfaces and space. If you look at some of the things that are being built in those spaces, you realize that the order of magnitude in which some of these technologies will change our lives is beyond anything we’ve seen before. And some of the unexpected results that come out of these technologies and get applied in different fields are very fascinating to me. An interesting example is how the aerospace industry contributed to mobile phones, digital cameras (with the development of digital image sensors) and so many other consumer electronics that we use every day, like portable, cordless vacuums and Bowflex!
What are the best initiatives available to attract women to careers in technology—and what hurdles are left to overcome?
The wonderful thing about the tech industry is that it’s constantly growing with new opportunities that are constantly becoming available to the public. I always recommend that women interested in a career in tech look into educational programs and meetups in their respective cities where they can connect with other women in the industry. Meeting and connecting with fellow women in tech is the best way to learn about new opportunities and discuss the issues that we face. An example of that is the Women Who Hardware group that I joined right after I moved to New York: a fantastic community of female entrepreneurs and leaders that I’m so grateful to be part of.
And it’s not just the woman-specific groups alone, I’ve been positively impressed how some organizations such as Techstars and other VC firms have been taking inclusion and diversity in tech as a priority and that is changing the community.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in your career?
My business partner, and founder of LynQ, Dave Shor, measures success as “the level of impact that you can have in people's lives.” I think there is no better definition of accomplishment than creating vehicles to empower other people to build things. I’m grateful that throughout my career, I’ve created and joined companies and organizations that helped me in such endeavors.
In my current role at LynQ, I am beyond proud to open a new chapter in my career, where I can truly know that I am directly shaping the way in which people are more connected and safe through the power of our technology.
Any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
In the early days of my tech career, I quickly learned that in order to be a powerful female leader, I do not need to simply emulate the habits of my male counterparts. To find success, I needed to embrace my female perspective and use it as an asset, rather than shunt it away. In addition to finding a solid network, my advice to women in the tech space is to find a leadership approach that is true to themselves, rather than act the way they think others want them to. Owning your own power is powerful 🙂