Founder Talk: Anne-Marie Huby of JustGiving


This week, we caught up with Anne-Marie Huby, co-founder of popular online fundraising platform JustGiving.

Read on as Anne-Marie talks about getting a startup going during the dotcom crash, shaping your own company’s culture, and building a sustainable business for a social purpose.

What inspired you and your co-founder to start JustGiving?

In 1999, Zarine Kharas, our CEO, spotted the opportunity to use the web to better connect good causes with people who care. When she and I met, I was running the UK branch of the humanitarian group Medecins Sans Frontieres and looking for a low-cost system that would enable the charity to accept donations online. Such a system did not exist. So I joined JustGiving full time and we launched JustGiving a little over a year later, in February 2001. Nearly fourteen years on, JustGiving is the fastest-growing social giving platform in the world, with 10 million users and $3.3 billion raised for good causes to date.

What has been your biggest challenge being an entrepreneur?

Nearly running out of money. We closed our first round of funding shortly before the dotcom crash, so we had to make every penny count thereafter. Being very early was also a challenge. Charities were very sceptical at first, and it took us a long time to demonstrate how valuable online giving would be to them.

What have been your biggest challenges being a woman in the tech industry, driven by men?

I am probably going to disappoint you here, but I can’t think of a single occasion when I have felt that being a woman put me at a disadvantage. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that men and women have very different opportunities and experiences in larger firms – just as in wider society – and those issues are real. But if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to grow a business from scratch, as Zarine and I have done, then you have a unique opportunity to shape its culture and choose the people who work with you.

If you asked me what had been essential to the growth of JustGiving, I would say that it had little to do with the fact that it is run by two women. I’d argue it has a lot more to do with a set of highly unusual investors with a very long-term orientation who have always encouraged us to keep investing and focusing all our energies on creating a great product and a great place for people to work and grow. In short, if you build a great product, and take genuine care of your customers, the financials will follow. A lot of investors say this, but do not act accordingly. Ours have done so consistently, and all of them are men.

What can the JustGiving platform offer users that other charitable platforms can’t?

At its core, JustGiving enables everyone with a cause – whether it is helping find a cure for cancer or fund a new roof for their community centre – to raise more money than they ever thought possible. People and charities raise more money on JustGiving than any other platform – £360m this year alone – because it helps them reach more people and inspire more support than any other application.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments in your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Proving that it was possible to combine social purpose with running a sustainable business. Our for-profit-for-good model has enabled us to keep investing in innovation to a much greater extent than we would have done if we ran JustGiving along charitable lines.

What advice would you give to girls/women interested in working in tech or starting their own businesses?

Two different questions there. The first, about starting to work in tech: if you are looking to move into a tech business, don’t worry too much if your first job is not a perfect match for your existing skills, or looks slightly odd on your CV. Once you have a foothold in a tech firm, new opportunities will open up. As for starting up a new business: building a core team up front is key. Know your strengths and weaknesses and find people who complement you right from the beginning.

Keen to join a massively growing, for-profit-for-good company that’s just moved into some amazing new offices in London Bridge? JustGiving is hiring right now for their product and tech teams! Take a look at the opportunities they’re offering.

Founder Talk: Nathalie Gaveau from Shopcade


This week we caught up with entrepreneur Nathalie Gaveau of Shopcade. She discusses creating and selling her first business and recently launching Shopcade in Asia. She also advises women to quit talking about what projects they’re going to do and to get out and do them!

Tell us about Shopcade. 

Shopcade is the world’s first social shopping app. Think Amazon and Facebook infused with fashion, or it is often referred to in the media as a “shoppable Instagram.”

Our community of users can browse through celebrity styles, create wish lists from what’s trending and shop their favourite looks all in one place, with the added bonus of exclusive deals from our huge network of partners.

It is very entertaining and we always keep our content fresh and new, always with our community of users in mind and what they want to see in regard to celebrity trends, general fashion trends and the newest and coolest brands.

Shopcade is web based and mobile – free to download on iOS and Android, but a word of warning, it is addictive.

What inspired you to start Shopcade? 

The concept was born out of innovation – observing new buying and sharing behaviours and understanding how to position commerce around those behaviours.

