Meet Letitia Seglah

Meet Letitia Seglah 800 800 OneTech

Letitia is co-founder of Finanshria, an online marketplace to match make the Islamic community with Islamic finance solutions.  She has a background in investment banking and lives on the South Bank, on the borders both Southwark and Lambeth. 

Tell us about your business and where the business idea came from?

Finanshria is an online marketplace to match make the Islamic community with Islamic finance solutions. We are building the equivalent of Go Compare. The business model is business to business and then to the customer. We’re covering the B2B side by bringing a lot of those offline providers of Islamic finance online on our platform. Then finding customers for them and matching customers with those products. 

My cofounders and I all separately went to the STRIDE OneTech Startup 54 event in February 2020 with our individual business ideas. One of the other team members is from the Islamic community and she told us her experience of trying to buy property in the UK. She couldn’t find an Islamic compliant mortgage provider so they invested in Pakistan instead. She also explained a lot of other difficulties around finding 100% Sharia-compliant finance solutions. When we interrogated the problem, we realized that there is a huge gap. There are providers in the UK market, but it’s not a transparent market, so it’s very difficult to find the solutions. People easily invest overseas because it’s a much bigger market in the Middle East and Asia. So we asked what could we create as a minimum viable product that could add value to the Islamic community in the UK-a marketplace where people could find solutions according to their Islamic faith which also retains investment in the UK. 

What stage is your business at now?

At the moment we’re developing the first version of the product from a technology and functional point of view. None of us has a tech background. I have an investment banking background. The other co-founder is an architect, the third co-founder is a lawyer. I have some experience working in the digital transformation which is useful to guide us through the product development stages.

Have you thought about your investment strategy?

We are self-funded right now and applying for some innovation grants in the UK and from the European Commission. Later we’ll look at private investment opportunities. 

Can you tell me a bit about your background and if and how it influenced your business journey. 

I worked in investment banking for 15 years. I always thought about starting a business but I didn’t know-how. When I was at university, business courses were very much about business administration. Fast forward 15 years later we’ve got organizations like OneTech to provide accessible support for people to generate an idea all the way through to starting a business. 

In 2012 I started my own side hustle with a mentoring and consulting business in the fintech space and through that, I learnt more about the innovation and startup ecosystem. I left banking in 2018 to focus on my consultancy. 

So when this opportunity came up I knew I could do it because I have a compliance and product background in banking, I’ve worked in digital transformation and I understand that the technology needs to support the business. Now I am a fintech founder! There is so much support so it’s a fantastic time. I’m very excited about it. 

Can you tell me a bit about the challenges that you’ve faced along the way and how you’ve overcome them?

Our main challenge is being non-tech specialists, really understanding the technology stack that we need to build. Whilst I do have some experience from my previous jobs working in digital transformation it’s quite different to build something from scratch yourself.  We have to go through that learning curve, understanding how we can monetize our products, and recruit the right tech talent. The impact of COVID 19 means there are a number of graduates coming out of university with a lot of technical skills we require, in this environment, that gives us an opportunity to hire some really good talent. 

Do you feel that there’s anything in your background that’s been either an advantage or disadvantage in your career generally, but also in the startup journey?

I think something that has been an advantage could easily be a disadvantage. I was born in Ghana and came here to the UK when I was seven years old. I had a very fluid identity and I was able to compare the benefits of both societies. Going through the education system, through various institutions, to working in a predominantly white male environment.  In investment banking, I felt that my background gave me a lens to always be able to compare and have a critical analysis.

My co-founders and I are all female immigrants coming from different continents and different religious backgrounds.  I am black African. One is from Pakistan, the other one is Indian. We are working together in London, which is a very diverse place, and these diverse experiences we bring together give us an advantage. The niche we’re working in terms of Islamic finance is very male-dominated, we think that our experience, our backgrounds, our individual and collective insights will add a unique lens.

Will your product target women? 

We’re targeting both men and women. But what we’re finding is that women are looking for lifestyle financial products, for example for weddings, nest building, etc., and we can bring that into the product mix. Equally, when speaking to males they also will have their financial priorities.

Tell me a bit about the STRIDE OneTech programme. How did you hear about it and how did it support you?

I heard about it through Capital Enterprise. I first went on the Start-Up 54 programme then it made sense to go on a longer program, the pre-accelerator, together with my new co-founders.

I found the program really useful, in particular, the mentoring and coaching aspect of, which helped us to think about our journey. The speakers provided good coverage on product development sales and so on. We found it very informative and structured, what we learnt and built is a good foundation to continue our journey. 

It’s provided us with a community of peers and experts we can reach out to as well. 

Do you think you have developed new skill sets as a result of being on the STRIDE OneTech programme? 

I think I have.  I think I could now call myself a co-founder of a tech company and that is a skill in itself. It can be very daunting. But this programme has helped me step into that role. Thinking about how to create something from scratch, going through that process of product development myself, thinking about how to fund the business, how to create revenues. So there are definitely new skill sets I didn’t have before. 

Where will you go for the next stage of support?

We do recognize that we still need support and for that, we really need to have an MVP. We’re thinking of applying to fintech specific incubators and accelerator programs over the next three to six months. 

Do you have any views on South London as a place to build a tech business?

The tech ecosystem is known to be in Shoreditch and the financial district. I don’t think South London has had the same opportunity to develop. That’s why the STRIDE program is really important because there are top talents and diverse talents here. There are people who live in South London who commute to the city or Canary Wharf and lots of professionals and young people as well. So I think South London has been maybe a little bit of a neglected neighbour. 

There is a lot of opportunities and by investing in South London we will start to see local economic growth which becomes especially important with the impact of COVID 19 where people’s jobs and livelihoods have been put at risk. Traditionally in crisis, people think about starting businesses and becoming self-sufficient. So I think it’s an opportunity to help south London residents to start that entrepreneurship journey. 

In terms of the impact of COVID and recent events on the global black community I feel that it’s a fuel in a fire to resolve challenges of social justice and us in the black community to build opportunities for ourselves. It’s a time of self-reflection but it’s also a time where people are getting their heads down and doing things and making changes.

Do you plan to base your business in South London?

Yes, absolutely. There is a growing ecosystem in south London of co-working spaces and support. So I see no reason to leave. 

What are your dreams and plans for the future?

