NIYO Group Bootcamp

Looking to get into tech & business? Apply for NIYO Group's Bootcamp for Black Female Entrepreneurs today!

NIYO Group Bootcamp

Are you interested in getting into tech and business? NIYO Group’s new bootcamp could be for you!

NIYO Group have launched their NIYO FoundHer accelerator – a Bootcamp specifically designed for Black Female entrepreneurs to champion diversity in innovation and entrepreneurship.

NIYO group has trained 100s of Black women under their Bootcamp brand; in XR, Data Analytics & Project Management, Software Development (in partnership with Coding Black Females), and Software & Systems Architecture. With the NIYO FoundHer Bootcamp, they are looking to build on their success by expanding their offerings to include Black Female entrepreneurs looking to launch or scale Tech driven businesses that leave a positive impact on those who engage with them.

The launch of the Bootcamp is timely, as recent research conducted by Aston University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CRME) and NatWest, highlights that “an estimated 250,000 ethnic minority-led firms contribute around £25bn per annum to the UK economy. However, this contribution and ambition of Ethnic Minority Led Business are often constrained by multiple barriers throughout their entrepreneurial journey, particularly in accessing financial resources, wider markets, and appropriate support. Although ethnic minorities in the UK are consistently more entrepreneurial than the population generally, they are less likely to operate established or mature firms that generate stable income”. 

The NIYO FoundHer Bootcamp aims to break down the barriers faced by Ethnic Minority led businesses, but with a focus on Black Female-led businesses.

Speaking about the bootcamp, Oyinkansola Adebayo, CEO & Founder of NIYO Group said, “This Bootcamp was curated by myself and Laolu (COO at NIYO Group) with women like us in mind.”

“We have poured out our experience in business and the things we wish we were taught at the beginning of our journey.”

“This is not just like another accelerator, but an accelerator that enables our students to go to market as quickly as possible and supports them with the foundations for them to build thriving businesses”

Laolu Dada, COO at NIYO Group added, “We have waited a long time to launch this programme, and now is a perfect time.”

“The FoundHer Bootcamp is set up to break the barriers numerous Black females experience when launching a digital business”.

Over 16 weeks, the Bootcamp will cover areas a business needs to launch and scale.

The programme includes training on product development, pricing, sales, market research, raising finance, risk management, selling with PR, marketing and growth hacking, and building a brand identity. Participants will also be mentored by business experts and will get the opportunity to win £5,000 for their business. 

When do applications open?

Applications are open until the 14th of October 2022, to England-based businesses developing creative Tech solutions or looking for how to use Tech to scale (in delivery, quality assurance, or operations).

The Bootcamp will commence on the 9th of November 2022 and will last 16 weeks, culminating in a Demo Day in early 2023, at which several participants will have the opportunity to present their business to potential clients and investors. 

FIND OUT MORE & APPLY

WeAreVirtual, Helen Croydon, 800x600

27/09/2022: WeAreVirtual: How to raise your personal profile and build your brand | Helen Croydon

WeAreVirtual, Helen Croydon

The session will include ideas, tips and best practices on raising your professional profile.

Helen will delve into:

  • What is the importance of having a strong personal brand/profile and what doors does it open?
  • Ways that professionals can look out for opportunities raise their profile.

They will cover four pillars:

  1. How to go about getting media coverage – including tips on finding opportunities, for example, looking at #journorequest on Twitter; coming up with a strong topical idea for an opinion article and how to find a publication which may accept contributor opinion articles.
  2. Getting onto TV, radio or podcasts – some ideas on where to find a fit.
  3. Raising your presence on social media – some do’s and don’ts of writing a bio
  4. Best practices of posting to be seen as a thought leader.

About Helen

Helen is founder of Thought Leadership PR, a former journalist and a three-time author. After a 15 year career in the media, which included working as a producer at ITN; writing for every UK newspaper from The Times to Metro; and commentating on TV and radio shows such as Sky News and Womans Hour, she switched her attention to helping others get into the media. Her business specialises in personal PR, helping c-suite executives, entrepreneurs, academics, authors and other public figures develop media-worthy ideas to become a revered commentator in their industry. She is also host of the The Media Insider Podcast, featuring interviews with editors and journalists on what makes a story.


Calling all entrepreneurs - Free HSBC event to support your business!

HSBC Drive

Join HSBC at Drive 2022 – a free virtual event for SMEs!