On a basic level, it’s about the marriage of content and commerce. I saw a lot of sites that were e-commerce, but lacking content and lacking quality curation. There was no one site for e-commerce that was social and it wasn’t quite working on larger social media platforms.

What have been your biggest challenges being an entrepreneur? 

The biggest challenge is to focus and to smartly do less. When you’re running your own tech company, there are always a million things that you could be doing and suggestions come in from everyone, everywhere. But you can’t do everything. It’s about addressing the business aspects that are in line with the users.

What have been your biggest challenges being a woman in an industry driven by men? 

I am a female entrepreneur in a male driven industry, but it really doesn’t matter. The great thing about the web is that the industry doesn’t care what gender you are. It’s about content creation, transactions and data. The Internet is completely open to opportunity for anyone – young, old, male or female.

Fashion technology is a hot market right now. What sets Shopcade apart from the rest? 

I envision Shopcade as the global social fashion app. It’s great to see what musicians, bloggers and fashion influencers are wearing – that kind of content is everywhere, but we’ve taken it up a notch and connected that content to e-commerce. Our community of nearly one million users can immediately purchase the looks they’re inspired by from the over 150,000 brands that we have on the site via our own e-commerce offering or through our vast affiliate network that includes everyone from Motel Rocks to Topshop to Liberty.

We’re also using our data at Shopcade to tailor the experience across a wide array of functions to make it more interesting for the community. Shopcade is also becoming a top marketing platform for brands.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments in your entrepreneurial journey so far? 

My entrepreneurial journey is about proactiveness. I create opportunities by turning my thoughts into action and build international teams to deliver plans.

Creating the ‘eBay of France,’ PriceMinister, building it up and then selling it with my business partner Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet was incredible and put me on the map as not just a female tech entrepreneur, but one of the most successful tech entrepreneurs in all of Europe. At the time of creation, the dot-com bubble had just burst, so e-commerce wasn’t a popular topic. The difficult climate actually helped because it prevented us from making the mistakes of the others before us. It was at PriceMinister that I discovered my love for the web. It combines the creative and analytical – right brain and left brain.

When we sold PriceMinister in 2010, we were one of the biggest e-commerce exits in Europe. But there was no way that I was going to stop working. That’s where Shopcade comes in.

At Shopcade I’m building upon what I learned in the sector, but adapting to the new shopping environment: visual, mobile, personalized and social. Shopcade is also very international and we made it scalable from the start.

The greatest success at Shopcade so far has been the launch of our mobile app. This made a significant difference in active engaged users daily. Users are now logging in daily to check out what is trending, even when they’re not shopping. It’s also starting to become a content destination in its own right, which is really exciting. The launch of the mobile app has helped make us focus on simplicity more too and end user benefits.

We’ve also just launched in India – setting up a satellite Shopcade team there, and we will be launching in Tokyo later in the year.

What advice would you give to girls/women interested in joining tech or startups?

Women and girls that are interested in tech just need to start. The most important thing that I can advise is to stop talking about projects. If you have a project in mind, you should do it. Tech is still a fairly young industry and if you have good ideas and can realise them, people don’t really care if you are a woman. Both the tech industry and the web are very open, young and meritocratic, making them great environments for women.

Founder Talk: Brynne Herbert of MOVE Guides


This week’s Founder Talks series features Brynne Herbert, CEO and Founder of MOVE Guides. Read on as she talks self confidence, not taking things personally, and the journey to creating an award-winning global mobility solution.

Tell us about MOVE Guides.

MOVE Guides envisions a world where moving global talent is easy. Partnering with companies to make this a reality, MOVE Guides offers the first ever cloud-based technology system for the $50bn talent mobility industry dominated by traditional offline incumbents.

Our unique Talent Mobility Cloud is a tri-sided, transformational HR technology platform that combines employee move planning, HR management and global vendors to deliver a dramatically improved employee experience and millions of dollars in cost savings to companies.

 What inspired you to start MOVE Guides?

Before starting MOVE Guides, I lived throughout Asia and India. I gained a unique understanding of global talent in multinational companies. As an expat on the move, I would constantly watch my friends and colleagues navigate the same cumbersome and exhausting relocation challenges.

