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Stories

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

https://qmjobsblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/19/entrepreneur-of-the-month-yiran-qin/

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. 

Meet Claudine Adeyemi, Career Ear

Meet Claudine Adeyemi, Career Ear 3000 2001 OneTech
Claudine Adeyemi is the founder of Career Ear, a platform that provides careers support to young people and allows employers to recruit from a diverse talent pool. 

 

Where did you get the business idea from?

My business idea came from the work I was doing with my non-profit The Student Development Co.  We provide career-related advice and guidance, including skills workshops, insight days and mentoring.

Having worked with well over 500 students I kept seeing this issue of certain groups not having access to the industry. This is backed up by the research around people from underrepresented groups, particularly from low socioeconomic and ethnic minority backgrounds, not having the same start in life, not having the networks. The knock-on effects are exacerbated by schools underperforming in relation to the careers guidance and support that they provide.  I wanted to solve that problem. 

 

What is your vision?

My overarching vision is for these individuals to have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. 

The learning from my own journey is that ability is undermined by lack of opportunity. 

 

What has been your journey into tech entrepreneurship?

I wanted to be a lawyer from a young age. I wanted to achieve something that my whole family would be proud of and to generate an income that would allow me to support everyone.

I worked hard at school. I tried to find contacts, mentors, experience. I studied Law at UCL but in terms of the whole lack of networks that was still a problem. My peers were pretty well-connected with parents at consultancy firms or running companies. I had support from Kids Company who gave me a barrister mentor. I graduated and worked in a top law firm for 6 years but the continuing lack of representation made me realise I need to do something about this. 

 

What made you decide entrepreneurship was right for you?

To be honest I don’t think it was a decision about being an entrepreneur or being in a corporate. It was more that there’s this problem that I’m really passionate about solving and it’s starting to slightly outweigh my passion for the law right now. There’s more of an urgency for me to solve this problem right now. 

Career Ear will take careers advice to the next level by providing early-career seekers with a one-stop shop career discovery experience together with opportunities in which they can thrive. We will be launching this Autumn.

 

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

Obviously there is massive underrepresentation. I think it’s impossible to not walk into a room and not notice when you’re the only women of colour or the only person of colour. But I’ve tried not to focus too heavily on that.  I’ve always tried to develop my networking skills and find other ways to build rapport with people where it’s not based on cultural background. But I do see the dangers of internalising that feeling of not belonging, not fitting in because it has knock-on effects for everything else. I think in some environments it’s really hard, especially if there are undertones of racism or a lack of inclusion.

In terms of investment, there have been challenges. I’ve had to field advice from people saying ‘You should really start with family and friends’, where they’re just not appreciative that’s not an option for me. I’ve also had to listen to people tell me that what we’re doing is great and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to raise very quickly and other founders who have moaned about a long four-month raise. People like me can only dream of raising that quickly!

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Early on, before I even incorporated, I met a woman investor who used to work for Goldman Sachs. At that stage, I didn’t know anything about investment.  She said ‘Do not take this money unless you really really need it.’ Taking investment from the very early stage puts pressure on founders, rather than having the time to build the right business model.

There’s also the famous mantra from Y-Combinator: ‘Make something people want’ and this is a constant reminder. We always have students on our team and meet with existing or prospective users. They help us ensure that everything we do is what they actually want and that they shape our product and business. 

 

 

What would be your message to inspire other underrepresented founders? 

Do it!

As underrepresented founders or underrated talent, I think a lot of us are fed this notion -which is right- of needing to be ten times better than your white counterparts.  You need to excel. You need to work harder and achieve more. And I think that can sometimes translate into being a bit more cautious about what you do. So, for example, not wanting to jump into your business because it’s not perfect yet. 

My advice is don’t just sit on your ideas and think you need to create a perfect business plan and impress someone. Even in tech at the most basic level, there is so much you can do without paying a penny in terms of testing concepts and building prototypes. Get yourself excited about it and then figure it out. 

 

What do you think tech spaces can do to be more inclusive?

The starting point to being more inclusive is being more representative. 

I had a call recently with a black VC and at the end, I had to communicate to him how much of a different experience it was compared to speaking to most investors. Having someone that understands my experience and can relate more. 

Lots of conversations are happening behind closed doors when the founders are not there to represent themselves and a person of colour championing that perspective can make a real difference. 

 

What are your dreams?

I’m quite impact-driven and ambitious. I want to build Career Ear into a globally profitable company. I want to make a difference on a global scale rather than just in the local community. 