28th April 2022
08.00- 17:45 (GMT)

Drive 2022 has been designed for businesses looking for tangible ways to transition to sustainable practices and in turn take care of the planet.

HSBC will help answer your most pressing questions about sustainability:

  • How can I adopt sustainable business practices and ensure growth?
  • How can I enhance my competitiveness, expand my reach and attract a more diverse customer base?
  • How do I attract and keep the best talent?
  • Where can I start?
  • Where can I get help?

You will have the opportunity to engage with our speakers, expand your network, and benefit from HSBC’s extensive research and insights, before, during and after the event – helping to open up a world of opportunity.

We are bringing together industry leaders and business owners, who will share their incredible journeys and what they have learnt along the way.

Welcome with Emma Cunningham

  • Emma Cunningham Regional Head of Communications, GBM, Asia Pacific, HSBC

The Importance of ESG

A keynote speech on the importance of the environmental aspect of ESG and how these can provide opportunities for SMEs; the moral imperative and the business case for prioritizing sustainability.

  • Wai-Shin Chan Head of Climate Change Centre of Excellence, Global Head of ESG Research, HSBC

The ESG trailblazers

A deep dive into what people and businesses are doing to really transform our planet through environmental and social changes. These trailblazers unearth the roadblocks they faced and how they overcame them.

  • Ankit Gupta Co-founder, Simple Energy
  • Ben Wong Head of Open Innovation, Eureka Nova, a New World Group Member
  • Gabriel Tan Director, GUAVA Amenities
  • Rohit Bhattacharya CFO, Next Gen Foods
  • Dan Roberts Global Head of Business Banking, HSBC (Host)

Transitioning to Sustainable Business Models

What ESG elements Corporates look for in their supply chain and how incubators can support SMEs in their sustainability integration.

  • Cintia Nunes Co-Director,The Mills Fabrica
  • Datin Mina Cheah-Foong Managing Director, InNature Berhad
  • Jasmine Ling Head of Sustainable Finance, Asia Pacific, HSBC (Host)

The Rapid Rise of Alt Protein in Asia

Join founder, and Editor-in-Chief, of Asia’s leading sustainability start-up media, Green Queen, Sonalie Figuerias for a thought-provoking discussion and rise of plant-based food alternatives in the Asia Pacific region. Hear her views on why Asia is fuelling the future of food.

  • Sonalie Figueiras Founder & CEO at Green Queen, Ekowarehouse & SourceGreenPackaging.com

Gain a competitive advantage from your ESG strategy

Having a green strategy is great, but it’s even better if it sets you apart from the competition and increases your revenue. Hear from B Corp UK on how to harness and commercialise your sustainability agenda. Do good for the planet while doing good for your bottom line.

  • James Ghaffari Director of Growth and Product, B-Corp UK
  • Martin Richards Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sustainable Finance and President, HSBC Ventures Inc. (Host)

Purpose-led Profit – Businesses Changing the World Focus on ESG

Join our panel of business leaders to discuss how their own alignment with ESG values has accelerated their achievements whilst enabling them to cultivate successful organisations with exceptionally strong missions at their core.

  • Lyndsey Simpson Founder and CEO, 55/Redefined
  • Nidal Haddad CEO, Al Bayader International
  • Yang Liu Founder & CEO, JustWears
  • Patricia Gomes Regional Head, Commercial Banking, HSBC MENAT (Host)

‘Good Business’ is Good for Business

  • Michael Roberts CEO HSBC US (Host)

Practical Steps to Social and environmental sustainability

Hear from business owners on their sustainability journey and the tangible steps they took to embed sustainable practices into their business.

  • Elta Kolo, Ph.D. Vice President

Exploring Solutions to Reach your Green Goals

How is the global supply chain reacting to the need to be “sustainable”? And what does this mean for you and your business? In this session, we will explore solutions for now and the future and how to help grow your business – in a sustainable way.

  • Angie Hall Head of Sustainable Finance, Commercial Banking, HSBC Canada
  • Lindsey Hermes Head of Enterprise Solutions, Serai
  • Andrew Skinner Head of Global Trade and Receivables Finance, HSBC Canada (Host)

Women to the World: maximising the power of business women (session will be in Spanish)

Hear about Women to the World (Mujeres al Mundo) program, which is responding to the social demands of women in Latin America to have a more important role in the business world.