After an extremely painful move from Asia to London, I realised that a massive gap in the global mobility industry was an opportunity to disrupt the marketplace. I was determined to create the first ever HR technology service for global mobility that appealed to increasingly global companies, a changing employee demographic and a tech savvy workforce.

What have been your biggest challenge being a woman in an industry driven by men?

It frustrates me that more times than not, I will look around a 50-100 person room and realise that I am one out of four women there to pitch their business or meet with VC funders.  When completing my first round of funding I actually had someone say to me that they would not fund me because I was a woman led tech startup.  Sadly this happens a lot. Only 4.2% of businesses that receive VC funding are female led. While this didn’t stop me, I am sure this discourages many women from following through with their startup.

What do you think can be done to bring more women into tech?

SV not only has a demographic problem but a culture problem. I believe that as more women break through into the tech industry, more will follow to challenge the status quo and change culture to be much more woman friendly. Society also needs to play a bigger role in encouraging young women to enter STEM programs and seek higher education that provides them with the skills they need to succeed in SV. I love groups like Girls in Tech and Girls Who Code that empower girls to seek opportunities in tech and engineering.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments in your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Over the past two years, my team and I have grown MOVE Guides from a small London-based startup to an award-winning global mobility solution, supporting moves to 100+ cities across six continents. This in itself is an incredible accomplishment and is a true testament to the quality of our services, an understanding of the marketplace and the dedicated team behind MOVE Guides.

One of my proudest moments along this journey was when we closed our seed-funding round from Notion Capital and NEA, bringing our total funding to $2.4 million. This was a huge accomplishment and provided us with the resources and expertise that we needed to accelerate growth and be a champion in global mobility. Also, this year we were very excited to be featured by as one of the top 100 new businesses in London. They even quoted us as “the group that make relocating more like taking a holiday.”

How do you describe your leadership style?

I am very direct with my team and believe that transparency is the best way to approach a successful business. I try to lead confidently and assertively, which I think is important for companies like MOVE Guides, that are still in the early stages of success. I run a company with only 15 employees and sell to FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies that have never heard of us and have never even heard of the category that we sell in. This type of disruption in the marketplace requires direct communications and a strong voice to get people behind it.

If you could be anything other than the CEO of MOVE Guides what would it be?

I absolutely love to travel, meet new people and experience new cultures, so it would have to be something that spanned across cities, languages and continents. I would probably look into opening a chain of hotels around the world or develop an app that supports world travellers.

What advice would you give your 18 year old self?

When I was 18, I was a member of the Ivy League Championship gymnastics team, always on the move and competing. My experiences in gymnastics really shaped my work ethic and drive. That said, if I were to go back in time and talk to my 18 year old self, I would tell her that there is so much more ahead of you and that the best is yet to come. Savour your time and independence in college and don’t forget to have fun!

What advice would you give to women interested in starting a new business?

If you see a void in the marketplace, don’t wait for someone else to fill it. Be self-confident, believe in your product and fight for it.

Also, don’t take things personally. People are going to challenge your every move and try to bring you down. You need to be strong and be able to compartmentalise emotions, tune out those that do not support you but learn to accept and appreciate constructive criticise.

Founder Talk: Grace Regan of Clippet


There is no doubt that more and more women are starting to take on entrepreneurial roles in business, which is inspiring other women to have the courage to get out there and start their own thing.

What’s even more inspiring is seeing some of those women as young as Grace Regan, 23-year-old co-founder of audio news app Clippet.

We caught up with her this week on working in startups, what inspired her to do this app, and why traditional news outlets need to change the way they do things.

Tell us about Clippet.

Clippet is an audio news app, which mines news from around the world to curate and create audio ‘clippets’ that last no more than 60 seconds.

We’re aimed at young professionals, university students and metropolitan commuters. We know our users seek a deeper understanding of the issues of the day but don’t have enough time to wade through various news platforms. We therefore do the hard work for them, curating, researching, writing and recording short digestible news clippets, which keep our listeners up–to–date with what’s going on in the world. 