We believe we can be a fintech market leader. We are the only fintech Islamic marketplace. We want to grow our market share, grow our presence.  In 3-5 years’ time, we’ll think about expanding to other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Our dream is to look at an IPO for the business and possibly offer banking products rather than just being a marketplace. 

The vision is also to think about how we can lever alternative finance into tech platforms. That could help certain parts of society or certain segments of a business journey. Other communities have money systems like in the African community we have what we call Susu which is a form of community lending.  The potential for growth is enormous.

Are there any entrepreneurs or businesses that you particularly admire or who have been a source of inspiration for you personally?

Foundervine is inspirational running this One Tech program and addressing barriers for founders like myself. Izzy Obeng, David Fosayo, Cecile Adjalo.  I’m a generation older than them and it’s reassuring to see a younger generation that are so headstrong, so focused and actually making real step changes in terms of change. 

There are a number of businesses in our space in terms of Islamic finance that are quite inspirational like Wahed. There’s one called Insha, which is backed by a larger bank.

In general companies like Revolut, Monzo, and Starling bank are inspirational in terms of how they listen to their customers. They develop products that people want and that solves a problem. So for us, they are good role models as well.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you set off on your founder journey?

I wish I’d done this before! 

I wish I had known that it’s actually very easy to start something. You don’t need to spend six months on a huge business plan. You can literally start from the idea. Build the idea in a lean way. It’s a journey and it doesn’t have to be perfect from day one. 

Is there any advice or message that you would have in particular for underrepresented founders?

Sometimes as underrepresented founders, especially when we think about our population size and serving our community specifically, it may feel like your idea is already being done by somebody else. But that isn’t a reason not to start.  Don’t be deterred just because someone else is doing it. In general, the market likes to have competition. It likes to have a choice. What makes you different is how you execute. Another thing is the fear taking that risk, the first step to overcome that fear is to rationalise, which will help you to realise that it’s not as is as fearful as you think. Create a financial buffer for yourself to plan your transition from part-time to a full-time founder.

There are a lot of resources out there in terms of access to finance. There are grants, angel investors and VC firms and PE funds that recognize the potential of underrepresented communities and are specifically investing in them. 

Is there anything else that you think you’d like to add that that’s important either in your personal or your career background or journey that’s key to your story.

Going and working in the industry actually gave me skills that I have now transferred. First and foremost running my own consultancy and now this fintech startup. So there are many potential founders out there who might be thinking ‘I don’t have an idea to start with’. But your skills are so relevant in the market that you could actually create a business based on your skills. There might be a problem in your profession that you face on a day to day basis at work that, could potentially be the genesis of a business idea.

There is still the time and the opportunity to start a business. Becoming a startup isn’t only for young people who are rolling out of university. It can happen at any life stage.

Letitia is a speaker at London Tech Week’s “How I Started: Meet the South London Founders Scaling New Ideas” on Thursday 10th September at 2 pm. Register now – https://londontechweek.com/event/how-i-started-meet-the-south-london-founders-scaling-new-ideas-diversity-and-inclusivity

Meet Samson Oguntayo

Meet Samson Oguntayo 800 800 OneTech

Samson Oguntayo is co-founder of Thribe, a platform to access beauty hair care and products for multicultural women. He lives in the Greenwich/ Lewisham border.

Tell us about your business

We aim to be the Treatwell providing home service hairstyling for multicultural women. We offer a trusted platform to connect customers with hair care and products and take a percentage for every transaction.

Where did that business idea come from?

I have three daughters with Afro hair. Can you imagine the time it takes for me to get my daughters’ hair done? You’re talking something like 5 hours for each person so we can spend a whole day in a salon. Just doing hair. This is not something that you do once every three to six months. It’s something you have to do at least once a month, minimum. You have to buy the products from one place and go to another place to get the hair done. I know people who travel from Manchester to London to get their done. Ridiculous.

We’re in the age where you can order your food and hail a cab from the comfort of your home.
So we are developing Thribe as a tech platform that connects customers to stylists and products.

What is the market you’re addressing?

Over £5 billion is spent on hair care in the UK alone. The African community accounts for about 80% of that. So you’re talking over 4 billion. It’s a huge market.

The biggest players in the market at the moment are the cosmetic stores that are predominantly owned by Asians, who don’t really know much about the products. They don’t understand the different types of Afro hair textures. Hairstylists are the experts. They are the mini influencers of the community. They are the ones to be giving advice.

How did you launch the business?

I have 2 co-founders. Two of us have been working on the idea since 2016. We were looking for a long time for tech expertise and recruited the third founder in 2017.

We actually launched in Nigeria first. We released a mobile app on Android with different categories for several industries, not just hair and beauty products. We wanted to know what the market wanted. We narrowed it down to hair and beauty. The market found us.

It took a lot of time but we wanted to be sure about what we’re doing. It gave us confidence that this is definitely the industry to focus on. Back in London, we didn’t want to go through the whole costly process of building an app again so we used a basic website. We’re now trying to validate the MVP and get traction. We’d done over 200 transactions since October 2019, then COVID hit.

The next stage is to get the funding we need to go all out and take it to the next level with web and mobile apps, and to work on the business full time.

How has COVID affected you?

It has affected growth. But believe it or not, we still have customers because black people can’t just leave their hair in its natural state. It will get really difficult to manage afterwards. So our stylists take precautions with PPE kit. We’re doing that because we understand what they are going through. Not everybody can watch a video on YouTube to do their own hair. There are people who genuinely need help, for instance, people with disability, they need that personal service.

We are generating leads. When the lockdown is over we’ll probably get a surge. There are waiting lists for hairdressers.

We stumbled upon the OneTech FounderVine pre-accelerator in the process of trying to find out about investment just before lockdown. We have become more active in trying to create a network around investment. I’ve probably contacted over 50 investors. The time is now unfortunate- it does have an impact on fundraising.

Businesses will be really important in how we recover and what kind of businesses do well. I think there’s a lot to be done about that in terms of government support. Get that money back on stream. Get investing again.

Tell us about your own background and how it has influenced your business.

Marketing is my thing. I am a director of a small marketing agency that I founded in 2013 when I finished university and couldn’t get a job. That’s how I started in the business world. It was a way for me to be able to feed my family.