  • Mariuz Calvet-Roquero Head of Sustainable Finance, Commercial Banking, HSBC Mexico
  • Melisa Turano Head of Lending, Transaction Management HSBC and Co-Founder of Mujeres al Mundo, HSBC Argentina
  • Laura Manzo CEO, Dalia Empower (Host)

You will have the opportunity to engage with our speakers, expand your network, and benefit from HSBC’s extensive research and insights, before, during and after the event – helping to open up a world of opportunity.

You can attend the full event or just drop-in on sessions relevant to your business.

Over 6,000 businesses and leaders joined us last year, so don’t miss out. Register to attend our first Drive event of 2022.

REGISTER HERE

Protecting entrepreneurs from counterfeiters

By Mary Kernohan, head of nurture at SnapDragon Monitoring

According to the findings of the Rose Review’s 2022 Progress Report, a record number of start-ups are being founded by women in the UK today, with the growth of female venturers in Scotland outstripping male-led companies for the first time ever.

According to the data, over 140,000 all-female-founded companies were created last year, which means that in total over 20% of new firms are now led by women, which is a record high.

This study marks an exciting milestone for female entrepreneurs, and it shows how many are smashing through the hypothetical glass ceiling and building successful and profitable businesses, even in the face of a global pandemic.

I am proud to say that I work for a female-led start-up called SnapDragon Monitoring, an online brand protection company. Everyday in my career I help protect innovative businesses against the risks posed by counterfeits, and I have witnessed first-hand how many budding entrepreneurs have had the dreams and ambitions shattered at the hands of the threat.

As a result, I want to offer some advice to these exemplar female business leaders on how they can protect their businesses, products and innovations from counterfeiters.

Today it is estimated that 20 percent of UK SMEs have been affected by counterfeits, so never wrongly assume you are too small or unknown to be targeted. No industry is immune to the threat.

Today, criminals are earning billions of pounds every year by producing pirated versions of successful products, to either to sell them for cheaper or to dupe consumers into purchasing fakes under the guise of genuine brands.

These criminals are masters in their art and detecting a counterfeit is an almost impossible task to the untrained eye, so consumers get duped every day and the impacts are far greater than just lost revenue. Fakes rarely go through safety checks and are often manufactured in poor conditions using hazardous materials and processes. When these are purchased by consumers, it is their health and safety that is put at risk. This all puts genuine brands at risk, with negative reviews posted to their websites, bad publicity about them in the media and irreparable damage to their reputation.

This means being vigilant for counterfeits must be at the top of any entrepreneur’s agenda. So, what are the best ways to protect against the threat?

  1. Firstly, register your Intellectual Property (IP). IP is one of the most important, yet confusing, forms of brand protection. By registering your IP in all the regions you trade in, this will stop others from starting copycat brands in a bid to bank on your success.
  2. Secondly, use online protection solutions which proactively scan the web for counterfeits of your products and work to get them taken down before they can cause harm.
  3. Thirdly, and most importantly, warn your customers about the risks posed by counterfeits and fakes. If a fraudster has made a copycat of your product, communicate its risks to customers and warn them against buying it.

This new report is very encouraging, however, as businesses succeed, they become a more lucrative target for scammers. I would therefore urge them to be vigilant of the risks of counterfeits, adding the threat to risk registers and doing everything they can to protect their brands.


coronavirus covid-19 vaccine in hands of pharmacuetical bio research scientist, biohealth

Five female-led companies leading the way in biohealth

coronavirus covid-19 vaccine in hands of pharmacuetical bio research scientist, biohealth

Women have been entering the technology field more than ever before, and while there’s still room for improvement, never in the history of tech have so many companies been led by women. 

In this post we will look at five Biohealth companies led by women - changing the paradigm for both health and leadership along the way.

FindMeCure

Founder: Maya Zlatanova

With over 15 years of global experience in the biotech sector, Maya Zlatanova is on a mission to transform the way patients access research and trial information.  Maya is the founder and CEO of FindMeCure, a biotech company looking to transform the way people access clinical trials.

No stranger to the clinical research industry and how daunting it can be for patients, it was only after personal experience trying to find a clinical trial for her sister that Maya started to think about a solution that would help make them more accessible for the average person.