What are your thoughts on business being so content marketing focussed in 2014? Did that inspire you to start Clippet?

I think the trend towards content–focused business is a reaction against previous tendencies for tech–led companies to simply aggregate 3rd party content and regurgitate it without thinking about the consumer and their needs. I was inspired to start Clippet because I believe news journalism needs a facelift – it’s become stale, old fashioned and irrelevant to a modern audience. The content of traditional media has become almost impenetrable; it’s incredibly time–consuming to pick apart. Why not just put information in the simplest, clearest and most conversational way possible? This is the ethos behind Clippet’s content. I think this is a general trend amongst new media content. I was excited to read Sir Howard Stringer’s report on BBC News and his suggestion that the BBC must understand it’s audience more and make their news more relevant to them. In order to engage people with your content, it must connect with them on a personal level. 

What have been your biggest challenges being an entrepreneur?

I think the biggest challenge has been learning to know when you’ve made a mistake and act upon it. So much of business relies on gut instincts. There were occasions in the early days of Clippet when myself and my business partner circled around taking action/changing direction on something because we didn’t trust our natural instincts enough. We’re getting better at this! It’s also challenging to keep pushing yourself to improve when there’s no (or few) people breathing down your neck (like in a normal job!). I’m learning to constantly challenge myself and push myself to keep improving.

What have been your biggest challenges being a woman in an industry driven by men?

To be honest, I haven’t noticed my sex getting in the way of my day–to–day work. I suppose both the journalism and tech industry are dominated by men and this has been very noticeable (especially when you go to panel discussions with industry experts and there’s no women!). The fact that we’ve built our own team of young journalists, producers and developers means that traditional gender hierarchies simply don’t exist within Clippet. That being said, I do find that ‘business talk’ and ‘tech talk’ is often a domain reserved for men. I’m often given a surprised look whenever anyone hears that I work in the app world and I think it’s this assumption that women and tech don’t mix that needs to change.

What are some of your proudest accomplishments in your entrepreneurial journey so far?

I think it would be spending months and months researching and developing our audio content (tone, style, format etc.) and coming up with a formula I’m proud of (although we’re constantly developing and improving it!). The most satisfying part of this has been being able to pass the ‘Clippet style’ onto our team of journalists and editors and watch them learn and grow into the Clippet mind–set.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Hard work pays off! Around this age I really began putting my all into everything (I was a bit of a disorganised mess before!). Looking back, I’ve realised that every achievement (no matter how small) so far has been down to pure grit, perseverance and hard work.

What advice would you give to girls/women interested in joining tech or startups?

Just do it. Ignore all the preconceptions of tech being a male–dominated world (it will never change if girls continue to think like this). There’s nothing more rewarding than working for a start up – it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. Also, keep challenging yourself – whether it’s trying something new at school or leaving your current job to pursue something you’d rather be doing.



Founder talk: Sinead Mac Manus

Sinead Mac Manus Fluency

Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders. This week we chatted to Sinead Mac Manus.

Sinead is not only the CEO and founder of Fluency but also an experienced trainer, speaker and author. She founded her digital wellbeing company 8fold in 2010 and launched the Digital Academy, training low income women with digital skills, in 2011. She is a Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, the RSA, and an UnLtd Award Winner.

Q: How did you come up with your startup idea?

A:  My background is a digital coach and trainer to small businesses. For the past four years I have been working with them to overcome stresses about engaging in digital and showing them the potential that the web and social media can have for their business. But many of my clients were just too busy to implement much of my advice so I back in 2011 I saw a gap in the market for providing outsourced digital services and with help from UnLtd and then the Nominet Trust, started training low income women with these skills.

Q: What are the company’s objectives?

A: Fluency is a learning platform and crowd-work marketplace that gets young people into work. Myself and my co-founder Ian, founded the company to solve two big problems: the fact that there are limited work opportunities at the moment for young people, both here in the UK and across Europe, and the lack of digital expertise in small businesses in the UK.

Ian and I met at the beginning of last year and we bonded over a passion to help young people get into work. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high here in the UK and is catastrophic in many European countries such as Greece. Spain and Italy. If we don’t provide work opportunities for this generation of young people, then we run the risk of a ‘lost generation’ with knock-on effects in communities for decades.