 

Meet Mansata Kurang, VR Revival

Meet Mansata Kurang, VR Revival 1000 761 OneTech
Mansata Kurang is the founder of VR Revival, an immersive virtual reality application for BAME dementia patients. OneTech is proud to have supported Mansata through access to WeWork workspace and the pre-Accelerator FFWD. She is an advocate for others within entrepreneurship and regularly gets involved in wider OneTech events – we’re very proud to have her as part of the OneTech community.

VR Revival creates different tailored scenarios with scenery and music from Africa and the Caribbean accessed via a headset.

It is a therapeutic tool designed to bring joy into the lives of dementia patients. It also performs an educational function for families to talk more and recognize the signs of dementia earlier. It has the potential to bridge the digital divide between young and old, as gaming is mostly enjoyed by younger generations but this can be fun for older people and for families to do together.

It can be used in care homes but also in a family environment, as personalised entertainment, and to create bonds between family members who can often be stressed and embarrassed by the patient’s condition.

 

 

“I realised it’s my mission to make a difference”

 

Where did your business idea come from?

The idea came up two years ago when I set up my foundation looking into how arts and music impact on the brain and can help dementia patients.  In May 2018 I went to a hackathon and realised the potential because nothing is happening in this space for the BAME community currently.

I come from Gambia in West Africa. Mental illness is rife and it’s still a huge issue that no one’s willing to tackle. Through VR Revival people are starting to talk about it and that’s the whole point. That’s what I want. To de-stigmatise these issues and use technology as a bridge to provide the help that people need. I realised it’s my mission to make a difference. 

 

What challenges have you faced?

At the hackathon, I met collaborators who brought a technical background that I lacked. We’re building a polygon so it takes so many different skills. But it didn’t work out in the end and I had co-founder fall out. That was very difficult. I actually had to learn and build everything myself. So it has all taken longer than I anticipated. 

 

How do you overcome the challenges?

It’s so important to surround yourself with positive and skilled people. I always make sure I have the right professionals around me. My experience from setting up a foundation and a tech business is that if you’re doing something for the right reasons, the right people will show up.

 

“I’ve had to work out my own definition of success. You have to push beyond those boundaries that might be restrictive”

 

How does your culture influence your business decisions?

If I had listened to my culture I wouldn’t be doing this. I’ve had to work out my own definition of success. You have to push beyond those boundaries that might be restrictive. For instance, I’m female so I can’t do this because we are male-dominated. I didn’t have the skills, in business, medicine or tech. You have to almost step away from a little and evaluate where you want to go regardless.

 

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

I would say an advantage is having a good educational background. But with that comes an obligation to family and especially to parents. It’s a huge thing in my community. It’s almost like your family helps you and then you help them. 

When I worked in finance I could send money to my family and all that was rocked when I became an entrepreneur, as I couldn’t afford to do that anymore. There was that element of guilt that I had to get through.  It took a lot of strength to say I believe in myself and I want to live my own life.

 

“I do believe if I had been another race and another gender I would have been a lot further on by now”

 

What is your experience as a black woman in tech?

I do believe if I had been another race and another gender I would have been a lot further on by now.  I’ve proven that I should have got funding by now. I still get a lot of rejections and I’ve seen this in my career as well. Even when I graduated top in my class with two degrees I just wouldn’t get jobs. I’d like to see more meritocracy. People being actually rewarded for what they’re capable of. 

Ultimately it’s the funding that’s always a blocker because you get to that demo day and it results in nothing. So I wish there are people who genuinely want to put their money where their mouth is, because there are really, really good businesses out there. 

 

What is your message to inspire underrepresented founders? 

Have courage! And be curious! 

You don’t need a degree or lots of resources.  You can just go to the Internet and teach yourself a whole bunch of stuff. 

Don’t feel you’re above or below anyone. You’re equal to anyone you know- you just need that courage to reach out to experienced and successful people. When you have a clear strategy and people know what you want to achieve you can really attract resources. 

Sometimes you need that one person pushing you or celebrating you. It can just be that step that someone needs to push forward. 

 

What are your plans for your business?

I really want to make an impact on the mental health space for low and middle-income countries. 

I also want to generate wealth because I do believe that’s the way we can move forward. A lot can be done in investing back. 

Meet Ryan Downes, Stash Investing

Meet Ryan Downes, Stash Investing 746 498 OneTech
Ryan Downes is the founder of Stash, an app that teaches people how to invest and manage personal finance via gamification. We’re proud to have supported Ryan through access to FFWD London, a renowned Pre-Accelerator programme. We caught up with Ryan on his entrepreneurial journey, why gamification is an untapped resource in terms of education and where his startup is headed next.

 

Where did the business idea come from?

It came from the need to teach my brothers and sister what I know. Growing up in East London, in a single-parent family, and not understanding money – I set out to find out what money is all about. What does it do for people? How do I get more of it? I spent years attending seminars on investing and trading.