I always felt like there was something bigger than I was going to be doing at some point. My partner Blessing has about 20 years of experience in the hair industry, so that was a good way in. We’ve always wondered why that industry has stayed the same for decades. Nothing’s happening. No real innovation going on. I travel back and forth to Nigeria for business purposes and during my travels, I started noticing issues back in Africa that we could solve.

It’s often a combination of your professional background and something you’ve noticed in your life that helps you spot a problem. I’m a bit of a problem solver I guess.

Do you envisage the business taking off in Nigeria and elsewhere?

Yes absolutely. We’ve validated the concept in two different continents. I mean you’re talking about Africa where the spending power is nothing compared to the west and we were able to makeover a couple of hundred sales in Nigeria too. We think this could be a global business.

What challenges have you faced and how you have you overcome them?

Challenges! So many of them! Where do I start?!

One of the main challenges is trying to convince people that you could do something so huge. I mean this is huge. It’s a big deal. And trying to raise funds is no joke, especially coming from my community. You don’t have family and friends that can give you £100k. You have to bootstrap. You just keep scraping and trying to make it work.

Do you feel there’s anything in your background that’s been either an advantage or disadvantage in your startup journey?

I come from a background that teaches you to have grit. You have to develop a thick skin and get that hustle on. Just don’t stop. So I don’t know maybe it is an advantage but I’d prefer it if it was a little bit easier. I don’t think anybody wants it this way.

The advantage is your culture. You’ve seen the problems that others haven’t seen. You’re identifying a business opportunity that others haven’t spotted or exploited.

Tell me a bit about the experience of the South London Innovation Corridor OneTech pre-accelerator. What support has it given you?

I learned quite a bit from it. It opened my eyes to see what it takes. You think you have learnt and done a lot already. And then you get to the programme and they disrupt that. It was an eye-opener.

I’m a bit of an introvert but I’m starting to find out about the support that’s out there that I never knew about before. You should be able to have access to it and you know that other people do and then you realize there’s just no room for you. You know the door is not going to open.

With SLIC OneTech you see that there are some people who are focused on opening those doors or at least trying to open some of them and point you in the right direction. I was quite amazed at the work that they do. I never knew about them before.

Do you think it gave you any new skills?

It takes time to develop skills. I don’t think it’s something that you can do in such a short time. What it did was introduce new skills and made me realize the gaps that need to be filled. For instance, you need somebody in finance, you need somebody in law. That being said, I definitely know a thing or two about how to pitch now – thanks to Foundervine

What are your dreams and plans for the future?

We want to be the Amazon for everything hair and beauty related. We’ve got big plans.

Are there any entrepreneurs or businesses that you admire or who’ve been a source of inspiration for you?

Beautystack is definitely one that came up on my radar. It’s pretty impressive that Sharmadean Reed was able to make that happen. It gives you hope.

Afrocenchix would be my number one. I read the story and it was crazy inspirational.

Is there anything that you wished you had known before you set off on your enterprise journey?

I wish I knew a little bit more about the support that is available. What I’ve picked up on is that there is so much information out there but it’s all over the place. It needs to be more streamlined and simplified, more focused. With clear advice: This is what you do- step 1, step 2, step 3.
It’s quite confusing and you can still feel lost even when you have all this information in front of you.

What would be your message and advice to other underrepresented founders?

I read somewhere that this is a marathon, not a sprint. The Silicon Valley stories are not reality. That’s a different world. It’s not going to happen like that.

Just put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to reach out. With the technology that we have today, you could probably reach out to Bill Gates. With so many people we’re talking to right now it was just from reaching out to them. What’s the worst that’s going to happen?

Samson is a speaker at London Tech Week’s “How I Started: Meet the South London Founders Scaling New Ideas” on Thursday 10th September at 2 pm. Register now – https://londontechweek.com/event/how-i-started-meet-the-south-london-founders-scaling-new-ideas-diversity-and-inclusivity

Meet Bella Ngo

Meet Bella Ngo 800 800 OneTech


Bella Ngo is the Co-founder and CEO of Brarista. She first immigrated from Vietnam to the UK as a teenager. Brarista is a deep tech and femtech business that makes professional bra fitting more accessible and accurate.

Where did the business idea come from?

Whilst doing my Master’s in Entrepreneurship at University College London (UCL) I was actually working as a professional bra fitter at a high street shop and that opened me up to the industry and how broken it is.  

The industry is not providing accurate bra services. Most of the time women get fitted with a measuring tape and that method has been proven to be only 30 % accurate because it does not take into account breast shape, physical condition and fit reference. It doesn’t translate into accurate sizing for bras or other products. I wanted to create something that women were telling me that they wanted.

I really want to help the industry to do a better job and create happier customers. Our vision is for women to find out their bra size using their phone cameras.  What’s also quite exciting is we’re leading to provide almost real-time analytics of how customers actually look in the breast area so that brands and retailers can make a better fit and get the product range more suited to their customers. 

How has OneTech supported you?

I was referred to OneTech by my adviser at the European Enterprise Network. I was the team-building/MVP-research stage. We had a co-founding team, had the concept validated, and were very eager to accept that early investment and to build the MVP. We had workshops every week coaching us on different aspects of the business in order to get the message ready.

The funding adviser that we were matched with through OneTech Pioneer Programme was very, very hands-on and helpful. In every discussion we had, she was able to point us in very useful directions. She never shied away from being there for us and regularly checks in to see how we are, which is really incredible. Her support has resulted in real trust and a sense of mutual interest and engagement.

I am very grateful to OneTech and Capital Enterprise. They didn’t hesitate to make introductions to different organizations that I would have taken months to get in contact with cold. 

What challenges have you faced?

There have been several challenges.

One of the things that I discovered as a founder especially during a fundraising journey is that you just have to be extremely resilient and not take anything personally. The OneTech advisors talked about fundraising rounds for other startups and it equipped me with that awareness. My product is female, bra related, a female problem to solve. If I’m pitching for an investment I need to know who is in the audience. If I am in a room with a majority of women, my pitch will be slightly different. Whereas if the majority is of males I have to adjust it as well. But I see that as a part of the job. It can be hard but I thrive in a challenge. 

The main challenge has been around the expected timescales of funding a deep-tech startup that starts ours from scratch. There is an expectation from both mentors and potential investors, including within the Pioneer programme, to ‘prove the concept’ before seeking to raise funding – when in fact the product requires investment to undertake the R&D needed to prove the concept. This is why lots of deep tech startups are university spin-outs. 

