Image credit: Catherine Thomas
The July #FemaleTechFounder Night was incredible. Twitter was alight with amazing feedback at the end, and we all learnt so much! Thank you so much to everyone who came and to everyone who contributed.
This was the fourth virtual event (and the fourteenth #FemaleTechFounder night since we started in February 2019) but not since the Christmas shindig have we had so much online chatter afterwards.
The transition to online events from meeting in-person was always going to be a challenge but nothing quite prepares you for the exhilaration that comes when those that do take the time out to log in and attend a virtual event leave buzzing!
So, what happened?
There’ll be some tweets from the night to add colour to the end of this blog post but first, here is a brief recap to tide you over till we publish the event as the second episode of our brand new Female Tech Founder podcast!
After the now customary review of the pre-event polls that had been running on our Assenty question board for nearly three weeks, the event kicked off with a Q&A panel discussion on scaling your startup post-Covid with Jess Jackson (@jessandthehive), Investment Director at GC Angels (@GC_Angels_) & Women Founder Champion and Assenty founder Chi-chi Ekweozor (@thisischichi), ably compered by our fantastic host Claire-Marie Boggiano, (@CMBoggiano), director, Lurig Ltd.
The poll results provided a fitting backdrop for the Q&A discussion, this one in particular indicated that many consider business support as critical to scaling post-Covid.
On this point, Jess shared a startling fact she’d discovered after running through the data on Beauhurst: month on month comparing this year to last year, the number of deals getting done at seed stage in Manchester has fallen a whopping 70%.
So, the real, grim news is that though demand hasn’t changed, competition for funding has gone up, significantly.
She provided some valuable tips for approaching VCs, high net worth individuals and angel investors in this new landscape.
It’s not just about knowing your Unique Selling Point (USP), to secure investment funding know how much you need, what it gets you, show them you have someone else interested and make it enticing.
This requirement to have funding to get funding did give pause but Jess clarified that it was really about making an investment into your company all the more attractive. Keeping investors up to date on significant developments as you work on your startup is also a great way to do this – in so doing, you potentially provide that elusive reason for them to invest.
After the Q&A with Jess came an update on tailored innovative support for startups and SMEs from Dr Giulia Sirigu (@GiuliaSirigu), Senior Innovation Advisor, Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).
With a reminder that you must believe in yourself first, Giulia shared how Inventya and EEN provide one-to-one coaching and advisory support to help commercialise innovative ideas. She urged us to take things “stage after stage” and to “try”, to actively apply for funding.
Inventya and EEN also provide assistance in getting a strategy in place to access Innovate UK grants and other sources of funding, for example, they can provide support in accessing a £3,000 grant for an IP audit.
She has kindly made her slides available for download, to get your copy click on the button below.
She ended by outlining the upcoming Women in Innovation Award which launches in September. She is pushing for more entries from the North West so keep your eyes peeled for further announcements!
After the Q&A discussion came the breakout into some networking! The time flew, as it always does and soon enough we were back in the main Zoom room listening to Emma Hopkinson-Spark (@bluebell_emma), Chief of Staff at 101 Ways (@101wayshq) deliver the first lightning talk of the evening.
Emma started off referencing the TV show The Secret of Luck by Derren Brown as a focal point for her talk. The point is that luck, rather than being a mystical ‘thing’ is about seeing opportunities and taking them.
She shared how, on reflection, she observed how much of her career had been down to saying yes, and taking opportunities as they presented themselves.
As she became comfortable taking those opportunities, and experiencing the positive pay off, the more confident she became that decisions taken in the future, provided they were grounded by the same values and principles, would bear fruit… she would ‘make no mistakes’.
She encouraged us to coddiwomple – to allow ourselves to be ‘lucky’.
Success is not measured by how much you stick to a plan and do outcomes, she shared, it’s measured by having a clear sense of purpose and being true to your values.
After that excellent start came the lightning talk by Benedicta Banga (@BenedictaBanga), Product Management Leader and founder of Blaqbase App (@blaqbase).
She shared that she started the business while she was furloughed after experiencing difficulty sourcing cosmetic products for black skin near where she lived.
She has now built an excellent app that is effectively a curated market place for black brands and black owned businesses.
She started working on Blaqbase at the start of the lockdown however after the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody in the US, there is now a different discourse when talking about black owned businesses.
As a consequence, Blaqbase has been featured on mainstream media outlets including Sky News, Marie-Claire and Stylist and interest has grown significantly so much so that the audience is now quite mixed on the platform.
Building online marketplaces is challenging, she added but she has also acquired skills in growing micro-communities something traditional ad agencies find very difficult to do.
Up next after Benedicta’s inspiring talk was Natalie Jameson (@njco2design), founder, City Zen AI Limited.
Natalie Jameson is no stranger to Female Tech Founder Night having been on the speaker lineup for the May 2019 event. She also took part in the second pitch practice we ran back in September 2019.
Natalie shared about her new artificial intelligence (AI) startup City Zen AI Ltd which is a voice first contact centre platform for tenants in social housing.
Developed to support Salford City Council’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been set up to “track the voice of the tenant” in social housing with the aim of helping callers receive the support they need at times of significant financial difficulty.
Those living in social housing typically face multiple challenges and these are often exacerbated by poverty. Using machine learning and natural language processing, City Zen AI Ltd will contextualise a caller’s problem to provide the appropriate response.
The plan is to also incorporate speech emotional recognition within the platform so it can detect when housing association staff have been dealing with tenants in emotional distress for prolonged periods of time and highlight this to their managers.
City Zen AI really is a great initiative and one of the few platforms using artificial intelligence to provide a direct and empathetic response to people in distress.
All in all a fantastic event!
Were you there? Please take a minute to give us feedback by voting in this quick poll.
We’re taking a break in August and will be back in September for our regular events: the Coffee Hour – one hour of networking from 11am to 12 noon on Wednesday 23 September and Female Tech Founder Night back on Wednesday 30 September, 4-6pm.
You can register now to secure your place at both events!
Sign up to attend the #FemaleTechFounder Coffee Hour, 11am to 12 noon, Wed 23 Sept. Register
Sign up to attend the #FemaleTechFounder Night, 4pm to 6pm, Wed 30 Sept. Register
Here come those tweets!