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Know any incredible start-ups innovating women’s health?

FemTech Lab are looking for ambitious and mission-driven femtech entrepreneurs for their 3-month accelerator.

The 12-week programme is uniquely designed around the specific needs of the women’s health technology sector.

The format is a hybrid between virtual and in-person sessions. The majority of the workshops and mentoring will be conducted virtually. There will be two intensive in-person bootcamps.

Applications for FemTech Lab’s Autumn cohort are now open. The application deadline is 10 July.

Let’s accelerate women’s health together so we can build a bright future for women.

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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.


female leader, women leading the way featured

Why not every gender is allowed to fake it till you make it in the tech sector

female leader, women leading the way

Article by Abadesi Osunsade, Acumen Fellow and Founder and CEO of Hustle Crew

Questionable, unethical and, arguably, dangerous behaviour has run rampant in the world of tech start-ups in recent years.

And yet it was the recent trial of Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, that supposedly lifted the lid on the culture of Silicon Valley.

Who is allowed to fake it ‘til they make it?

As the evidence of Holmes’s crimes were laid out during the trial, it seemed the once-heralded entrepreneur had followed the fake it till you make it playbook of so many of her peers, albeit it on a much bigger scale. Indeed, Apple announced its first iPhone before it had figured out how to mass-produce its prototypes, while WeWork’s Adam Neumann and Uber’s Travis Kalanick have, through a blend of bravado, optimism and diversionary tactics, hyped their way to raising over $10 billion for their companies.

And despite this, Holmes is facing up to twenty years in prison while the three companies mentioned above are now worth a combined $3.12 trillion – leading one to question, why are some allowed to fake it while others can’t?

This question was the focus of a recent piece in The New York Times by the former CEO of Reddit, Ellen Pao, which asked why “the boys club” in the tech industry “supports and protects its own – even when the costs are huge” and yet “when the door cracks open ever so slightly to let a woman in, the same rules don’t apply.”

The lack of VC funding for female-founders

It’s easy to see where Pao is coming from given that in the past 18-months a huge number of female founders or c-suite leaders have stepped down, with much of this being driven by a drying up of VC funding. In October, data firm PitchBook reported that VC funding for companies with female founders dropped to $434 million in the third quarter of last years – its lowest level in three years. And before the pandemic, women-only founding teams received just 2.6% of all venture capital invested in start-ups in 2019, with black women receiving less than 0.3% of VC in 2018 and 2019.

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This is despite the proven success of female-founded tech start-ups. A 2018 study by the Boston Consulting Group, Why Women-Owned Start-ups Are a Better Bet, found that for every dollar of investment raised, start-ups with at least one female founder produced 78 cents in revenue, compared to 31 cents generated by all-male run start-ups. Start-ups founded or co-founded by women also performed better over time, generating 10% more in cumulative revenue over five years – $730,000 compared with $662,000 for all-male run start-ups.

The success of female-founded start-ups contrasts with the lack of funding offered by VCs and points to something much bigger and worrying than the usual peaks and troughs of start-ups in Silicon Valley. It reflects the implicit biases we hold against women that we as society often fail to recognise.

The impact of the likeability bias

Women face what’s called a likeability bias: where they face a social penalty when they assert themselves. This is rooted in the historical expectations of how women and men are expected to behave. Society expects men to be assertive so when they take the lead – or to put into context with tech start-ups, are bombastic and full of bravado – it feels natural to us. In contrast, society expects women to be kind and communal, so when they assert themselves, we often react unfavourably or, as shown by the lack of funding given to female-founded start-ups, we ignore them.

This double-bind makes the workplace and entrepreneurialism challenging for women because they have to assert themselves to be seen as effective, but when they do assert themselves, they may be less liked or rejected simply because they do not fit societal expectations of how women should behave. Whereas men do not walk this same tightrope – in fact, men are often rewarded for asserting themselves or, when they do assert themselves and cross the line, such as Neumann and Kalanick’s overinflation of their companies worth, they are not punished in the same way a woman may be.

The double standard that exists for women in the tech world must be addressed and this is something we are attempting to do at Hustle Crew, and Acumen Academy is seeking to build the leadership that can make this change happen. The status quo cannot continue – because, as Pao correctly points out, it was sexist for Holmes to be held “accountable for alleged serious wrongdoing and not hold any array of men accountable for reports of wrongdoing or bad judgement.” There must be consistency across the board and either no one or everyone should be allowed to follow the fake it ‘til you make it mindset.