Known as the Google of clinical trials, FindMeCure not only helps patients access the world of medical innovations, but also assists pharmaceutical companies by putting patients in contact with companies that are looking for just such a match.  Zlatanova is building a global vision to bring future treatments within everyone’s reach.

iBreve

Cofounder: Flavia Wahl

Dreaming of a world free of stress related diseases, former Google employee Flavia Wahl co-founded iBreve to focus on improving stress resilience.  iBreve is a wearable tech device that analyzes respiratory patterns in real time to provide you with smart feedback before stress rises by focusing on prevention and healthy living.   Specifically designed for women, iBreve’s aim is to provide insightful knowledge about your breathing so you can manage stress and activity levels proactively.

An innovator in the world of wearable tech, the idea for iBreve’s solution emerged after Wahl spent time with her co-creator in Rishikesh, India - the yoga capital of the world.  Inspired by this experience, they set to work on marrying ancient breathing knowledge with wearable sensor technology.

Wahl and her team at iBreve are at the forefront of women’s tech innovations and iBreve is a champion for women’s health and a great example of a female-led BioHealth company.

Lilu

Cofounder: Adriana C Vázquez Ortiz

With a firm belief that moms deserve more - in both products and support -  Adriana C Vázquez took her passion for technology and smart objects to the next level by co-founding biohealth company Lilu.

Drawing on her background in product & experience design, Adriana, along with her co-founder Sujay Kumar, have built a biohealth company that truly aims to support women through building technology for new moms.

Lilu was created to empower moms during breastfeeding by designing a hands-free pumping bra with a built-in massager.  Built on input from real moms, Lilu aims to build technology that makes pumping more comfortable and efficient, leading the way in technology that not only helps women with a specific need, but also helps them thrive.

Neurotrack

Cofounder: Elli Kaplan

Forged in the fires of Silicon Valley, Neurotrack is a digital health startup aiming to transform the diagnosis and prevention of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.   Centered on the idea of early detection to prevent cognitive decline, Neurotrack develops digital cognitive health solutions that enable convenient and remote cognitive testing - available to anyone.

Led by co-founder and CEO Elli Kaplan, Neurotrack combines research and science to develop assessments for early prevention, and tools to enhance digital cognitive health.  Kaplan combines her passion for positive social change through technology with a powerful background in leadership and global finance to head the company.  With a firm belief in early diagnosis and prevention, assessment tools like Neurotrack are a game changer in support and intervention for cognitive decline.

Syrona Health

Founders: Anya Roy and Chantelle Bell

Syrona founders Anya Roy and Chantelle Bell discovered a need for innovation in women’s health while conducting research during their Masters in Bioscience at Cambridge University.  The result was Syrona Health, a digital platform designed to support (and normalize) a woman’s healthcare journey.

Spurred by a personal conversation after class, and well-versed in women’s under-representation in clinical trials, the team at Syrona Health focused on creating tools and support that was not only for women, but designed by women.

With that in mind, Syrona aims to put women in the driver’s seat of their own gynaecological health and change the women’s health paradigm in the process.

Sylvia KangAbout the author

Sylvia Kang is the co-founder and CEO of Mira, the first FDA and CE registered comprehensive platform for monitoring women’s health. Mira tracks cycles, predicts ovulation and monitors fetal health with 99 per cent accuracy.


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In a male-dominated industry, here is the inside scoop on how you can improve your venture pitch outcomes

Workshop: Tech for Non-Technical Founders event in london

Male-founded start-ups have a near monopoly on venture capitalist funding. Less than 1% of total venture capital funds in the UK are invested in female-founded start-ups, and the situation in the USA is very similar.

Although this statistic has been in the market for a few months now, I still find it staggering.

As a woman in the venture capital industry, I know how it feels to be in the minority; just 18% of investment professionals in the UK VC industry are women with even fewer (13%) holding the role of decision maker.

The good news is, with the issue firmly under the spotlight, change will come…eventually. But despite all the Government incentives and reports, it is ultimately up to those operating in the VC industry to put this right and, like most change, it is unlikely to come overnight.

In the meanwhile, we need to manage the status quo. Given the statistic I referenced above, it is likely that, at least 85% of the time, female founders will be pitching to male decision makers. Therefore, I have put together some top tips to equip female founders to navigate this environment and ultimately, to make it very difficult for the investor to decline the opportunity you are presenting to them.

Present the best-case scenario

Too many of us present our businesses conservatively. At start-up stage, investors want to leave the meeting with a sense of excitement. They want to feel in awe of what they’ve just been presented with. Of course, transparency and risk aversion are important characteristics, so you need to balance your pitch with some well thought out assumptions. But remember, ultimately, it’s the VC’s job to assess the risk profile of the investment and to evaluate whether the opportunity is still attractive to them even if ‘best-case’ is not quite achieved. Don’t undersell the potential of your business.