I then thought how am I going to teach my brothers and sisters the important stuff? Young people need to understand it, but how do you communicate it in an engaging way?

 

“I want to focus on millennials. That’s my niche. People just like me, or anyone who needs that knowledge. Anyone willing to learn, with some kind of disposable income”

 

What is the target market for the app?

It’s almost everyone. Most people don’t know their credit score. Most people don’t know about APR. So everyone and anyone

But I want to focus on millennials. That’s my niche. People just like me, or anyone who needs that knowledge. Anyone willing to learn, with some kind of disposable income.

Why are you using gaming?

Gaming is an untapped resource. It’s hugely interactive and it’s growing massively. I can make a game and teach finance to all groups of people which was once very white and esoteric. The end result is going to be the creation of a game with an avatar of yourself. You play as yourself, with your own journey making and growing money.

What made you decide that entrepreneurship was right for you?

Entrepreneurship is something that I’ve always been interested in. Maybe it was growing up watching my mother as an Avon lady, but also I like the idea of a more unconventional working life.

 

 

What challenges have you faced so far?

The biggest challenge is working without knowing that what you are doing is going to get you a good result. I’ve got probably 8 versions of the app that I’m never going to use. Also, understanding workflow is a challenge. Structuring your days and weeks. Overworking can lead to you wasting your own time.

The learning curve is steep.

 

“It’s better for me to create my own environment. I feel that was instrumental in my choice to be an entrepreneur”

 

How has your culture influenced your path?

The environments where you get paid a decent wage are not always comfortable for people who come from my culture. In my previous jobs in the finance sector, being around these Oxford guys who work a certain way – number orientated – and I’m a creative guy from East London, it was difficult. I was often the only black guy there, and whilst it’s not the first time I’ve been in that situation it’s still not comfortable.  It’s better for me to create my own environment. I feel that was instrumental in my choice to be an entrepreneur.

Do you think there’s anything in your background that’s been an advantage or disadvantage?

It’s two sides of the same coin to be honest. Not having a rich uncle to fund my project taught me to manage what I have well because I would have to make it work or risk losing everything.

 

“Not having a rich uncle to fund my project taught me to manage what I have well, because I would have to make it work or risk losing everything”

 

What is it like being a black man in tech/a black male entrepreneur?

Generally, you’re not the face. I don’t see many people who look like me in that space and I’m part of that change. I’ve realised that tech has the potential to level the playing field for all of us, users and creators.

Everyone looks at Silicon Valley. The media tends to focus on unicorns but not all tech businesses have to be high growth. You can find your niche.

What is your message to other underrepresented founders?

This sounds cliché but ‘you can do it.’ The opportunities are out there and people are willing to help. The internet has made the world a lot smaller. Also because of the internet, you can create anything you want. Apps can help you design, code or even make other apps.

You have to be hungry though because it won’t be given to you. Especially if you’re black or young or whatever discrimination you face, the tech world is just like everywhere else. So you have to push through.

 

 

How has Onetech supported you?

OneTech has been great. Just being around a network of other people who are doing the same thing as you, or going to app launch events and realising you’re not that far behind makes you feel better and more motivated.

What are your plans for the business in 1,2,5 years’ time?

Firstly I want to have a beta version of the app out in the next couple months. I want to prove that this idea works. Some people who are not used to investing think it’s some kind of alchemy or witchcraft, so to show people how it works and anyone can make money is my goal. After that, I just be able to manage the business evolution, as more people join and it scales up.

Meet Rashide Carvalho, Whipgo

Meet Rashide Carvalho, Whipgo 4000 5996 OneTech
Rashide is the co-founder of an innovative car rental service called Whipgo. They are currently in the Y Combinator Startup School programme. He was born in Portugal, lives in Camberwell and works out of spaces in Elephant & Castle and Shoreditch.

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Meet Michael Makinde, TiTo

Meet Michael Makinde, TiTo 4000 2668 OneTech
Michael grew up in Hoxton and is presently living in Walthamstow. In 2015 Michael co-founded a social enterprise called TiTo — Talent In Talent Out.
The mobile app was created to tackle student inexperience and unemployment by creating a platform that provides students with paid freelance opportunities to utilise their skill-sets in support of businesses.
He has known co-founder- Efosa Omorogbe ‘since knee-high — a childhood bromance

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Meet Urenna Okonkwo, Chasmere

Meet Urenna Okonkwo, Chasmere 4000 2249 OneTech
Urenna launched a fintech company called Cashmere in 2018. She lives in Blackheath and works from home and at Google campus, Shoreditch. She is currently on the Capital Enterprise Green Light Programme.

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