We were lucky enough to be accepted onto Bethnal Green Ventures technology incubator in July and have been building the platform since then. We teach our young people in-demand skills such as how to build a website, how to market a company on social media or how to optimise content for Google. Our learners complete digital challenges and collect badges to demonstrate their learning. But what’s really unique about our platform is that as our learners get mastery in a subject, they become eligible for work on the crowd-sourcing platform. In this way they can ‘learn and earn’ at the same time.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

A: One of the biggest challenges we have faced is one facing most startups – raising investment. There is a cliff that you fall off once the incubator money runs out and it’s takes a long time to raise investment – I wish I had know just how long when I started! We’ve gotten over this by just getting out there and talking to as many investors as possible and we are confident that we will close our seed round in the next month or so.

Another challenge as a startup founder and CEO is just the amount of things to do on a daily basis! One minute I’m talking to investors, the next I’m mentoring my staff, the next I’m poring over cash flows. I’ve always been a productive worker but this job requires that you are very strategic with your time – something I am learning about every day.

The last challenge we have faced is people not understanding that we are a social business – a commercial company yes, but one that wants to change people’s lives for the better. We’re not a charity but creating social impact is at the heart of every decision we make. I don’t think there are enough successful social ventures out there to point to and say, hey look there’s a new way of doing business, but we intend to be one and lead the path for other social tech ventures.

 Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?

 A: One of our major recent successes is getting investment from Forward Foundation which has meant we can work with more youth partners and hire a key member of staff. We were successful because I had built a relationship with the Foundation long before we approached them for funding and we share the same values in help young people from disadvantaged background succeed.

Another thing we are very proud of is working in partnership with The Prince’s Trust. They have been hugely supportive of Fluency especially as we are a new startup. We will hopefully be working together to ensure that the young people that come through their programmes have the right skills needed in the workplace and we can deliver that for them. This relationship came from a tweet so it shows the importance of social media!

Our last success is more of a personal one for me – it’s having the good fortune to meet my co-founder Ian. I have worked by myself for such a long time that I wasn’t sure how I would cope with a business partner but it’s amazing to have some else to share the highs and the lows with. And he’s an amazing coder too!

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology? 

A: I personally have not had any discrimination for being a female co-founder and CEO and we try to maintain a gender balance in the company, though with our new Head of Digital Learning role we have now swung back towards the male! When I first started going to events at Google Campus in 2012 I remember standing out as a women but now it tends to be 50/50.

I would like to see more young girls and women take up careers in technology, entrepreneurship and digital and I think it’s the responsibility of women in the industry to speak out about how great technology is to work in and actively mentor younger women. I think getting young people, of both genders, interesting in, and exciting by, digital is the way to go and something we are heavily promoting at Fluency.

Founder talk: Anna Bance

Anna Bance Girls Meet Dress

Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders. This week we chatted with Anna Bance, the co-founder of Girl Meets Dress, an e-commerce website where you can rent dresses and other designer wear.

Q: How did you come up with your business idea?

The Girl Meets Dress story began in 2009 when I was working as UK PR Manager for French luxury brand Hermes – and like my previous roles in the fashion industry, it involved lending the collection of dresses and accessories out on a daily basis to fashion magazines, shoots, celebrities and journalists… I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all borrow dresses for just one event, and wear a different designer for every event in our calendar?”. When my co-founder and I looked into the market we saw that no one was doing it. We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online and it is wonderful that Girl Meets Dress is now pioneering the way for rental as a new and exciting e-commerce category of its own. I am really happy with the fact that we’ve created a fantastic product for all women to have their Cinderella moment. We all need to feel amazing for life’s special moments and Girl Meets Dress democratizes fashion, enabling millions of women to afford luxury every day.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as an entrepreneur?