What is your experience as an immigrant women founder?

Starting a start-up in London, where I have nobody but myself, I quickly observed a pattern where successful founders tend to come from positions where their network determines greatly their chance of success in funding, partnerships acquisition, and PR. My head is filled with questions of whether the merits-based progression will happen for me in this country, as a founder.

I entered a number of business competitions and experienced challenges that may be attributed to (subtle) discrimination. I often tell myself to brush it off and not get caught up in the victim mentality because it will not get myself anywhere useful for the start-up. 

Immigrant founders are a distinctive subset within minority founders in my opinion. We hold very unique challenges including our language, network and visa – to name a few. I would love to see more support like OneTech throughout the startup ecosystem when it comes to immigrant founders. 

How is COVID 19 affecting your business?

With the lockdown, it means that we couldn’t really continue doing our in-person data collection, which is an important component of R&D. But it has pushed us to be flexible with our timeline. In a start-up, there are always lots to be done, so shuffling our task list has been rather fun. 

Oh, but there has been something quite positive and we’ve been so grateful for it. Under the funding of InnovateUK COVID Response Call, Brairsta is working with our first client at Boost (wewearboost.com) to apply our technology to build a virtual fitting software for breast prosthesis. This way, breast cancer survivors (among the high risks group) can stay safely at home to get their breast prosthesis fitted, instead of travelling to clinic settings to have it done (e.g. hospitals). 

At the same time, we also won the prestigious Enterprise Fellowship at the Royal Academy of Engineering. This means that we’re now a part of a hyper-dynamic group of innovators who are also pushing for their ideas to come to life – just like Brarista. 

What are your plans for the future?

There are lots- but one thing for sure is whatever that we do, we want to make sure that women get access to the best professional bra-fitting tools and knowledge possible. If you’re interested in what we’re building and want to be a part of it, join our co-creators community at www.brarista.co or brarista.fitting on Instagram. 

For the immediate months, we’re looking forward to continuing working on our prototype and kick start our pre-seed fundraising round. 

Meet Bardot Taylor

Meet Bardot Taylor 800 800 OneTech

Bardot Taylor is a first-time founder in her late 40s, a Black British woman based in Wandsworth, whose parents are from Jamaica. She is Founder and Creative Director of House of Nyabinghi, an online fashion platform showcasing luxury contemporary designers from across the global African diaspora, with a cosmopolitan, modern, Afrocentric aesthetic. 

Where did your business idea come from? 

I’ve always wanted to wear contemporary clothing by African designers but it wasn’t easy to find what I was looking for. Then, when I was out and about people would ask me about my style and where I got my clothes. There were a number of designers that I was aware of but there wasn’t that one house or shopping platform that people could go to. And that was how I began.

I’ve created House of Nyabinghi as a showcase for very contemporary pieces of ready to wear, swimwear, accessories and bags with a very cosmopolitan Afrocentric or Afrofuturistic vibe. The designers are based around the globe but have that essence of African culture within their heritage and expressed in their design. 

What challenges have you faced?

I don’t have a technology background so I had to work out the roles and skills that I needed in order to improve the visibility and functionality of my business. I spoke to friends and built a network.  I also wanted to connect with black people in tech so that I can understand that landscape from where I was coming from as a black person. Through that discovery, I’ve successfully established the platform.

How did you hear about OneTech?

I went to a great event at the London Mayor’s office hosted by Sadiq Khan and discovered OneTech. It opened a whole new world of information to me. People of all different colours, backgrounds, disabilities came together to hear each other’s stories.  One of the panellists was Emma Obanye of OneTech and she advised that I sign up. 

How has OneTech supported you?

At the time I thought I was almost at minimum viable product stage. But when OneTech looked at my pitch they gave me support to strip back a lot of information, to understand what would be the big sell when I am pitching to a funder. 

Then I joined the Fast Forward founder programme for entrepreneurs and was a part of the JP Morgan Chase pitching event which was such a success. So if it’s been incredibly rewarding as far as I’m concerned.

If I hadn’t engaged with OneTech I genuinely do feel I would have still been staggering around in the dark.  I now have confidence that my ideas are valid, but I’ve also become open to constructive critique. Nobody’s trying to knock you but they are really trying to help you take that advice.  It gave me an education about external funding rounds and pathways, with useful examples of other businesses that had grown via external funding, and real founders telling their stories. It made potential business trajectories much more tangible for me. OneTech has given me clarity of how vast the business could be. No idea is too big. With the right support, the sky’s the limit. It’s been awe-inspiring.

Now I am most definitely at minimum viable product stage. I’m working with some designers at the moment and was recently invited to showcase at one of the Fashion Weeks to bring out our first collection.

How has COVID impacted your business?

At present COVID is the biggest challenge for all of us. We are still on-brand. But we haven’t done mass production because can’t go into those production sites. We can’t fly to different parts of the world to see how our supply chain is moving. We are working out how to continue everything small scale but still deliver really great content and products. 

What are your plans for the future?

One of the reasons I set up House of Nyabinghi was to reach out to individuals to say ‘We are here in a safe space for you and we see you. This is a safe space for you to be joyous.’ That message is the same and when we come out of the pandemic I want to move forward with the business and bring joy with my clothing.

Meet Ola Bayoji

Meet Ola Bayoji 800 800 OneTech

Ola Bayoji, in his late 20s, is a Nigerian immigrant to the UK, based in Lambeth. He is a co-founder of Gyre, an innovative online buying, selling, and swapping platform, which he describes as “a marriage between Gumtree and Tinder.” 

Where did the business idea come from?

Back in 2017 a friend and I were considering putting all the stuff we had bought at university into storage but it was going to cost a lot.  And we thought, wouldn’t it be better to get to rid of it by sharing with other university students who may need those things? We built a beta app and ran a test for seven months until April 2019. The response and adoption rate was great. So we were encouraged to build a full version that was released at the beginning of 2020. 

The name and logo Gyre is the Greek for the counterclockwise swirl in the sea. Our purpose is to avoid landfill and plastics in the ocean by having people re-use items they might otherwise store or throw out. 

What is your target market?

