If there was a running theme during May’s #FemaleTechFounder Night, it was that a transition to a sense of normality out of the lockdown is very much upon us.
What that is, remains to be seen, of course.
The upheaval brought on by the global outbreak of COVID-19 has thrown all manner of curve balls and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the majority of startup founders, female founders being no exception.
At the event which took place on 18 May in partnership with Barclays Eagle Lab Salford (@eagle_labs_sal), we learnt about drawing on our networks during this time and learning to adapt quickly to changing conditions.
This was our twelfth event, and our second virtual meetup, following last month’s outing with the online Leeds Digital Festival. Thank you to our amazing speakers Melanie Parker (@grafttalent), Founder, Graft Talent, Katy Rea (@battalionagency), Managing Director, Battalion, Dr Giulia Sirigu (@GiuliaSirigu), Senior Innovation Advisor, Enterprise Europe Network, and our fabulous host Claire-Marie Boggiano (@CMBoggiano), director, Lurig Ltd.
The evening kicked off with a Q&A panel discussion on the funding and support available from Innovate UK partner Enterprise Europe Network.
Giulia Sirigu, Senior Innovation Advisor at Enterprise Europe Network provided us with a great overview on the package of funding and support available to startups and SMEs in light of the coronavirus pandemic. She also provided some much needed clarity on applying for the grants available.
There are three categories of COVID-19 support for existing Innovate UK projects: monthly payment, continuity grant and continuity loan.
The COVID-19 Continuity Grant is for SMEs whose organisations are already Innovate UK grant holders. This funding supports organisations that are at risk of ending projects due to unavailability of funds. Deadline to apply: 29 May. For more details on this grant and other funding support, do contact Giulia (@GiuliaSirigu).
Acting as the “voice of the founder” Assenty founder Chi-chi Ekweozor (@thisischichi) participated in this panel discussion, asking whether applicants can be given an idea of their chances of success in what is becoming an increasingly competitive landscape for grant seekers.
The response was that there is now much stiffer competition for grant funding: Innovate UK expected 1000 applications for the £50k grants launched at the start of the pandemic and received 8500.
The key takeaway from the opening Q&A was to apply to all the grants, not just the Women in Innovation programme which was initially the focus of the discussion. Enterprise Europe Network partner Inventya also provide fully funded support to help companies prepare for the end of the lockdown where they help review business plans, build resilience etc.
After the opening Q&A session came the lightning talks and up first was Melanie Parker, founder of Graft Talent.
She shared her journey in starting the Leeds-based business which specialises in connecting SMEs and scale-ups with tech talent. One of her many fantastic one-liners was this one, on collaboration:
“Just ask the questions and do it!”
Hers was a thought-provoking lightning talk; she spoke emphatically about being energetic about the future and plugging the skills gap in tech, “our region needs to make sure people have good jobs”.
Indeed! After Melanie was Katy Rea, Managing Director, Battalion.
Katy talked about her journey in starting the brand strategy agency: “I have a bit of a colourful career trajectory”, she began.
She shared about pivoting the agency from its music industry roots to tech and provided some excellent advice on setting up a base style guide. “Do this so that all your channels are consistent”.
It was a great event and we’ll be sharing some video content from it soon. In the meantime, you can enjoy the results of the quick polls we ran on our Assenty question board before the event, shared before the Q&A began by Chi-chi. As with our other virtual events, we shape the content delivered at the event with the community before it happens using these quick, multi-platform polls.
Save the date!
The next #FemaleTechFounder event is on Wednesday 24 June, from 4-6pm. Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement on Twitter, we have a very exciting speaker lineup!
We also announced a very exciting new initiative for the #FemaleTechFounder – the Coffee Hour!
Join us on Wednesday 17 June from 11am to 12 noon to network, get some valuable moral support and connect with the rest of the community.