In the spirit of network building and collaboration, this month’s Female Tech Founder Night was very much about sharing knowledge around writing successful grant applications, having courage to pursue opportunities despite investor reticence post-COVID, and addressing the diversity and inclusion gap within the info security sector.
Hosted this time by Assenty founder and CEO Chi-chi Ekweozor (@thisischichi), the event kicked off with a presentation of the results of polls we ran weeks before the event using a question board from Assenty.
After this came a Q&A panel discussion on putting together successful applications for funding from government bodies like Innovate UK with Dr Paula Turner, Co-Founder, The Centre for Tendering and Sophie Walker (@Sophie_COO), COO and Co-Founder, Dsposal.
Paula provided some great tips on startups wanting to go down the tendering route as well: “start by looking at it as a journey. Develop a clear value proposition for that sector. It can be a long drawn out process”, – something Sophie agreed with – “learn what frameworks apply, and if you’re not successful on your own take your idea to others who have successfully won public sector contracts and form a partnership”.
All very, very good advice.
After the opening Q&A session, we went into a networking session! A first at our monthly events, this turned out to be very interesting, you literally saw the lines of collaboration and opportunity appear as people talked about their backgrounds and businesses.
After the networking session was the first of the evening’s lightning talks.
Joining us from Kent was Sonya Kimpton de Ville, (@SonyaKDV), CEO and Founder, Grapvyn.
She shared her journey in starting the company after working for several years in the corporate world, most recently as a head of operations.
Grapvyn is an intelligent platform that acts as a critical connector for structured followup after attending business events.
A solo technical founder herself, she shared her challenges in validating the technical side of the idea; she is developing it herself despite facing a setback with an investor pulling back after the outbreak of COVID-19.
This had the knock on effect of her losing her first employee, a developer.
She is pushing on regardless, aiming to have a minimum viable product (MVP) on the market by September 2020!
Up next after Sonya was Annie Mbako, (@nieniedoo), who shared about Infosec Hoppers and their much needed work to create pathways for increased diversity in the cyber security sector.
She started with some statistics – while 28% of those employed in the tech and digital sector are women, the number drops to 15% in information security. Only 16% are from ethnic minorities and 9% are neurodivergent.
The stark fact is that 48% of businesses report a skills gap within information security but there is still a great lack of diversity despite the fact that the sector does not require a very technical skillset.
To address this, Infosec Hoppers provide a lot of support to new entrants to the sector – they have a buddy system that supports people who would otherwise go to conferences on their own.
In addition, during the lockdown they’ve been putting on events on Sundays “purposefully for people who are not white and men”.
The upcoming event on 5 July, put on following request from members, is focussed on tackling racism in the tech sector with discussion on “what we can actually do”.
After the lightning talks we had the customary audience Q&A with the founders.
Questions ranged from how small small businesses and startups can “get themselves set up properly in terms of cyber-security” to how to make your organisation’s processes naturally inclusive.
The answers ranged from the specific (check out the resources page on the Infosec Hoppers website) to providing subtitles for content on YouTube.
All in all, a fantastically informative evening.
The next event is on Wed 29 July, 4-6pm – you can sign up already!
Before that, be sure to join us for the Coffee Hour on Wed 22 July, 11am to 12 noon!