Woman-led tech start up drives innovations towards an inclusive online world

Christina Margaret Morrison
Consultant, ESCA

Following a casual conversation with a friend who happens to be a blind software engineer, Tran Khanh Dung was enlightened to the multiple obstacles to digital accessibility faced by individuals with disabilities. With a vision to make the online world a more inclusive place, Dung seized the opportunity to develop an innovative solution to tackle these barriers and went on to found Rayo ̶  an AI copilot designed to make web browsing accessible and enjoyable for people with varying forms of disabilities.

“I learned that the web accessibility problem is a huge issue that affects many individuals with different types of impairments, not only visual but also neurological, cognitive and mobility-related. Because there are no existing solutions that effectively tackle this at scale, our team decided to step up and solve the problem,” says the 26-year old Vietnamese founder and CEO.

Rayo’s solution empowers individuals with disabilities to navigate the online world with confidence, enhancing their experience, boosting their productivity and promoting independence. As the primary target market, users with visual impairments and neurodivergent users can access Rayo’s basic features at no cost, and advanced features and customisation options are available at an affordable monthly fee. The company aims to expand its support to other types of disabilities, such as mobility, speech and hearing, and minor learning disabilities through its network of solution providers across the globe.

Currently comprised of a small team of five, the company is gradually expanding after securing initial investments from start-up generators and competitions. In 2023, Dung participated in She Loves Tech’s Global start-up pitching competition, supported by ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme. To date, the programme has mobilized over USD 89.7 million in capital for women-owned and led businesses, and directly supported over 176,000 women entrepreneurs through access to finance and enhanced skillsto grow their business.

Through the programme, Dung participated in an intensive bootcamp, received tailored mentorship and leadership training, accessed networking opportunities and boosted her visibility among investors, and was ultimately awarded third prize in the competition’s final pitching round.

Despite her success and drive, as a solo female founder, Dung has had to overcome outmoded gender stereotypes to get to where she is today. “Because the tech world is male dominated, I’ve been faced with biases that require me to consistently prove myself in the industry,” she says.  “But luckily for me there’s always someone who knows what I’ve been through and available to offer support. Through Community driven initiatives like She Loves Tech, I’ve benefitted from the power of mentorship, networking with women leaders and innovators in the tech industry who I’ve learned so much from.”

Reflecting on the many exceptional women who have shaped the history of tech, Dung emphasizes the importance of ensuring women’s leadership in the tech world, which is crucial to driving innovation from diverse perspectives. To facilitate this, in addition to opportunities for funding, Dung underscores the importance of training and mentorship to help women founders to thrive as leaders in an industry where they are frequently overlooked in their abilities.

Inspired by the stories of the pioneering women founders and innovators she met through the She Loves Tech programme, Dung urges aspiring women entrepreneurs to have confidence in their abilities: “As a first time founder, you just have to do it. Sometimes you don’t have everything figured out but just get started and eventually you will get there. There’s no better moment to start your own dream than now. Of course there will be setbacks and failures along the way but each step will bring you closer to your vision, so just trust yourself and do it.

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