Self funding the business: When we started, ensuring we have a full team in place while bootstrapping was no easy feat. We were lucky to find so many hard working and ambitious staff to stick with us and the vision. Becoming knowledgeable in so many different areas is challenging but it definitely helps to have 2 co-founders with complimentary and different skill sets. When launching we found that many women wanted to try on dresses before their big night out which lead us to create the extremely popular service called the “Advance Try On”. If a customer’s event is over 1 month away they can receive and try on the dresses ahead of time to choose their favourite. That dress is then re-delivered for the event date free of charge. For Girl Meets Dress to work we also needed to get PR through the door: When launching a new company, one of the most important and impactful skills to have is the ability to promote and market the product and brand to get that all important traffic through the doors. PR for us was a huge element in growing the awareness of Girl Meets Dress so I couldn’t have wished for a more suitable previous career (as UK PR Manager for Hermes).

Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?

Becoming the first company in the UK to rent luxury fashion: When we looked into the market, we saw that no one was doing it. We wanted to create a concept that enabled us to provide a timely and innovative fashion solution during the recession which is why we turned to rental. We think it created a new way for women to shop: Girl Meets Dress is a fun concept and hopefully I have answered women’s prayers by giving them a new way to shop – a fun and affordable way to wear the best dresses in the world. Rental is a way for consumers to extract all the value without none of the headaches; women can now easily wear more relevant, trend led, time-sensitive fashions, while continuing to invest and buy only in those classic pieces which will stand the test of time.

Furthermore, having the largest selection of dresses and accessories from 200 designers from over 50 countries: Girl Meets Dress is very attractive to designers because many women will typically only have tried a few high end designer brands in their lifetime, if any. With rental, designer labels get to be introduced to potential customers on a regular basis. 98% of our customers try a new brand they have never worn previously in their life. That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers + the next generation on a mass scale.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology?

The beauty of business is that any woman with a passion for making things happen can be an entrepreneur. There are no rules and launching online means you can test the concept while keeping costs very low, and stay in your current job if you need to until you are ready to commit fully. Women should just go for it. Don’t over think it. There will never be a perfect time to leave your secure job, risk your salary decrease, take a chance on an idea which might not work – but what’s the worst that can happen? You’ll go back to your previous role until you come up with the next idea!

Founder talk: Aurore Hochard

Aurore Hochard Taskhub

Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders.

We caught up with Aurore Hochard this week to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey and her startup Taskhub,  the online marketplace for local services. We admire that she worked as a teacher in the US and the UK before deciding to change her career, even though she had no tech background!

Q: How did you come up with your idea?

A: I had the idea for Taskhub whilst studying Law at City University in 2011: a friend became a mum and wanted to spend more time with her baby by finding locals through a friendly and trustworthy online platform to take care of the small day to day tasks. I initially only wanted to help her find websites to outsource locally her chores and errands but could not find any so I decided to build such a website.

Taskhub is an online marketplace, connecting those in need of help to those who want to earn extra money and meet new people. Imagine a digital community notice board. With Taskhub my vision is to connect people locally through paid tasks and volunteer opportunities.

After being incubated at Wayra UK– an incubator – for 9 months, Taskhub was launched in March 2013. We received further investment from Telefonica and signed a partnership deal with O2.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as an entrepreneur?

A: I had no tech background. When I came up with the idea of Taskhub, I could envision how this platform would/should look like but without any tech background, I did not have any idea of how much work and time it would take to build it up. I’ve built the right team of technologists who take care of the tech side of things extremely well. I have made some efforts to learn and understand how our system works but mostly I let the development team handle that whilst I use the skills I have to establish connections, partnerships and ensure adequate funding.

Although I came up with the idea of Taskhub, my partner Rahul Ahuja is the one who transformed my idea into a business idea. It’s not always easy to work with each other as we tend to think and talk about our business a lot. However, we have managed to create moments when we keep away from any business discussions and our iPhones (sometimes we still fail at this …)

According to the book Yes man (By Danny Wallace), saying Yes more can make life more interesting. When I was a teacher, it only seems normal to help students become better learners and say Yes to them. In the business world, I’ve learnt that people can sometimes ask for favours a lot, and forget to share back. So I’ve had to learn to say No more often.

Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?

A: I have become very comfortable and good at networking. I was not born with the networking gene. Back in Law School, I applied at law firms and only started receiving work placements offers after I had connected with people in the legal industry at networking events. It was a bit scary to approach lawyers at first and then I started to enjoy it. This is when I realized the power of connections. This is a skill I’ve learnt at Law School, which has been extremely useful since working at Taskhub.