The target audience is people aged 18-35 who wish to sell and exchange items that are still usable and valuable.  People in that age group are very much in that fast-fashion world and go through things very quickly. They buy a new phone and next year Apple has made a new one so they upgrade but are probably not going to use the old phone and it’s just going to stay there gathering dust. So the idea is to allow someone else to get some value and swap it with them. 

We want to add a selling perspective so if users can’t swap items they can pay for them. The app does not currently have in-app purchasing or transaction functionality. The team is working on app development to make that possible in the near future.

How has COVID 19 affected your business?

COVID19 has caused some challenges. Social distancing and lockdown means that the expectation for users to meet to purchase and exchange their goods is now less attractive. But the overall premise of the business – to swap and sell usable goods in order to de-clutter, generate income, and live more sustainably – is still a key source of value. There is a lot of talks now of being sustainable and keeping your space free of junk.

How did you hear about OneTech? How has OneTech supported you?

We connected with OneTech through YSYS. We were still testing the beta and we were looking for different ways to make sure that we were on the right path. 

OneTech offered a key source of basic entrepreneurship education. At that time I had no clue about stuff like funding.  No clue about the difference between product fit, product-market fit and market share. OneTech was able to help us understand what those different things mean for your business. Because this is no longer a small project. This is actually a business. 

I think what the FastForward programme has done really well for me as a founder is to tailor my message to my target audience, whether it’s an investor, whether it’s a customer, whether it is someone I’m trying to bring on board in the team. I have become a better strategic thinker and communicator. When I do want to have a conversation, I know exactly how to structure my message, I know exactly what I’m asking for, and I’m very open to taking feedback and understanding their perspective as someone who’s looking in from outside. The programme has helped me to think more critically and adopt a user-centric perspective. I’m a user that wants this product, so what do I expect from it? How do I think it should function? What are the values I think it should help me gain?  This has facilitated both product development and creative thinking. Once you understand those aspects, it makes everything else easier. You become more creative, definitely.  Which is why now in the Gyre team, I am  responsible for strategy, marketing and product design as well as user interface and experience (UI/UX

How does OneTech support underrepresented founders?

I am a pro-Black person, first of all, and I am very fond of seeing other people just like I come up with new solutions and ideas and work towards them and actually execute these ideas, not just talk about them. And we can all share resources, we can all talk about it, we can all reach out to each other and say ‘hey, I need help with this, what do you think?’ That, for me, is a motivation. I’m happy to know there are other people just like me, it’s not just me. The more people we have in that ecosystem, the better it is for all of us to feel more comfortable and actually execute the goals we have in our minds. 

Meet Ade Fola-Alade

Meet Ade Fola-Alade 800 800 OneTech

Ade Fola-Alade, co-founder of Baking Intelligence, an online knowledge marketplace for serious bakers. He is a first-time founder in his mid-20s, a Nigerian student immigrant to the UK, with a Master’s degree in Cyber Security & Big Data from Loughborough University London. He runs the business along with his Accra based mother and brother. 

Where did your business idea come from? 

Baking Intelligence was founded when we realized that a lot of people wanted to learn to bake but not on YouTube or Instagram where they had no contact with the teachers. We created bakingintelligence.com as a place where you can simply log on and immediately get all the videos you want, but also interact with the instructors. You can ask questions about specific recipes, you can share your recipes and outcomes with the rest of the community. You can get advice and even business tips. 

Baking Intelligence was founded when we realized that a lot of people wanted to learn to bake but didn’t simply want to do so YouTube or Instagram where they had no connection with the teachers. We created bakingintelligence.com as a place where you can simply log on and immediately get all the videos and learning content you want, but also interact with the instructors. You can ask questions about specific recipes, you can share your recipes and outcomes with the rest of the community. You can get advice and even business tips. 

How did the family business get started?

Ours is a very interesting story. My Mom’s been a baker for quite a while now. She started her own baking business, opened a cafe and built quite a reputation for herself. After a while, people started asking her to teach baking. She got loads of DMs all the time on Instagram. 

So in January of 2018, when we were making New Year’s resolutions, she said ‘Hey I want to build the business. I want to start training people but I want to do it online through WhatsApp and Facebook groups’. Initially, I thought it was a silly idea. Why would I learn to bake through a WhatsApp group? But the more we talked, the more I realized there was something in it. We put our heads together and with my technology expertise we created the very first Baking Intelligence app and even before it was launched we had about 200 sign-ups. 

What is your market niche?

Originally our USP was that Baking Intelligence was built by Africans for Africans, tailored for African tastes and a hot climate. Our customers think ‘Hey, here’s someone that looks and thinks like me. Teach me how to bake!’ They want to relate with someone, want to feel like they know you, not some YouTube celebrity that probably wouldn’t talk to you if you asked a question. The company operates internationally across the African continent, with students from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and within the diaspora.  

How has Covid 19 impacted on the business?

Covid 19 has been crazy for us.  All of a sudden everyone was stuck at home and it seemed the world turned to baking. We’ve seen a huge spike in interest and had to hire more staff to cope with the number of people we’re onboarding. We’ve also seen a surge in our international sign-ups from Australia, Malaysia, the Caribbean and pretty much all of the English speaking world, so the global appeal of our offer has become evident. As of May 2020, we have 3,500 students signed on to the platform, up from 1800 in 2019, a year on year growth of close to 100%, with more expected, while growing our Instagram following to 31000.

How has OneTech supported you?

I signed up to the OneTech Fast Forward pre-accelerator programme in February 2019, and that was life-changing. It took founders from idea to pitch to understanding how to get their businesses to the next level. We got access to different mentors coming in every week from all sorts of spaces such as startup founders or investors. It was a real diversity of thoughts and ideas. Each week was a new eye-opener and made me realize ‘Gosh, I’ve got so much more to do’. It exposed me to the startup community in London. It changed our mindset from being a small family ride to becoming a scalable business that could have a real impact

I think it’s amazing work that OneTech has been doing. I came to London as a student immigrant. I had no connections within the startup space. Everything I knew was from the news or anecdotal. Through OneTech I’ve met some really amazing female founders and loads of people from BAME backgrounds who are doing incredible things. 

What is your advice to underrepresented founders?

Through programmes like OneTech you can start to see people who look like you and come from similar backgrounds or have similar upbringings, being successful. I really do think that changes your mindset. Get on board and see how much you can unlock your hidden potential. 

