Embed provides an integrated cloud-based business solution platform as well as hardware such as arcade debit card reader, self-service kiosks
While there are more women entering male-dominated industries, female representation at the executive level is dismal at best. It is also widely known that women are underrepresented in the tech sector.
I believe that women supporting women is the only way women will rise and step into their power in the workplace. It is important to be the change you want to inspire. The only way to bring out the best in others is to expect the best from yourself and lead by example.
Here is my story, a female CEO of a tech company in the family entertainment centre (FEC) space, and how I overcame obstacles and prejudices to grow a business that is both successful and gender-inclusive.
First foray into entrepreneurship
My passion lies in building businesses and transforming industries. At 27, I launched my first tech business and had the opportunity to work at prominent tourism startups across the world, including lastminute.com, wotif, Monster, and RedBalloon.
After years of experience in the tourism industry, I observed that many businesses were still working from diaries and spreadsheets. This led me to realise that with the rapid growth of Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and changing consumer purchase trends that are moving online, these businesses would soon struggle to keep up with their manual booking processes.
To tackle this issue, my husband and I co-founded Booking Boss, award-winning ticketing and booking management platform dedicated to attractions, tours, and entertainment industries.
When I first started out in this industry, female representation in the tech and family entertainment centre (FEC) sectors was unheard of. This is particularly true in the FEC sector, which is male-dominated. Many companies and competitors are led by male CEOs and are also family-owned.
The gender disparity also extended to raising capital, an uphill task for startups with female founders. Research has shown that startups with female founders are more likely to tap small investors for fundraising efforts, or risk not securing funding at all. With female founders, our start-ups may be viewed as a side hustle or a hobby that might give way to other responsibilities.
There is also a general apprehension towards female founders – that we are not good at running businesses. This lack of confidence affects both the ability to raise essential funds for the company, as well as the funding level.
And the irony of all ironies: female-led organisations are more profitable, better performing, and have higher profit compared to male-led companies. In S&P’s research report ‘When Women Lead, Firms Win, a key finding stated that firms with female CFOs generated profits of over US$1.3 trillion. With the statistical evidence in mind, I was determined to make good of my business and also intended to spur fellow female founders and women bosses.
Growing the businesses by a female CEO
Booking Boss was acquired by Helix Leisure in 2017, and in that same year, I was appointed CEO to both Booking Boss and sister company Embed, an integrated cloud-based business solution platform as well as hardware such as arcade debit card reader, self-service kiosks, that made to enable business owners in the FEC space to achieve greater operational efficiency while reducing costs and increasing profitability.
Embed has offices across the globe – the US, EMEA, and Asia – and more than 1,000 customers and over 3,000 installations in 56 countries.
In this new role, I undertook more responsibilities – and with it came a different set of challenges. I remained undeterred and drew inspiration from emerging technology in hyper-competitive industries, keeping a finger on the pulse of emerging consumer trends and consumer behaviour to come up with a number of game-changing innovations for Embed. A turning point in my career was when our company successfully partnered Amazon Web Services for our cloud-based solutions.
This was the start of an uphill trajectory for Embed. In 2019, we were able to partner with more tech giants to develop our mobile wallet, a virtual game card that can be added to Apple Wallet and Google Pay.
To date, Embed is the only FEC business solutions provider to gain compliance approval from Google and Apple for our award-winning Mobile Wallet, making Embed the only non-banking, non-loyalty, and non-financed brand to sit in the consumers’ mobile wallets, offering customers a safe, contactless payment and FEC experience.
Despite our successes, I wanted to do more – in particular driving gender equality and women empowerment in the tech and FEC sectors. I firmly believed that the first step would be to build a base of female leaders who can effectively mentor and encourage women employees to achieve greater heights in their careers.
That is why after I became a female CEO of a company in the tech industry, I have continued to push for greater female representation, especially at the C-Suite level. I’m proud to say that 50 per cent of our leadership team is female when half of startups have no women on their leadership teams.
In fact, only 17 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and only one in four startups has a woman on the founding team. Embed’s diversity metrics give me great pride as it is a testament to our company’s value system and culture.
Closing the gender gap in tech and FEC sectors is no mean feat but I believe Embed is not only on the right track – our company is leading male-dominated industries in actively encouraging diversity and gender equality in the office.
On International Women’s Day last year, we launched Women@Embed, a platform to celebrate the female pioneers and leaders in the amusement, entertainment, and leisure industries. The Women@Embed platform became a video series profiling the stories of women in the industry, sharing their gripping stories with the world.
Pandemic woes turned into opportunities
When COVID-19 hit, FECs were left reeling from the significant impact it left on their businesses. In light of this, I led the Embed team to work in six-week cycles of innovation, demonstrating commitment to the industry’s recovery through a dramatic pivot, delivering a series of initiatives that would help pull the businesses through COVID-19.
In April 2020, I implemented the Embed COVID-19 Resource Center and COVID-19 Relief Act. A key element was the Mobile Wallet that Embed gave away for free for one year to all FEC owners.
To help operators boost uptake and adoption of the Mobile Wallet, we also offered a plug-and-play creative package of printed marketing materials to drive return visits, accelerate the industry’s recovery, while enabling check-in and tracing of all traffic in the event of a COVID-19 breakout.
This range of initiatives (low-touch experiences, embracing automation, leveraging technology, and streamlining communication) has been effective in supporting our customers in their recovery and driving return visits, essentially future-proofing their business.
For our innovation, resilience, and leadership, Embed was recognised as Top 50 Leading Companies of the Year 2021 by The Silicon Review.
In 2020, our company was listed as one of the Top 10 Most Promising Gaming Tech Solutions Provider by CIO Review, and was one of three companies who clinched AMOA’s Operator’s Choice Award. These accomplishments ascertained Embed as the choice partner and thought leader for customers including FEC juggernauts such as TEEG Group (Asia), Dave & Busters (North America), and Landmark Group (Middle East).
FEC of the future
It has been a rollercoaster ride ever since I delved into the tech and FEC sector, but I have enjoyed all the challenges and opportunities tremendously. This year we are celebrating Embed’s 20th Anniversary and this could not be possible without the continuous support and commitment from Embed staff and stakeholders, partners, and friends.
I have been able to build a high performing team – my executive team and our numerous employees – strengthened relationships with customers and clients, as well as secured partners with major tech companies. This has helped elevate Embed’s business and growth over the past two decades.
With Embed, I intend to work alongside my team to disrupt the amusement, entertainment, and leisure industries, so as to create an FEC sector of the future. And with gender equality and women empowerment, I aim to play a more active and involved role in mentoring and reverse mentoring female employees and potential leaders in the workplace, to encourage greater diversity and inclusion.