One of the goals I have with Taskhub is to help charities find volunteers locally (for free) through our website. I met actor Stephen Fry at a few occasions to discuss a few ideas and get his advice. He was very nice and even tweeted about Taskhub, which was an exciting moment for us. My tip to meet and connect with people, who are hard to reach is to offer them something before asking them anything.  It works!

A couple questions I sometimes get asked: How did Taskhub get selected for acceleration by the tech incubator Wayra? How did we get investment from Telefonica? When Rahul and I went pitching at Wayra Week, we had never delivered a pitch before. A few people shared their tips on how to pitch, what to say and what not to say. We worked very hard but I think beyond having a good business idea, Rahul and I have always tried to be ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously. The learning curve is steep and we’re not shy of admitting that there’s still a lot for us to learn but we’ re also learning to celebrate successes.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology? 

A: Being a woman can sometimes present challenges in the tech industry, which is usually dominated by men. I tend to read about and meet a lot of powerful female tech entrepreneurs on a regular basis so I’m optimistic about the future. I believe men and women tend to have different approaches to the same business issues but that both approaches tend to work well in the right context.

Founder talk: Michelle Songy

Michelle Songy - Spleat

Every month, we catch up with one of London’s brilliant startup founders. Today we talked to Michelle Songy.

She is the COO of Spleat, a mobile payment app that allows restaurants a unique way to pay and split their bill via their phones.




Q: How did you come up with your business idea?

Almost approaching my 5 year anniversary working in finance at a large beverage company, I was constantly trying to find myself and my niche. I knew I needed to do something more creative and always had a longing interest in new digital media.

In 2012 I went to a restaurant with my now business partner, Charlotte, who was in a similar situation with her banking career- we both expressed the same interest in wanting to start our own company. While tossing around ideas, we noticed the issue of how much of a nuisance paying a dinner bill could be, especially for large groups. How nice would it be if the whole reservation to payment could be connected and store your credit cards so you could leave once you’re ready? We both knew mobile payments were the future forward, but as of that moment hadn’t seen much widespread use.

Since there were already TopTable and Book-a-Table dominating the reservation market, we decided to stick to solving the age-old problem of paying a bill, in a simple and secure process all via your mobile phone.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as an entrepreneur?

There have been many! I left my job probably earlier than I should have. It’s hard to know when exactly is best though, but I was so anxious that  I woke up one day and say, “Ok it’s time!” You think it’s all about to start, but there are more delays than you ever would have imagined (especially if this is your first start up)! However the pause in career enabled me to work at 2 other start-ups in the meantime, where I learned so much more about starting up a tech business and was able to build valuable relationships in the hospitality industry.

Starting a new business can feel like a vicious cycle. You need a business bank account set up but can’t accept payments because you have no credit. You need to pay for a developer but investors want to see a finished product. You need to show customer traction before you can get key APIs for your technology to work – but you can’t get customers to use a 1/2 functioning app! It seems like you are running back and forth, not sure how to get the chicken or the egg first, or find something else in the food chain.

The other biggest day-to-day challenge is self-motivation. In order to start your own business you have work extra hard to stay motivated for yourself and others in the business. It’s an uphill/ downhill constant battle. One day you think you’re on top of the world, the next day you read an article and think it’s all over. So it really helps to have positive reinforcers around you, like Charlotte my co-founder, who never lets a “no” let her down and always finds a window out when a door closes.

Q: On the other hand, what have been your biggest accomplishments?

We are still very new so I think our biggest achievements are yet to come. But everything really that has gotten us to this point to launch and go-live this month all add up! Getting the business set up, to raising capital, to hiring wonderful staff, to having our first venues sign up, to getting approved to accept payments, and even obtaining work visas have all been hurdles we have had to jump over to get to this point.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of women in technology?

Women are the future of technology. Even now we make up 64 percent of Facebook users, 58 percent of Twitter users and a whopping 82 percent of Pinterest users. We are far more active than our male counterparts on social networking sites. It’s a massive space and we are seeing more and more high profiled women taking CTO roles in Fortune 500 companies. Although we are still a minority in the tech industry, it means there is still a lot that can be changed and better enabled from a more diverse workforce, just as we have seen in benefit other industries (Mad Men comes to mind!).

