Women in Tech: A Review by Fiona Stewart

By - Tuesday 4th June, 2013

Fiona Stewart reports on May’s celebration of Croydon’s distinguished Women in Tech


I was really pleased when I found out Jonny had a “Women in Tech” evening planned for the tech city initiative. As a member of the sisterhood, and a massive supporter of women in business generally, I’m an even bigger supporter of any ladies achieving success in the tech world. It was great, therefore, to hear from a bunch of women – mostly mere girls in comparison to me – who were rocking it last Thursday evening with authenticity, innovation, and vast doses of humility and homage to their mums!

There were two main product presentations – one showcasing an actual product, the other a website, so the “tech” in each case was completely different. The first speaker, Emily Brooke, founder of Blaze Components, is currently developing the Blaze Bike Light. This is a high quality light for the front of a bicycle which projects a laser-like symbol of a bike onto the road ahead of the cyclist (about 5m). Emily told us that she developed this in response to the alarming statistic that 79% of cycling casualties occur when the cyclist is travelling straight ahead and a vehicle turns into THEM. The “tech” in Emily’s product comes in the form of a projected green bike image which is produced by an LED light through a lens.

Emily patented the design as part of her final year in Product Design at University in Brighton and plans to get it on the market by September 2013. What was great to hear about was her “tech” approach to raising money to fund production of the first batch of lights: she did it through Kickstarter. In addition to the money she raised, she now has a large group of backers who have proved surprisingly helpful in decision-making too. When trying to decide whether to continue improving the design of her product, or launching on time with an inferior product, Emily turned to the backers for their opinion. They overwhelmingly agreed it would be better to delay the launch to allow time to achieve the best version of the product. Her tribe of 782 backers/fans may turn into her best and most cost-effective marketing tool at launch and beyond. Clever – inspired even!

Speaker number two was Alexandra Dupledge, the co-founder of Teddle. Teddle is a London-based start up matching trustworthy cleaning service providers to busy customers. What I loved about Alexandra’s talk was that she confessed to having had no “tech” skills before designing the Teddle website. Nor did her co-founder for that matter. They are both self-taught.  To me (although I may be burnt at the stake for saying this) this is a definite advantage. Any development in Teddle’s case had to start with the customers’ needs in mind and not the “tech” itself. From a business point of view, that’s the ideal place to start.

Alexandra talked about how much Teddle evolved as a concept as well as an actual site. It felt good hearing about the varied lifecycle of the Teddle website and I loved her honesty about changing things that weren’t working. As budding entrepreneurs looking enviously at successful entrepreneurs (tech or otherwise), it’s easy to forget that a product or website rarely ends up in the form of the original idea. The website is being trialled in London only for the time being, while they rigorously ensure that it works alongside the necessary paperwork and checks that need to be done for the cleaners.

After the break there was a Q&A session with six women-in-tech panellists, including Emily and Alexandra. The four remaining panellists were: Suhela Gremmel, Managing Director at Adtech, a leading provider of ad-serving technology; Clare Sutcliffe, founder of Code Club, a nationwide volunteer scheme to teach 9-11 year olds coding; Luella Ben Aziza, Marketing Manager at Croydon’s own dotMailer; and Kirsten Campbell, General Manager at Seedcamp, Europe’s leading micro-seed investment and mentoring program.

The panel was asked questions about their thoughts on being “women in tech” and business generally by Sarah Luxford. Who their mentors were provided some interesting insights (Emily’s was her mum). Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Sheryl Sandberg, David Attenborough, and Dr Robert Winston were amongst others cited by the panel as role models. This led to a discussion about the lack of women in senior positions in business generally – even more so in tech. An interesting fact mentioned was that start ups owned by women turn over 20/30% more than those of their male counterparts! Clare Sutcliffe said she felt women needed to communicate their value more effectively through personal branding to help them take advantage of more business opportunities. Luella’s timely article for the Croydon Citizen on female role models supported her opinion that there must be smarter ways to assist women in business than bringing in quotas.

For me personally this was the best tech city meeting I’ve been to yet. The calibre of the presentations was excellent, the content was meaty, practical, and downright interesting and current. I was inspired by the women’s journeys into entrepreneurship – even though none of them think of themselves as women in tech particularly – and felt encouraged at how much support was coming at them from the men in the room. Positive male attitudes to women in tech will help ensure the long-lasting success of women entrepreneurship, hand in hand with those ever so clever, articulate, determined, and innovative women!

The next event: the Croydon Tech City Business Panel with product demos from South London’s tech scene and a Q&A from an expert panel of tech startup founders and business experts.

Sign up the event – to be held on Thursday 20th June at 7.30pm – here.

Croydon Tech City FTW.

Fiona Stewart

Following nearly 20 years in “corporate” life, I got off the hamster wheel. I loved it, worked with amazing people, and learnt a bucket load. Now it’s time to give some of that back to people I know starting up and running their own businesses who need help getting customers. My marketing expertise was learnt in the travel industry (British Airways and Kuoni) – the principles, though, are the same, whatever business you are in. Attract, get and keep great customers! I’m a mum of 2 young boys and I live in Surrey. My friends are an eclectic mix of amazing, talented and really groovy people who I love and admire. I love rock music (a recently rekindled love affair from earlier in my life) and I love good food and even try to make some of it on occasion for friends. They seem to like it! I’m thinking of writing a book….it will happen, just not sure when!

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  • Luella

    Nice writeup Fiona, cheers.