Meet Kristen Shannon

Meet Kristen Shannon 800 800 OneTech

Kristen is the co-founder and CEO of Highliner Technology, a platform which uses Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to provide personalised support and coaching for managers.  She has a co-founder and 3 part-time contractors. The business is currently at MVP stage.

Tell us about your startup journey

When I registered for OneTech in Summer 2018, I was transitioning out of two years of full-time employment as COO of a deep tech start-up, which was closing its Series A round. I had applied for that role with the intention of gaining relevant experience so I could eventually have my own start-up.   I was incredibly fortunate to make a pivot into the tech industry and to get the confidence and exposure needed for my start-up.

What does Highliner do?

Highliner uses machine learning and natural language processing to provide personalised support and coaching for managers. It creates behavioural change in the workplace by taking complex processes, like how you give good feedback, or how to be more empathetic in a team, and breaks then down into pieces you can practice, backed up with tools to become more effective. Our current focus is on frontline managers with lots of team members and we see huge opportunities in where this can go.

What is your background? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to you as a tech founder?

I’m an immigrant to the UK from the US, having recently attained dual citizenship.

A key difference for me, as an immigrant founder, was understanding British communication norms, and striking the right balance between confidence and asking for help. I’ve found walking that line is tough.  When I moved here, I realised people are saying the same things but mean something completely different. I still have the challenge of being perceived as too forward and upfront.

However, I think it is important to say that there is a double standard where white immigrants from the US (and other English-speaking countries) are thought of as “ex-pats” and not immigrants. It is important for me to be clear that my privilege as a white woman from the US means I do not face the same amount of prejudice as many other immigrants.

What are the challenges you’ve faced, especially as an underrepresented founder?

There are challenges that all founders face. It’s hard running a start-up, and that’s universal. But, I think there are some additional challenges for underrepresented founders and being part of the OneTech community coming together, identifying and sharing those same experiences with each other has been really positive.

Despite the support I’ve had, I still feel the challenges of being an underrepresented founder in the sector. Women showing ambition inherently biases us compared to men.  As under-represented founders, we have to be ten times better.

How has OneTech supported your journey?

I was part of the very first One Tech cohort when my startup was at pre-conception stage. So from the very beginning, it was a helpful extra push to make that leap.

Without OneTech I wouldn’t have joined the FastForward programme.  It helped me add structure to what I was already doing and formalise my thought processes. The accountability and homework components kept me on track. I was already talking to users, and outlining my MVP, but I wasn’t thinking about minimum viable segment. It built my confidence both in my pitch and in my evidence base.

I also found great value in the way it offered a built-in group of people with whom I could share and revise ideas. There is time set aside to bounce ideas. I keep in regular contact with a lot of the founders from the programme and we provide a fantastic support network for each other.

What is your advice to other underrepresented founders?

One of the key things about being in tech is how network focused it is and how important it is to have a wide network from a fundraising point of view, but also from client and talent points of view. I’ve been fortunate that One Tech gave me additional access to a wider network than I already had. It’s provided me with the possibility to meet all of these people but also in very open community focused on supporting each other.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for favours.  It’s hard and I think people offer them less because they don’t want to be presumptuous.  But at every step of my journey, someone volunteered a favour and they have been essential to my journey as a founder.


Meet Danielle Dodoo

Meet Danielle Dodoo 800 800 OneTech

Danielle Dodoo is Founder and CEO of Piin and Pintro, apps that connect users in real-time and facilitate community support.

Where did your business idea come from? Tell us about your start-up journey

Throughout my corporate career, I’ve had various side hustles and I have experienced the challenges of taking a vision from the idea stage to launch, more than once. Despite my experience, it has never ceased to surprise me how hard it is to search for and connect with the right people and communities that I needed to unlock doors and support me on my journey. 

As an entrepreneur and freelancer, and particularly as a female founder, my need to find a community and a support system is a priority for my success – because no one can succeed alone, but with the plethora of social networking tools, it can still be incredibly hard to make the right connections. I remember having to rely heavily on books, Google, YouTube, articles and blogs to help me get my head around the process, tools and various stages that I needed to take to get my apps live. The advice and narrative were always from a third-party perspective; from people I hadn’t met, couldn’t relate to, who couldn’t tailor their advice to my specific challenges and I really felt a void in regards to feeling supported.  Not knowing who I could turn to for help really took a toll on my motivation and my ability to maintain momentum to move forwards. 

I tried to leverage communities wherever I could but when I was at a coworking space or an event, it became very clear that I was missing out on opportunities to make valuable and meaningful connections. Networking events were the worst. My inability to identify the right people in the room was like Russian roulette. I found the whole process exhausting and had no tools to help me navigate the room. Apart from a few serendipitous encounters, I left events deflated and feeling like I had wasted my time. 

My goal in 2018 was to help individuals connect with like-minded people in real life, organically whilst encouraging people to socialise offline and in the real world.  So I built and launched Piin which allows people to match based on preferences with the goal to network, date or find friends. Piin is currently available on both AppStores and the user-base is growing organically at the moment, with around 3000 users. But the challenges I faced during the journey to get Piin live inspired me to research and understand why a large number of entrepreneurs and freelancers like me continue to feel like we don’t have a support network to support our goals and continue to find it difficult to tap into the communities we are already part of. 

Getting our products and services live would be a lot easier if we could lean on people who have already been there and are willing to share their knowledge and contacts. 

I really believe that knowledge is a resource. It’s the power that can be shared and recycled throughout our communities.  We should be able to tap into this power and be a lot more efficient when it comes to networking and sharing experience and connections, in a non-transactional way.

So I decided to build Pintro, an app which serves as a community manager and facilitates engagement within communities by making it easy to ask for help amongst your community and peers, request introductions and offer your support based on the skills you have. It’s also a great replacement for people who don’t like the cold, transactional nature of LinkedIn and who want to build and maintain meaningful, valuable connections.


What is your background? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to you as a tech founder?

I’m a first-time founder of mixed White and Black African heritage (Ghana and Uganda). My father was a Diplomat so I spent my childhood at different schools in different countries, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Czechoslovakia. I went to King’s College London and studied English and Classics then decided to move to New York and study Computer Science and follow a career in I.T.  I’ve now spent 18 years working in the technology and financial sectors, delivering digital transformation projects.  As such, I’m used to often being one of the very few women, not to mention women of colour, in my working environment.