Approach the pitch with confidence and be affirmative

Women tend to hold back when they present to investors and sometimes fail to convey their conviction in what they are doing. Some top tips are to pitch to friends, advisers and colleagues who you know will give you honest feedback. Do your research about the investor you are pitching to – understand what their investment criteria is and be sure to adapt your pitch to fit their priorities. Practice, practice and practice your pitch and be clear about how your product/technology is solving a big problem. Finally, video yourself pitching. This will make you more conscious of the language you are using and help you use words or phrases that are more affirmative.

Remember, you don’t have to have all of the answers!

In my experience, female founders are insistent on perfection versus their male counterparts who will improvise a bit more. This means that while female founders are perfecting their business and swotting up on responses to every potential question that the investor could possibly ask, male founders are out there having meetings, learning lessons and receiving capital.

No one expects you to have all the answers, the perfect product/ solution or go-to-market strategy. The only caveat to this is being able to talk confidently about the addressable market size, which is essential. But ultimately, you will never be able to prepare for every eventuality and in fact, investors like to ask far ranging questions simply to understand your thought process. They don’t expect perfect responses. Also remember that VC investors often play an active role in the development of their portfolio companies’ businesses; they may have new ideas which could benefit your business, so it’s best to go to them early, even without all the answers, so that you can profit from their helicopter view of the sector.

Lead by example

Most VCs are interested in backing businesses which inspire, break the mould and represent ‘firms of the future’. We back visionaries with great ideas which demonstrate clear commercial potential, and we embrace change and progress. Investors increasingly understand that businesses with a clear and positive purpose generally deliver stronger returns, so have a diverse team with policies that inspire, cultivate and nurture diversity within your organisation.

Look for female investment partners

As a female founder, it is likely that you are in a good position to develop a repour with a female investor. So, seek out the 13% of decision makers out there, particularly if you have a product targeting women. They are likely to understand your product and target market much more quickly than a male investor might.

There are lots of great accelerator programmes, female founder office hours and other initiatives catered to female founders with the aim of helping female founders access funding. Aim to leverage these as much as you can to help you access the right investors.

Take rejection on the chin

Finally, rejection is part and parcel of fundraising. Therefore, it is important to try and not take this too personally and treat pitching as a numbers game. The more investors you pitch to, the better you get at pitching and the more likely you will be to find one investor who wants to invest in your business.

And finally, in reality, most of these pointers are applicable to all founders, female or male. But, as a female VC investor, who has sat in hundreds of pitches and has backed multiple female founded businesses myself, I hope these takeaways will arm you with confidence in order to rebalance the current reality. Remember, be visionary, have a good handle on your numbers and present with confidence.

About the author

Isabelle O'KeefeIsabelle is a Principal at Sure Valley Ventures where she focuses on identifying and evaluating investment opportunities in areas including AR/VR, IoT and Fintech. Her previous experience has been working across the telco, technology and media sectors in London, Madrid and the Nordics.

Immediately before joining Sure Valley she worked at the Barclays Fintech Accelerator Programme powered by Techstars, working closely with start-ups and helping them to build and grow their businesses. During her career she’s been involved in numerous deals and investment decisions helping to identify potential investee companies.

 


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

Why focusing on habits is better than the end-goal

habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

At the turn of 2020, no business owner could have imagined the challenges facing them in the months ahead.

But, as the UK looks to drag itself headlong into ‘the new normal’, owner of Q2Q IT, Lorna Stellakis, believes it’s important not to get too caught up in ‘the end goal’ – instead focus on the driving force behind your SME’s corporate ambition.

Here, she explains why the key to success in business – and at home – is a willingness to learn.

I try to read a book every couple of weeks, and one that had a huge impact on me earlier this year was, ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.

Dubbed ‘a comprehensive guide on how to change your behavioural patterns and get one per cent better every day’, the novel has got me thinking about how business owners the world over are making hard-and-fast plans for the next six months.

It resonates on a personal level too, and it felt as if James was talking to me directly with every turn of the page. So much so, that I’ve already implemented some of the publication’s key principles at Q2Q HQ in recent months.

How do I know what business targets to set?