The five key components of a successful founder-VC relationship

Young crew of happy excited male and female business partners celebrating completed startup project while looking at camera and laughing, best places to work

Article by Ekaterina Almasque, General Partner at OpenOcean

Investment from a VC fund is fundamental for many start-ups. However, even with this added financial support, not all businesses are successful.

Figures from Harvard Business School show that as many as 75% of VC-backed companies never return cash to investors.

To build a successful VC-founder relationship, I believe there are five components:

  1. Set expectations early on

Before reaching any kind of agreement, the investor and founder must establish the terms of the relationship. For VCs, this involves pitching a plan to best leverage their investment to founders, putting forward a vision for the company in the future, and what guidance and support they can provide along the way. Equally, the founder must be transparent about what they are looking for in an investor to avoid any unavoidable obstacles later on.

In the tech sector, founders need to find a VC with experience and expertise to understand their offering and deliver meaningful value to the business. Seeking out capital at the expense of the specific capabilities or technological know-how required is, unfortunately, a common mistake for many founders of tech start-ups.

  1. Establish trust

Founders should see their investor as a trusted advisor. Investors have the experience they’ve gained throughout their career and other companies in their portfolio to advise founders on the best way forward.

When VC investment comes in, early stage start-ups in particular can scale up at pace, facing new challenges every day: recruitment, selecting partners and suppliers, deciding which markets to expand into, the list goes on. An investor will seek to fill any gaps in this period, answering questions, making introductions, and generally providing support as the business grows.

Throughout my time as a VC, I have learned that founders value belief above all else. Taking a start-up to unicorn status is a sizable task, and it requires a VC who understands the difficulties and is prepared to boost founders’ confidence with a steady hand.

  1. Grow together

As a founder, who is often synonymous with the business, it may be tough to trust a new investor and if not properly managed, this situation could generate tension and hostility when investors suggest alternative routes or question decisions made.

Instead, founders must recognise that investors have a legitimate interest in seeing the business succeed and remain open to any insights offered. Scaling a business is very different from starting one, and difficult choices will need to be made. If a founder’s rigid attachment to their original vision causes them to be unwilling when listening to others, it could put the firm’s chance of success at risk.

Many in the industry liken the best founder-investor relationships to that of an athlete and a coach. The athlete is the star, bringing the talent, passion, and inspiration to keep everyone motivated. The coach is the secret to success, supporting the athlete in developing their career through providing the counsel they need to prosper.

  1. Work on the relationship

Like any relationship, founders and VCs need to invest time and effort into nurturing their partnership.

In the case of OpenOcean’s investment in quantum firm IQM, it was the culmination of discussions over a long period, starting with informal discussions and building towards an eventual agreement to invest. By putting in this time, we built up a strong understanding of the organisation and established an effective plan for how VC investment could help ensure the long-term success of the firm.

Similarly, regular and honest communication is essential. In my work with the founders of hyperconverged infrastructure firm Sunlight.io, we used weekly meetings and informal catch-ups to get to grips with what the company was building and how our investment could help them.

  1. VC industry expertise

The last and perhaps most important ingredient of founder-VC success is sector experience. The technology industry is changing beyond all recognition, with advanced technologies creating new opportunities for innovation across all industries.

VCs need in-depth knowledge of the industry they’re investing in if they are to provide impactful counsel for founders. Ideally, this expertise comes from experience as a founder, gifting them proven credibility when guiding new founders.

Final thoughts

To close this article, I’d like to address the lack of diversity within the VC industry. According to the Global VC Report 2020, the industry reached an all-time high of $300 billion in venture funding in 2020, and yet only 2.3% of VC funding went to women-led start-ups. Combined with other pandemic-induced backsliding in the way of gender equality, these figures are a major cause for concern.

As we are aware, diversity in the workplace is linked to greater productivity and better decision-making, but gender diversity in particular leads to more innovation – a key attribute of a successful founder.

Unfortunately, the VC industry itself has somewhat of a ‘boys club’ notion associated with it, and this outdated perception of the industry has slowed the influx of women into the sector. However, to resolve this issue we must transform our thinking as investors to minimise the influence of unconscious bias and instead, be open to the fantastic opportunities being presented to us, regardless of gender, age, race, or any other factor.