Despite my substantial experience of working in technology, as a first-time founder, I still felt challenged in launching my first app. I faced similar problems to most tech start-ups – namely finding trustworthy and competent service providers – both in development, finance and marketing. And then, of course, there are the challenges of raising finance, particularly as solo, female founder. There are also so many facets of starting a Business that are not technology related, like understanding how to stay positive, how to maintain a balanced work-life, how not to beat yourself up when things go wrong. For these, you need to have a support network of people who understand your journey and have experienced similar pain.  I’ve had to build up my networks, and in fact, this is what my apps will help others to do.


How has OneTech supported you?

When I found OneTech I had already launched Piin. It had been on the app store for a couple of months and I’d had about 1000 users downloaded. I was selected as a later stage start-up potentially looking for investment. However, being a solo female founder, I was keen to understand how to best showcase myself in order to attract financing. Whilst I understood that there were various routes I could go down for investment and finding a team, I was grateful for the workshops and advice on everything from storytelling, pitch decks, pitching and what to expect when raising funds.  The most valuable workshop for me was the pitch readiness day. They showed us how to project our voices and carry ourselves confidently on stage.  

The ongoing Mindful sessions with Emma have been invaluable. They keep me focussed on moving forwards and knowing that there is always someone experienced and positive to reach out to as part of group sessions, or individually, has been incredibly appreciated.  


How has OneTech helped you overcome challenges you have faced?

Partly from the practical lessons I learned in the workshops, I think one of the most valuable things to me was meeting other black female founders, understanding the challenges they’d faced, whether it was looking for investment or having their ideas taken seriously.

One Tech really helped me in understanding the ecosystem and knowing how challenging it is as a female founder and a black female founder and how difficult it might be to get investment. 

It’s been a blessing to connect with a few wonderful, inspiring and talented women and remained friends with them. It’s so important to meet and be supported by other like-minded female founders and grow together. 


What are your plans for the future? 

I’ve recently taken on a contract role for a Saudi Bank in order to supplement the business and raise capital.  However, as with my first app Piin, I will still continue to put in the work outside of my 9-5 and get Pintro launched, piloted and get feedback and continue to gain traction. I already have five communities signed up so I’m excited to see what product-market fit will look like in the next year. 

I am also open to angel investment. I believe I am highly investable (wink).


Meet Yiran Qin, Nummy

Meet Yiran Qin, Nummy 2560 1707 OneTech

Yiran Qin is founder of Nummy, a mobile app that aims to disrupt the social and dating scene in London by table-sharing and creating a community for foodies. Nummy is still an early stage/pre-seed business.


Where did your business idea come from? Tell us about your start-up journey

My business Nummy is a social app that brings people together through food. In this day and age, everyone’s so focused on technology, that I wanted to create an online tool to bring people together offline and get them to actually sit around a table and dine together and create some meaningful relationships from that.

I moved to London four years ago and didn’t know anyone.  Food has always been a big part of my life and all the friends that I’ve made here were through common food interests. I thought it would be a great idea for other people to meet in the same way if they’re new to the city. 

After two years of working in London, I did my Masters in Business Management at Queen Mary University London. I went on their three day start up boot camp and was awarded a Build It grant. I just thought it was amazing that I could actually do something with my ideas. 


What is your background? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to you as a tech founder?

I’ve always grown up in a white dominant environment in New Zealand, Switzerland and London. 

From a young age we are told that it’s just going to be harder for us. I’ve accepted the fact that I just need to work extra hard to get what I want. 

I have the advantage that I come from a family that helped me go to university and pursue a Masters. I know a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do that. But even though they support me financially and morally, my family don’t come from a tech background, so a lot of things I’ve just had to figure out for myself.

A disadvantage is not having an EU passport. I wasn’t able to even start my business or register my company without a Tier 1 visa. 


What challenges have you faced?

As a woman and a person of colour I get treated differently. It makes me a double minority at least in the tech start-up world. So I know my journey has definitely been harder.

One of my pet peeves in my entrepreneurial journey is I don’t get taken very seriously. I don’t know if I don’t look the part or if it’s because I’m a woman. I remember I was speaking to a mentor in one of my incubator programs and they told me that if I’m so passionate about people and food, I should just start my own blog instead of creating a start-up.  And the word he used was I was being ‘dramatic’. It was a bit of a shock to me. He didn’t ask me about my business. He didn’t ask me about my background. He just basically judged me on my appearance, and I think that’s been a common trend. 


Have you had moments when you realize the business will be successful?  

With Nummy I have been successful in creating restaurant partnerships with an app that hadn’t even launched. That’s a really good indication that people actually believe in the idea and are willing to work with me. I remember on the Tier 1 visa interview panel, they told me that they believe in my idea, but mostly they believed in me and what I’m able to do. So that was really awesome. 

I also got to go to 10 Downing Street to speak with the PM’s business advisors about BAME entrepreneurs and the issues that we’re facing and how the government could help us.


How is Nummy navigating covid-19?

As restaurants are currently closed and trying to navigate their own path during the current situation, Nummy has also been compelled to adapt our business. Being an early-stage start-up, it has affected our partnerships and business model as we are no longer able to continue the momentum and traction as normal. But this has also presented an opportunity to readjust and adapt. Nummy is currently exploring different ways to continue providing food experiences for our community by hosting events online as well as fast-forward our position as a business that is not only table-sharing but truly a platform to bring people together through food despite circumstances.


How has OneTech supported you?

One of the main OneTech benefits was to meet my mentor. He’s been really great, as moral support, but also to give me amazing advice on marketing and expert knowledge. He has been there for me, just to talk about my day and what’s going on. 

Other than that, the free work space for three months at We Work has been a huge help to be a part of a tech community. You don’t feel so lonely anymore. It’s much better than working at home.

I’m so happy to be in London because there is a growing recognition that it is harder for under represented founders and there are new programmes like OneTech to help us. 


What is your advice to other underrepresented founders?

Don’t think it’s going to be an easy road. You just have to hustle and work hard. Focus on the positives and support instead the negatives and bad comments. Take them as constructive feedback and use it as something that will fuel your drive. Just never give up and keep going. 

There are networks out there, support for people like us. You’re not alone. Reach out to other underrepresented founders and they’ll be 100% happy to talk to you or help you on your journey.


What are your plans for the future?