Like every company, we gave ourselves some pretty ambitious goals at the start of our financial year – and you might be forgiven for thinking that most of those had gone completely out of the window as a result of COVID-19. But you would be wrong.

The majority of targets were focused on customer satisfaction and improving how we operate as a team, in terms of all-things IT support.

To ensure we have a constant reminder of what we’re trying to achieve whenever we’re in the office, our objectives have been translated into wall graphics for the entire workforce to see – as well as taking pride of place as my desktop background.

Although, those aspirations aren’t solely what drive our 9-5.

Where ‘Atomic Habits’ resonated with me, was by highlighting that although the end-goal will always be important, once you’ve identified a focus, the most important thing is to create the right daily, weekly or monthly lifestyles that offer the opportunity to translate ‘the dream’ into a reality.

An easily relatable scenario is when you have a fitness goal. Let’s imagine you’re new to jogging and want to complete a 5km Parkrun. However, at present, you can only sprint for a minute before needing to revert to a steady walk.

Completing the entire 3.1 miles at full power might seem like a stretch on week one. Plus, if you were to think about it every single day, you’d probably end up feeling overwhelmed or disheartened with what might seem like an unattainable result.

Therefore, a simple but effective strategy is to establish what behaviours would help you become your own answer to Usain Bolt – and focus solely on those. For example:

  1. Train for 30 minutes, three days a week – even if this is simply a fast walk for most of it
  2. Gradually increase your sprints by 30 seconds each time – so run for 60 seconds on day one, 90s on day two and 120s day three.

In reality, all you’re doing is adding half a minute of running each day, but by breaking down the components of your goal – while bolstering your own resilience – it makes your initial aim much more achievable, and realistic.

But how can I deliver on my SME’s plans?

From a business perspective, one of my own intentions for 2019 was to become a trustee for a local charitable organisation. It was important for me to do something positive for the community in Lancaster.

Prior to lockdown, it was clear the best way to accomplish this was by networking as much as possible locally and within the wider North West – which also proved to help Q2Q. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I set myself a minimum number of networking events to attend, researched all the options out there, and booked on to those most suitable, trusting this would help me realise the overall goal.

When it came to each gathering, I didn’t focus on the overarching driver behind my attendance, instead it was about turning up with an open mind and a desire to meet new friends, make connections and enjoy a spot of socialising.

Nine months in and the face-to-face meet-ups came to an abrupt halt as a result of lockdown. Yet, thanks to all the amazing people I have met, I’ve not only been invited to many more events – during and post-lockdown – but I am proud to confirm that I am now officially a trustee for the Lancashire Association of Boys and Girls Clubs, which is an absolute honour.

Although it was never part of the original ‘plan’, a presence at events led to us landing two new customers and a couple more in the pipeline – with three further prospects currently undergoing an initial IT audit. All of which are a great by-product of the original goal!

A solution which works

We applied this ‘habits strategy’ to all our aspirations this year – before, during and hopefully following the pandemic – and I believe it’s made a huge difference. It took the pressure off the end-objective and allowed us to implement some really simple, easy-to-maintain approaches that have benefitted us in more ways than one – and haven’t felt like a chore!

So, if you’re an SME owner wondering how best to tackle the coming months, perhaps this could be a great approach? As we enter this phase of relative uncertainty, many of us will be thinking about how we can do things differently, and maybe several habitual routines will ensure you stay on track beyond the first few weeks!


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


tech entrepreneurs

Will startups from under-represented founders survive COVID-19?: An open letter to Rishi Sunak | Sarah Wernér

female tech entrepreneurs, start ups

The past month has seen the business world go through some unprecedented changes thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

While all corners of the economy have been impacted, small businesses and start-ups have had to innovate dramatically and seek support, in a bid to ride the COVID-19 wave.

Sarah WernérIn this piece, Sarah Wernér writes an open letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak and puts to him whether start-ups from under-represented founders will survive COVID-19.

An Imperial College London alumnus, Sarah spent years in the pharmaceutical industry providing strategic insights for multiple life changing cancer and immunology drugs. She is a keen problem solver with a strong affinity for data science and analytics. She is currently applying her skills as the co-founder and CEO of Husmus.

Husmus is built for landlords who are or want to self-manage and their tenants. We focus on removing logistical burdens & improving experiences. We achieve this by automating workflows (such as tenant referencing and deposit protection) and connecting landlords, tenants & service providers.


