Top 9 women founders leading the UK’s high-growth UK scale-ups

With female entrepreneurs overlooked by venture capitalists, the UKBAA nominates its top 9 women founders of high-growth businesses

UK Business Angels Association has announced its nine nominees for Best High Growth Woman Founder at this year’s UKBAA annual awards.

This year’s awards take place at the Science Museum on July 2, partly to celebrate female founders leading high-growth business scale-ups.

According to the British Business Bank, start-ups with only women founders get less than 1pc of available capital compared with 89pc invested in all-male founders. Mixed gender teams snaffle the remaining 10pc.

However, angel investments in women founders represent 22pc of seed-stage deals and 14pc of business angel investors are women – highlighting that more female angel investors are needed to support women-founder scale-ups.

The nine nominees for Best High Growth Woman Founder are:

Bethany KobyBethany Koby, founder of Technology Will Save Us

Technology Will Save Us sells make-your-own electronics kits for children aged from four up to 11+. Little ones can play with electric dough while older children create their own wearables and even build a synthesiser.

Bethany Koby was inspired to set up Technology Will Save Us after finding toy shopping for her young son depressing. “I couldn’t find anything on the shelves that was future-facing, it just felt like tech shoved inside plastic,” she said.

Koby started small, around her kitchen table, and has now built a company of approximately 30 designers, educators, engineers and problems solvers –inspiring kids and empowering parents to become creators of technology.

Irina Albita and Maria Tanjala, co-founders of Big Couch

Since its inception in 2014, Big Couch’s founders Maria Tanjala and Irina Albita have established a reputation as a fintech disruptor in the often staid film industry.

Keeping track of revenues and often opaque film investment recouping waterfalls across multiple territories has been the bane of independent film producers, who often either cannot afford revenue collection agencies or end up doing the accounting themselves.

In 2017 Big Couch partnered with leading computer scientists at Imperial College London to see if blockchain could make revenue collection easier. Filmchain is a decentralised and transparent product for revenue allocation and distribution. FilmChain is being built on the Ethereum platform and will provide real-time information, lower friction and increase revenues for the film’s stakeholders.

Maria Tanjala says: “When data is transparent and easily accessible, it allows filmmakers to know exactly where their money is and enables them to adjust their business model in real time. For us this is game-changing.”

Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, founder of Tapoly

Founded in 2016, Tapoly “insurance on tap” products offer on-demand insurance for freelancers, contractors and SMEs. Customers tailor their insurance to their specific needs and only pay for insurance when they really need it. It provides on-demand insurance for freelancers, sole traders, contractors, home letters, equipment lenders and anyone else who is part of the sharing or gig economy.

Kaenprakhamroy says: “My vision is for Tapoly to be one of the largest on-demand insurance platforms that caters for the needs of global consumers, for all those who can’t get insurance, or those who can but not at a reasonable price, or those who will simply go without because they can’t be bothered to fill in lengthy forms.

Jemma Phibbs, founder of School Space

School Space is a social enterprise that has been working in Oxfordshire’s communities since 2011. It helps schools generate extra funds by hiring out their spaces to individuals, clubs, societies, and local businesses. The organisation works with schools to market their facilities and bring in local users to help reinvigorate the local community. School Space manages the end-to-end booking process, which includes all customer enquiries, service admin and cancellations.

Jemma Phibbs co-founded School Space when she was a 17-year-old head girl at Wheatley Park School. She and her partner James Lloyd struck on the idea of renting out Wheatley Park’s facilities to make money.

Since inception, School Space has generated over £300,000 in profit for its partner schools.

Dr Kat Bruce, founder of NatureMetrics

NatureMetrics is an award-winning technology start-up using cutting-edge genetic techniques to monitor biodiversity.

Each species carries a unique genetic signature in all cells. When an organism’s cells are shed into the environment (e.g. through excretion, mucus, saliva, gametes, or tissue breakdown) its genetic signature is also released. NatureMetrics isolates these signatures from water or sediment samples – or from complex mixed-species samples of invertebrates – and use them to determine which species are present.

Originally a tropical ecologist, Dr Bruce holds a BSc in Wildlife Biology and a PhD in the use of DNA metabarcoding for informing environmental management.

Melinda Nicci, founder of Baby2Body

Baby2Body is an app for women to keep healthy and happy during and after pregnancy. The app is a fully automated health, fitness and wellbeing coaching platform for pregnant women and mothers, helping women to optimise their health and wellbeing. Based on multiple data points from each user, it uses machine learning and proprietary, evidence-based content, to deliver personalised information and lifestyle advice: fitness, nutrition, psychological and emotional wellbeing, as well as updates on the growth and development of the baby. The company has reached over a million women in 100 countries and continues to grow.

Melinda Nicci first came up with the Baby2Body programme when pregnant with her first child in 1994. “I created the Baby2Body programme and lived it myself, and I’ve trained thousands of women with it over the years. I know it works,” she says.

Rasha Khawaja, founder of Toucan Ventures

Toucan Ventures connects founders working in food and beverage, lifestyle and retail with a network of mentors and investors in the London area. Mentors include restauranteur Marcus Wareing, judge on TV’s Masterchef, Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, and interior designer Nina Campbell. Toucan then acts as an introducer to venture capital investors including IW Capital and Crowdcube. Its investments include chef Adam Handling’s chain of restaurants.

Founder and CEO Rasha Khawaja says: “All I want to do is continue supporting exciting and disruptive young companies.”

Riham Satti, co-founder of MeVitae

MeVitae believes in augmented intelligence – humans partnering with artificial intelligence – supporting complex HR decisions. Its aims include removing unconscious bias from hiring decisions and talent acquisition for clients.

Satti says the idea for MeVitae came after she and her co-founder discovered how homogeneous the HR world was with little diversity in the workplace. “The pipeline just looks wrong from every angle. We thought ‘can we disrupt it, because we know how to build tech and we know how to build it fast’ and that was the start of MeVitaethe whole point of the company is to give people a chance in their career without biases,” says Satti.

Romi Savova, founder of PensionBee

London-based PensionBee was launched in 2014 and combines all your old pensions into one new online plan. The application enables its users to create profiles, including information on past and present pension and personal information. It allows them to track the pension progress and features a pension calculator to set retirement goals and add new contributions.

Romi Savova came up with PensionBee after she struggled to switch her pension provider and decided there had to be a better way.

Savova says: “I actually started the company after a harrowing transfer experience of my own but in doing so I discovered that I was not alone. We want to live in a world where people can look forward to retirement, so everything we do is to ensure that customers are well equipped to deal with a complicated financial ecosystem in a way that supports them.”

Currently, PensionBee has 178,000 customers.

This year’s UKBAA Angel Investment Awards take place on July 2 at the Science Museum, London. To find out more, click here.

Further reading

5 ways we help female founders achieve their ambitions