If investors can follow this model of investment, we can reach the future we all want: an industry that backs and supports the ambitions of talented and driven founders – irrespective of who they are.


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Tech Nation empower ambitious tech entrepreneurs to grow faster through growth programmes, digital entrepreneurship skills, a visa scheme for exceptional talent, and by championing the UK’s digital sector through data, stories and media campaigns.

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We believe the UK is the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business

If you’re an ambitious tech entrepreneur, then we’ve supported thousands of people like you through all stages of business with our activities as Tech City UK and Tech North.

Our story began in Shoreditch in 2011, launched by the then Prime Minister David Cameron, to support the East London tech cluster known as London Tech City — or Silicon Roundabout. Since then we’ve been on a journey, spreading our activities to cover other parts of the UK, and have set up Tech North to run programmes across the North of England. Last November, Prime Minister Theresa May and the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the launch of Tech Nation, consolidating Tech City UK and Tech North’s impact.

Now as Tech Nation, we’re expanding our network of growth programmes, events, skills and data resources to reach all corners and clusters of the UK.

What we do continues to be shaped by your voices. We just finished a listening tour to meet representatives from the UK’s vibrant tech landscape and understand how best to shape our national network to meet your challenges.

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Gaza Sky Geeks soldier through power cuts for startup glory

 

Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff has become the latest tech leader to put his weight behind a Gaza based startup accelerator, initially launched to encourage more women to found their own companies.
Gaza Sky Geeks

The Palestinian technology accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks, is raising money for a generator to extend its now co-working hours to evenings and weekends.

With electricity only made available for 12 hours a day before battery life is required, and frequent power cuts, the accelerator is struggling to further its working hours without a generator.

The campaign originally set the target of $95,000, which has been exceeded.

A new target of $400,000 has been set, with the additional funds being set aside to support the hub through the launch of a new coding academy, the creation of 22 internships for Gazans in European and US tech firms and for the training of high schGaza Sky Geeksool girls in coding.

Benioff joined a list of tech luminaries who aim to match dollar for dollar, any donations to the #PowerUpGazaGeeks crowdfunding campaign.

Said Hassan, GSG’s manager and a startup founder said the area is “facing the worst energy crisis we’ve had in Gaza, with some homes getting as little as four hours of electricity each day.”

“Gazans are smart people working on ideas for companies,” said Dave McClure, founding partner of 500 Startups and an advisory board member for GSG.

“They deserve support and investment just like any other startup founder anywhere else in the world. To some extent, they have even more hustle because they’re working in such a tough environment.”

Entrepreneurial Gazan women have been flocking to the tech startup sceneGaza Sky Geeks since 2011, when Gaza Sky Geeks launched with a grant from Google.org after the company realised the technology opportunity in the area.

Gaza Sky Geeks is run by Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian organisation.

Since launching in 1979, Mercy Corps has helped more than 170 million people survive emergencies and rebuild their lives.

Gaza Sky Geeks is the only startup accelerator in the Gaza Strip, with the mission of transforming the country’s youth into technology business leaders.

The accelerator encourages entrepreneurial spirit though events, trips outside of Gaza and networks connecting startups to investors and mentors.

Gaza Sky Geeks
Gaza Sky Geeks working through a power cut

Originally designed to increase the number of Gazan women who successfully found a startup, Gaza Sky Geeks was launched to make sure female pioneers can connect with each other.

With a population of 1.7 million, in a space of 25 miles by five miles, 99% of Gazans have literacy skills and are known for being technically apt, despite only receiving electricity 12 hours a day.

Over 50% of the population in Gaza is under the age of 18 and with unemployment rates at 43%, both men and women are encouraged to find work with many girls choosing to study STEM based subjects. The internet in Gaza is said to be of higher quality than in some of its neighbouring countries. For many residents broadband is the only connection to the outside world, with Twitter being used as a way to keep up on which areas are safe and which are not.

Due to Gaza’s closed borders a private sector has been difficult to develop, which tends to affect Gazan entrepreneurs ideas. Closed borders and tGaza Sky Geekshe threat of conflict means most are focusing their ideas on software for consumers rather than hardware development and enterprise sales.

Also joining the campaign this week is Lean Startups author and guru Eric Ries. Existing backers include Paul Graham (YC), Brad Feld (Techstars), Dave McClure (500 Startups), Fadi Ghandour, Samih Toukan, the Skoll Foundation, Freada Kapor Klein and others.