Dear Rishi Sunak,

I’m a black woman in tech. Are you aware that women like me get only 0.02 per cent of available startup funding (Source: Jane VC). It’s no wonder that minority female CEOs are rare especially in tech. What fool would chance it given those odds?

Any founder will tell you that fundraising is extremely hard. And that’s when you have the ‘network’ to make introductions. But let’s say you don’t, let’s say you are like the majority of minorities who boldly go after their entrepreneurship dream with nothing but wit and grit. How do you make it work? The answer: with great difficulty. Most of us start our dream businesses as a side hustle. However, novel tech is expensive to develop, sustained self-funding is highly unlikely. Bank loans are also out of the question, startups are considered too risky. There are of course angels and venture funds some of which even focus on female or minority businesses. However even these can be as elusive and unhelpful as the rest. Just last week I was told by one such firm that although they do invest in women tech business just not my kind of tech business. 

In Feb 2020, I happened to be in the middle of a funding round. Having raised half of the money I needed, I started to believe I could actually buck the trend. Become one of the lucky few minority CEOs to raise money and lead a well-funded startup. Then the UK COVID-19 lockdowns began. The improbable just became virtually impossible. In one way, I’m lucky my investors haven’t abandoned me. But who else is still willing to invest in already risky early stage startups especially a tech one run by a black woman? The odds are decidedly not in my favour. 

With a sense of pride, I’ve watched you rise to the occasion and offer financial help to the country. My friends and I have discussed how well you are performing in a new job in an impossible situation. As you announce measure after measure that we don’t qualify for we acknowledge that at least you are there and you are trying. On the 17th of April I turned on the BBC to watch the coronavirus updates and there you were talking about support for startups. I listened with excitement, could there be finally be something for the likes of me? Then came the crushing blow. It seems not. There is a minimum £250K prior investment eligibility criteria. This all but guarantees virtually all early stage startups will be excluded. Especially those lead by minorities who almost never raise the levels of money their fellow entrepreneurs do.  

Your Future fund is designed for scaling up companies. 

Let me anticipate you, “there are options for ineligible startups from Innovate UK” you say.

“A further £750m of grants and loans will also be made available for Innovate UK to “accelerate” up to £200m in payments to 2,500 existing customers, while £550m will also be made available to increase support to these firms. About 1,200 hi-tech firms in Britain not in receipt of Innovate UK funding will be offered £175,000.”

As you mention only companies that have already secured the difficult to come by Innovate UK grants or loans will be eligible. Additionally, there is no clarity on who ‘these 1,200 high tech firms not in receipt of Innovate UK funding’ are. I have no confidence that my company is among them. 

Additionally, Rishi, have you considered that it is likely to be the same players eligible for business interruption loans who qualify for the startup funding?  Many growth stage startups and large companies with significant revenue receive money from Innovate UK for their special projects and will likely get even more through access and eligibility to more than one scheme. 

I personally loathe critics who offer no suggestions for improvement so let my outline some of mine:

  • Recognise that not all startups are at the same stage and each stage will need different types/levels of support
  • Do away with the £250k previous funding requirement. It will kill the early stage startup funnel and potentially block innovation in the short term. Moreover, if very early stage startups pack up, there will be little for angels and small VCs to invest in the next couple of years.
  • Match funding for SEIS eligible companies, minimum £50k.
  • Match funding for EIS eligible companies, minimum £150k.

Offer grants for bootstrapped micro startups with less than 5 employees. Most of these are very lean operations, as little as £15K will make a difference.

Work with white hat players to determine fair terms for founders and their companies. Tax payer money shouldn’t be used to propagate unfair terms.

If none of these suggestions are palatable, I hope you will at least collect demographic data of the companies you choose to help so when the dust settles, we can take stock of just how much help each portion of society received from your various stimulus packages. 

As for me, I’ll do what women like me have always done. I’ll roll up my sleeves, gather all the strength within me and keep making those calls until I find someone out there prepared to take a chance on my vision. I can’t let my team, my customers or myself down. 


tech entrepreneurs

Why is the path to success so much harder for women tech entrepreneurs?

female tech entrepreneurs, start ups

Article provided by Murray Morrison, Founder of Tassomai.com

For the past 20 years, I have been working in education and building an edtech company.

It has been a challenging journey, but I know that those challenges would have been all the greater had I been a woman. From the education perspective, I see endemic problems that make me fear we are still a generation away from the women tech entrepreneurs we need.