I’m definitely focused on building my company. Then, in the future, if everything goes well, I would like to work for or start my own VC firm that helps female and underrepresented founders. London is a really exciting place to be right now where there is a lot of opportunity for underrepresented founders. When I become successful, I would like to be a part of that change and help others like me.


Website: https://www.nummyapp.com/

SM: @Nummyapp


Meet Tahlia Gray, Sheer Chemistry

Meet Tahlia Gray, Sheer Chemistry 3000 4497 OneTech
Tahlia Gray is the founder of Sheer Chemistry, an e-commerce platform that specialises in tights for women of all shades of brown. We proud to have supported Tahlia through our Pioneer Programme (applications open again), involvement in the FFWD pre-Accelerator, our female workspace offer with WeWork / WeWork Labs, and for her to regularly play a key part in OneTech events and campaigns – we’re honoured to be a part of her journey.


Where did your business idea come from?

I’ve lived in several major cosmopolitan cities – London, New York, in Sydney, Australia, and Brazil – and I was always looking on the high street for products that were suitable for my afro hair and my skin tone but often struggled. It wasn’t until I started working in the corporate world that tights were added to my list of ‘wants’. 

Everywhere that I traveled to I looked for these tights and I couldn’t find them, which was surprising especially in cities such as New York with high populations of women colour. During this process, I tried many brands but all of them were unsuitable in that they didn’t match my complexion and instead made me feel super self-conscious. And so I thought how hard could it be?  I’m going to do this myself. I always wanted to start a business, so why not this? I started Sheer Chemistry because I wanted to empower women like myself to feel confident and gorgeous in their own skin and celebrate their diverse beauty.


“I started Sheer Chemistry because I wanted to empower women like myself to feel confident and gorgeous in their own skin and celebrate their diverse beauty”


Tell us about your startup journey

I have a degree in International Business and worked in the corporate sector for several years before becoming an entrepreneur. It’s been quite a long process to get to the stage where I was able to launch with products that I was comfortable taking to market. 

It was a steep learning curve but I wasn’t in any rush. I spent time researching and developing the product, learning about manufacturing, PR, sales and finance.



What challenges have you faced?

There have been lots of challenges.

One example was with choosing a manufacturer.  I got into difficulty coming to a contractual agreement with the manufacturer I had originally chosen in Italy. 

I thought this would not defeat me. I went back to the drawing board, contacted all hosiery manufacturers in the region and within 3 weeks, I jumped on a plane and had six meetings with six different teams in six different factories. As a result, I feel like the manufacturer that I have now is 10 times better than the previous one. I had to see this as a lesson, rather than a roadblock. I came out a lot better off by taking it into my own hands.

I also realise in hindsight this was an important moment for me to establish my standards and what I will hold people accountable for. It’s one of those things that you have to be clear on for yourself right at the beginning in order for your business to be sustainable.


“advisors who challenge your ideas and assumptions in a good way that inevitably will prepare you for business success”


Another challenge came when I was on another startup-related programme. The Business Advisor I has been assigned asked me how I could prove that thousands of units of tights would fly off the shelf once I purchased my first stock order. It was a fair question but I left the meeting in tears. Until that point, I was really confident and I thought that speaking to my target audience as well as collecting and analysing hundreds of survey response was enough to prove there was demand. 

To prove my concept, I, therefore, launched a Kickstarter campaign, and over a short 30 day period received a boot camp in all things marketing, PR and sales. It was a rude awakening because I thought I knew everything. But it shows that you need advisors who challenge your ideas and assumptions in a good way that inevitably will prepare you for business success.


“to have the backing of an internationally renowned brand that aligns with our values really gave me that initial kick to realise the potential value of Sheer Chemistry”


Have you had moments when you realize the business will be successful?  

I‘ve had several, for instance when the W Hotel agreed to collaborate with me for our launch and sell Sheer Chemistry products exclusively for our first 6 months. I thought ‘This is amazing’. To have the backing of an internationally renowned brand that aligns with our values really gave me that initial kick to realise the potential value of Sheer Chemistry and increased my desire to build an equally successful and iconic brand myself. 


What is your experience as a woman of colour in tech startup?

Outside of the One Tech programme, I haven’t seen much representation. 

Telling people my idea has often been quite exhausting in terms of having to over-explain the need for my products and justify that there is a demand.

Luckily, I feel that this has been changing in the past few years and there are a lot more women in this space, particularly in tech. I love Sharmadean Reid. I’ve watched her journey from Wah Nails to Beautystack and it has been really inspiring for me.

More is needed but it’s great to see the work that OneTech is doing.



How has OneTech supported you?

I’m on three different programmes: The Pioneer Programme, Female Workspace support, and Founders Forward Mentor Programme. 

Moving into Wilson Street WeWork was magical because it exposed me to an entrepreneurial community. It gives that kind of business support in terms of just being able to turn to someone ask ‘Do you know how to use Photoshop? I’m struggling with this. Can you help?’ Or just building relationships with people and having them give me feedback on my pitch deck or how to approach retailers. Having space with a buzz where people are doing things and meeting people, makes me think I should be doing the same and has really helped keep my momentum.

My mentor at JP Morgan has been really helpful, partly because she looks at my business from a non-entrepreneurial perspective. She asks very direct questions about business revenue, stock, turnover, and my own personal objectives. She helped me to focus my goals and make them really tangible. 


What is your advice to other underrepresented founders?

I would say to find spaces where you can meet other women who are at a similar or maybe more advanced stage because it’s really important to get that support. 

There are often times when you want to give up or you don’t think that the business is going to grow to meet your expectations. Having people around you who’ve been through a similar experience and able to give you advice or encouragement is really important. 

Sometimes people in the corporate world are unable to relate and they say ‘Well, why you don’t just get a job?’ which is unhelpful. So it’s really necessary to find communities where you get that support and you are able to relate to people. 


“find spaces where you can meet other women who are at a similar or maybe more advanced stage because it’s really important to get that support”


What are your plans for the future?

I am my business. I want it to grow globally. I want to expand on the product offering and develop my intellectual property. I want to grow it into a global, multi-million dollar brand.  And yeah, I think that is possible within the next five years. 

I really want other entrepreneurs to be able to look at me and see that it can be done, whether building a business or just taking a step out of the conventional path. I want to be a fully-fledged businesswoman who leads by example and every day, I am learning and growing to ensure I become her.