• Emily Mathison

Trailblazer Series: Michelle Kwok and Ravina Anand, co-founders of FLIK

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

Matchmakers of Female Entrepreneurship

One scrapped medical career, a two year ignored friend request, and accidental roommates. Best friends and business partners, Michelle Kwok and Ravina Anand, didn’t follow a traditional path to one another — but the female entrepreneurship community is better for it.

Michelle and Ravina are arguably two of the most intelligent, impressive women I’ve spoken with. They’re young and sassy, bright and passionate, not afraid to light each other up, and they’re just getting rolling.

Michelle and Ravina were both on track to only become doctors and no-doubt female McDreamy and McSteamy.

I’ll give you the SparkNotes version of their story, because Michelle tells it better in her own words.

Michelle and Ravina were both on track to become exclusively medical doctors and no-doubt female McDreamy and McSteamy. But for both, although they’re whip-smart, have extensive work experience and education, their hearts gravitated towards something else for the time being. They first met at a media production agency and bonded immediately. Michelle sent Ravina a Facebook friend request… but that was it. Ravina (who apparently is notorious for this) never accepted the request and they went their separate ways.

Two years later, both Michelle and Ravina were accepted into Next 36, a startup accelerator program. They were meant to room with friends, however, the start-up gods were smiling on them and they ended up as roommates. Momentary awkwardness and “look who it is!” from the ignored friend request, but they blew past it.

Although Michelle and Ravina entered Next 36 with intentions of launching other ventures in marketing and AIML health tech respectively, their frustration with the lack of visibility and access to female entrepreneurs was more pressing.

An identity-crisis-birthday and desire for more guidance originated the foundation of FLIK, Female Laboratory of Innovative Knowledge. FLIK is the first platform of its kind, connecting female-identifying entrepreneurs with university or early-career womxn for valuable apprenticeships.

Michelle and Ravina wanted to amplify outstanding women’s voices and provide opportunities for others like them to get connected. Michelle has a knack for cold-emailing, but not everyone feels confident doing this. (My two-cents: get comfortable doing this, if you don’t ask, you don’t get). So, by creating an online platform, Michelle and Ravina knew they could encourage more women to connect with their business-idols in a safe space of founders already open to mentoring.

Since then, FLIK has taken off. They’ve received over 2600 applicants from over 28 countries including Canada, USA, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Ghana — deep breath — Rwanda, Sri Lanka, India, Brunei and United Arab Emirates. Michelle shares, “We have apprentices from Duke, Harvard, and MIT who are developing global initiatives and looking for mentors or there are founders from Techstars, YCombinator, and 500 Startups who are shifting the landscape of AI and tech.”

Michelle and Ravina believe that the apprenticeship model is valuable because it provides experiential learning. It allows university students to put what they’re studying into action in a safe and inclusive space while getting to access mentorship.

It’s like online dating, but instead of disappointment and unsolicited dick pics, you have amazing founders who are looking for helping hands in their businesses.

I personally came across FLIK on LinkedIn a few months back and was blown away. How is this not a thing already? You mean I have access to all these amazing female founders, for free?? And the apprenticeship terms are capped at 10 hours a week for 3 months — hey side hustle!

I highly recommend you apply for the FLIK portal to explore the amazing female founded businesses that are available to up your skills or introduce you to a new industry. It’s like online dating, but instead of disappointment and unsolicited dick pics, you have amazing founders who are looking for helping hands in their businesses, in return for valuable mentorship and experience. And all parties are vetted, so you know there won’t be any duds.

“How can we create these inclusive spaces that are meant for WOC, not just womxn?”

Also, not to be missed, is FLIK’s role in supporting women of colour (WOC). Ravina says “There’s definitely some things out there for women as a whole, but WOC in particular face certain barriers and they might not be involved with the female [programs] that are already out there. It’s important when we are talking about spaces for WOC, that we are creating them specifically for WOC. And I think that’s something we’re navigating now in today’s environment, and in light of everything that’s happened recently. How can we create these inclusive spaces that are meant for WOC, not just womxn? The fact is there are WOC who still feel like they’re being alienated from these communities. So how can we create that space.”

Michelle and Ravina say that within their own business, they approach this by stepping back to their values, one of which is humility. They’re speaking with diverse communities to get feedback on how they can improve FLIK and incorporate different voices to make sure that WOC are specifically championed. Recently, they’ve created an ongoing initiative to highlight Black female founders, “In listening to the WOC in our community,” Ravina says, “we hope to highlight more strong, Black female founders on our various platforms who will inspire the next generation of female change-makers to rise up.”

So what’s up next for FLIK? Quite a lot. FLIK has recently partnered with brAIMS, an online platform which connects entrepreneurs with mission-aligned peers and investors to bring necessary skills and funding to great ideas. This partnership addresses the loss of many pitch and networking opportunities because of the pandemic, and through an upcoming Digital Demo Day, will bring global funding opportunities to FLIK’s members. “We’re always looking for ways that we can support our founders even more, so this is just the first step” says Michelle. FLIK is also hosting workshops on how to fundraise and storytelling for your brand.

On top of that, Michelle and Ravina are teasing ideas of a coworking space and bringing those WOC-first initiatives to life, as well as an accelerator program and their own venture capital arm. They’ve got lots of big plans, and I won’t spoil them here. But I do encourage you to connect and keep tabs.

“We really want to show the world that we can create technology to solve big social problems.”

The founders’ future vision for FLIK: Michelle let Ravina take this one because she’s so passionate about it.

“We want to be that space and community that women come to when they’re first starting university, or even late in highschool, and they stay with us until they become a female founder themselves. We want to be that resource and community to bring them all the way to the end. And even more than that, Michelle and I both come from STEM backgrounds, and we want to show the world that we can create purposeful technology to solve big social problems. And a way in which we’re doing it is simultaneously building a meaningful, inclusive community. We’re demonstrating to the world that social-mission driven companies can be competitive in traditional markets.”

Keep trailblazing, ladies. We’re watching.

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