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Twelve women rise to 5050tech challenge

The female founders of a dozen UK tech startups, including from Qudini, Edukit and Memrica, presented to investors this week at an event at London’s Google Campus, led by Martha Lane Fox and her Dot Everyone campaign. Toni Sekinah reports.

martha lane foxThis week’s 5050tech Challenge event was the final stage of a competition organised by Dot Everyone, the campaign led by founder Baroness Lane Fox, set up to help put women at the heart of the technology sector.

The dozen founders presented their businesses to a crowd of potential investors and mentors, including YeeMun Thum of Potential Female Founder and Sarah Turner of Angel Academe. Other influencers on the UK tech scene at the event included Anne-Dr Sue Black of UCL, Dame Wendy Hall and Lane Fox’s co-founder Brent Hoberman.

Lane Fox devised the 5050tech Challenge as a national initiative to redress the gender balance, with Dot Everyone opening applications to pitch at the event in January. A total of 180 applications were whittled down to a shortlist of 25, with judges choosing 12 to present to mentors and up to 30 VCs.

A warm-up day ahead of the event saw the 12 founders receive mentoring advice from the likes of Kathryn Parsons of Decoded and Suki Thompson of management consultancy Oystercatchers.

Speaking after the event, Sarah Turner told TechCityinsider: “It was great to see such a talented bunch of women building a really wide variety of tech businesses. There’s no shortage of female entrepreneurial and tech talent in the UK and help to understand what angel investors are looking for is vital for them at an early stage.”

Many of the finalists spoke of the empowering and supportive atmosphere of the event, welcoming as “refreshing” the chance to pitch to an open-minded and friendly audience.

Lane-Fox launched Dot Everyone last March at the BBC Dimbleby Lecture at London’s Science Museum, with three key aims – securing a wider understanding of the internet; getting more women involved in technology; and tackling the ethical issues thrown up by the internet.

In a pre-event blog, DotEveryone spokesperson Tara O’Driscoll said: “In the UK, women occupy just 17% of tech jobs. One of our core goals at Doteveryone is to change this by putting women at the heart of the technology sector by creating investment opportunities and meaningful mentorship from industry leaders.

“We believe that by making the UK the most gender-balanced tech sector in the world, our nation will have a massive global competitive advantage.”

Many of the finalists spoke to TechCityinsider about the empowering and supportive atmosphere of the day’s event with one adding that she found it “refreshing” to pitch to such an open-minded and friendly audience.

5050tech challenge – finalists

Crack + Cider (co-founded by Charly Cramer and Scarlett Montanaro) – ecommerce platform that allows users to buy useful items for homeless people.

Ding (co-founded by Avril O’Neil) – internet-of-things connected doorbell allowing users to talk to the person on their doorstep from wherever they are in the world.

Edukit (co-founded by Nathalie Richards) – online platform connecting schools, specifically teachers, with organisations that support pupil development

HelpingB (founded by Sheeza Ahmad) – crowdfunding platform for social good products that address the greatest challenges facing the world today.

Invest for Health (co-founded by Sorcha Moore) – helping health commissioners to engage with communities that are hard to reach.

Literacy Tool (founded by Keren Limor-Waisberg) – social enterprise making science more accessible to curious people through its scientific literacy tool.

Memrica (founded by Mary Matthews) – helping people with impaired memory functions by serving as a back-up memory.

Qudini (co-founded by Imogen Wethered) – queue management system used by restaurants and retailers so their diners and customers can digitally keep their place in the line.

RetVas (founded by Clare Wilson) – uses images taken of a person’s retina to assess the state of their health.

Squeaky Clean (founded by Emma Twist) – on-demand window cleaning service.

VOLO Group (founded by Melissa Mitchell) – social enterprise that has created a platform that brings individuals, companies and charities together through volunteering.

Yardstic (founded by Talisa Jane Du Bois) – tool that measures the impact of social impact initiatives.

The London 5050 event is being followed by another in Newcastle, in April.