When our institutions do not nurture diversity, we all suffer.

Beyond the manifest unfairness of the situation, there is an opportunity cost to society as a whole. We currently live in a world where the things we use each day have been built by men. Because they have been built by men, they are - consciously or not - designed for men.

Changing this picture would mean more women in tech creating better products that serve all of our needs better. And a more balanced tech ecosystem will accelerate the virtuous circle - the more women tech entrepreneurs there are, the more there will be in future. 

But to do so means not only changing the way we hire staff, but the way we fund businesses, the way we develop and train our people, and the way we support our schools and teachers in developing a curriculum for the society we wish to see. 

Our education system is not set up for creating WTEs

The received wisdom is that, for anyone to forge new ideas in tech, they should have a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects. 

Of students studying these subjects in the UK, girls are a disproportionate minority. Particularly maths and physics where, beyond GCSE, the number of girls attenuate heavily. In a subject like computing - of increasing importance to our developing workforce - girls represent around 20 per cent of exam entrants. This is perpetuated by the inevitably skewed gender balance of the teaching profession in those subjects.

We could blame the damaging cultural stereotype of maths or physics intrinsically not being “for girls”, but there’s another aspect: in subjects that depend upon the recall and application of facts to formulaic questioning, there’s a lingering perception of ‘maleness’ to the approach that I fear leads girls to think they don’t belong. Contrast with languages, literature or humanities: here, learning follows a more discursive, socratic model of discussion and development of ideas. It’s easy to see how, as a society, we falsely impose our constructs of each gender’s strengths to draw the conclusion that STEM subjects are for boys.

Finally, the reality of the mixed classroom environment too easily draws the teachers’ attention, for better or worse, on certain students. Those who have their hands up with answers - or cause trouble with disruptive behaviour - are the ones who get the most attention. It’s not surprising that girls suffer in that dynamic - though schools around the country are constantly striving to mitigate this issue.

At Tassomai, we provide a self-quizzing app as a means for any student to practise and improve their knowledge. Schools frequently tell us that the major beneficiaries are those who previously may not have felt they could succeed in STEM subjects. But while edtech may be helping, this is a tiny dent in a bigger problem - one that will only truly be fixed if we can review the curriculum to better suit more diverse learning styles and recruit women to teach subjects like computer science.

Too few workplaces nurture female talent

Beyond education, our workplaces are still not set up to pull through female talent, starting with recruitment, and continuing through company culture. 

Most job advertisements have long lists of requirements for the potential applicant. It is likely that a male applicant who satisfies more than half of those requirements will take a punt, but  women are less likely to apply if they cannot confidently tick all the boxes. 

In light of that, we changed our hiring process to list only the most essential requirements, and focus instead on attracting a range of applicants with our development-focused culture; the result was a far healthier recruitment process.

In tech-related companies, where women hires are the exception, it’s no fun being one of those pioneers. Whereas men are afforded flexibility to learn from mistakes, women have to be far more conservative in their approach if they fear an error will make them vulnerable in the eyes of their colleagues. Meanwhile, as in schools, the misguided assumption that men have more aptitude for logical, iterative and focused work draws them into emerging career paths like data science and product design but diverts female talent away.

Unfortunately, it’s entirely that approach - developing analytical skills, learning from mistakes and turning potential embarrassment into the next innovation - that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit. If we cannot improve the hiring and working practices of our businesses, we risk holding female talent back and reducing the success of our organisations - and the future organisations that spring from them.

Business creation is not (currently) for girls

It’s clear to me how much of what I have achieved was made easier by virtue of my being male. I’ve been given trust by employers and investors; I’ve been granted authority before I was ready and had my mistakes indulged as I learned how to do better. I’m reminded of Ginger Rogers’ remark that she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards - and in heels. I understand how fortunate I’ve been.

From my vantage point in education technology, I see the work beginning in schools to support more girls in pursuit of tech careers. Employers need to demand more from all of our institutions - and ourselves - to accelerate these initiatives. 

As an economy, and as a society, we will all benefit from more women entrepreneurs in tech, but to get there still requires sustained, systemic change. We must continually remind ourselves of our need to improve the world, to define a new normal, and to have the stamina to keep pushing, at every institutional level, for change.

Murray MorrisonAbout the author

Murray Morrison is a leading education and revision expert. He is an edtech entrepreneur and the founder of Tassomai.com, the UK’s leading online learning programme used in school’s.


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