Founder Talk: Emma Owens

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This week we caught up with Emma Owens, co-founder and CMO of Rormix, a startup from Manchester that discovers music videos of emerging artists. She began her co-founder journey at just 23-years-old which is a huge accomplishment for her already.

Q: What has been your journey so far in tech?

A: I was introduced to tech when I met young entrepreneur Amman Ahmed after graduating Uni in 2012. We met and chatted about his startup and I came on board working with him on his first business,, as a marketer. To explain briefly, Roundwaves works with artists in developing countries and creates music with a solution e.g. sleep music, concentration music and my personal fave, dog music! In terms of revenue Roundwaves is a YouTube Ad Network and Itunes structure.

I was given total freedom to do as I wished, something which was very alien to me but definitely my favourite part of working in a tech start-up.

At Roundwaves I improved viral growth by 250% and created a social media community. With Roundwaves automated, we moved on to build a new tech startup, funding it from the revenue of Roundwaves.

Now at 24 I am a co-founder of tech company Rormix – Discover Emerging Music Videos, something that I’d never imagined but is now my proudest achievement. Now we are a team of five and we have the best job working on the Rormix app. Every week is a different adventure.

Q: What have been your biggest challenges so far as a young co-founder?

A: As a young co-founder I have found that my biggest challenge is probably facing myself. I think I should be more confident as I am sometimes concerned that people may think I’m inexperienced. Interacting with VC’s and investors can sometimes be a challenge when you are a young tech team. This is where the knowledge of mentors is so important so I think that is something that is essential to incorporate. In general I have found that being a young co-founder has probably played in my favour as I can adapt to situations easily and I am so eager to learn. Plus all the experience I am gaining feels very valuable.

Q: What have been your biggest challenge so far as a woman co-founder?

A: To be honest, when I came into tech I didn’t realise that there were so few women in this industry, so when I went to my first few networking events and was the only woman there, or one of two women there, I was really surprised. I love being a woman in tech because I want to encourage other females and show them that this is the best industry to be in if you are passionate about it of course. However I also find it extremely difficult at times. At certain events I have been treated very differently to my male colleagues, even though we are at the same level. Some men will not shake my hand, even if I started the conversation. Some guys will not make eye contact and it has been something that is so obvious that other people have noticed. So this is something that I am very keen to change since the most successful technology companies are made up of both genders. It’s quite shocking how such a forward facing industry can be so very backward in this way. I don’t want to sound like I’m against men because that’s completely untrue I just want to make women feel more comfortable in a tech environment and that is everybody’s responsibility.

Q: When was Rormix launched and what are the company’s accomplishments to date?

A: Rormix the app was launched at the start of October on both iOS and Android. Since then we have got 4500+ downloads in more than 100 countries and have had some great feedback. We’ve also been featured in The Next Web twice as one of the top music discovery apps next to Shazam and some other huge players. Something we were really proud of.

Q: Tell us about your current role and responsibilities as co-founder and CMO at Rormix:

A: At Rormix I cover a lot of things (typical startup) but my main role involves user acquisition, marketing and social media management. I’m trying to get the app out to as many people as possible so I plant seeds in as many places as possible. I reach out to users to get feedback – so for example I spoke with Reddit users about the Android app and this was a massively important point for us because we changed the app based on their feedback.

Q: Is there anything new you’re planning on learning or focusing on to become a more well-rounded entrepreneur?

A: I would love to learn to code, even on a basic level but at the moment all my time is going into Rormix. I am just keen to keep learning – I seem to hear new things everyday, which I love. In terms of the future I am keen to push for change for women in tech. I want to see more women at events, speaking and generally having more of a presence, plus any prejudices that are currently in place need to disappear and I would like to help towards that.

Q: What is one piece of advice you’d offer other girls interested in tech?

A: Use being a woman to your advantage, be strong, be a pioneer, ask questions (so you can learn!), push yourself forward through the ignorance and enjoy it!