Happy International Women’s day! To celebrate, we at TalentPool partnered with our friends at Vestpod, the women’s investment community, to create a list of 50 female-founded London start-ups and SMEs that you should know about.
We know that women don’t have it easy in the business world: last year, female-founded businesses in the US received just 2.2% of $130 billion VC funding. However, things are changing. There are more female-founded companies than ever before, and these companies are increasingly seeing success. Female entrepreneurs are consistently building innovative, industry-leading businesses, and that truly is something to celebrate.
International Women’s Day is a fantastic occasion to celebrate the amazing women who are building businesses that can change the world! Here’s a list of 50 inspirational London-based female-founded enterprises that we think deserve attention. I’d like to thank Tom and the TalentPool team for helping us put this list together. Today, it is still difficult for female-founded startups to raise the money they need to grow to their full potential; there is a lot of work to do in bridging the investment gap between female and male-founded companies. Yet research is showing that startups founded by women are doing well, driving higher revenues and returns in spite of receiving less funding. This list is a celebration of some of the women who are succeeding and are paving the way towards equality in business.
Emilie BelletFounder – Vestpod
On this International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate the women and businesses that are making the world a better and more vibrant place. Here are TalentPool and Vestpod’s picks for the 50 most exciting female-founded companies in London right now!
Foremost in Finance and Business Services
Starling Bank is a new digital-only method of banking. The bank is linked to an app on the user’s phone which allows them to track every penny they spend. It also has a range of handy savings features to help you keep track of and save your money efficiently. Starling Bank was founded by Anne Boden in 2015 and is now one of the UK’s most established fintech start-ups.
Natasha Guerra founded Runway East, a creative, community-based co-working space, in 2014. Since then, Runway East has grown from a single base in Moorgate to a 1,200 strong community. Runway East has really (ahem,) taken off since its founding and continues to help start-ups take flight through a collaborative, people-centric approach to office sharing.
I’m proud to be a part of such an inspiring community of female founders. Being able to nurture and grow a business that gives and receives support from other brilliant female minds in tech has been incredibly rewarding.
Natasha GuerraFounder – Runway East
As we continue to move into an increasingly technological age, many express concerns for the future of the workforce. However, Pip Jamieson recognised that no matter how far technology advances, human beings have creativity and imagination on their side. She set up The Dots, a platform where creatives, freelancers and entrepreneurs can connect and work together, in 2014. Since then, The Dots has been making creative careers more accessible to all!
Malik + Mack
Malik + Mack is a creative agency that offers a range of services, from brand strategy to graphic design. The agency was founded in 2018 by design duo Sarah Malik and Cali Mack. In the short time since Malik + Mack was established, they have secured a number of interesting and high profile clients. They are fast gaining a reputation amongst growth companies for design which is both sophisticated and commercial.
There is a real rapport and supportive community within female founder networks. Everyone goes out of their way to help each other out and share knowledge.
Cali MackFounder – Malik + Mack
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well received having an all female founding team has been, both by clients and wider partners. It’s very encouraging!
Sarah MalikFounder – Malik + Mack
TableCrowd founder Kate Jackson recognised that networking is crucial for a company’s success – and what better way to network than over good food? TableCrowd curates relaxed networking dinners with a wide variety of themes and speakers for professionals to build relationships with like-minded individuals. Since its founding in 2011, TableCrowd has been the foundation for the formation many new business relationships.
Huckletree is a co-working space with a heart: collaboration is at the centre of this company, which invites tech and lifestyle start-ups to join its community of creative thinkers. Co-founded by Gaby Hersham, Huckletree is an amazing space for up-and-coming companies to find their footing!
Aneeqa Khan co-founded eporta, the B2B marketplace for furniture and furnishings, in 2014. eporta’s mission is to make interior sourcing simple – the platform allows professionals to source, order and install everything they need for their projects. eporta has been connecting buyers and suppliers across the interior design industry since it started and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon!
Emilie Bellet founded Vestpod 2 years ago – after working in private equity – to empower women financially and break the taboo around money. Vestpod encourages women to earn, save and invest more. They offer a weekly newsletter, a community, and workshops and events on everything relating to personal finances. Emilie is currently working on her first book, ‘You’re Not Broke, You’re Pre-Rich’, which will be published in May 2019. Vestpod is instilling women everywhere with the confidence to make the most of their money, and we are thrilled to be partnered with them for this list!
Inexpensive and integrity-driven legal aid can seem like a fantasy to small businesses. Yet Linkilaw offers exactly that. Founder and CEO Alexandra Isseneger has been making quality legal aid accessible to start-ups and SMEs since 2015 and earned a spot on Forbes’ 2018 30 Under 30 List as a result.
Starting and running Linkilaw has deepened my understanding and experience of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. The biggest challenge (and development) this has brought about is learning to stand for what I know to be true. In business, clients, employees, partners, and investors all want something from us, and there is a tendency to want to ‘mold yourself’ into what you believe people want you to be. I no longer do this. Instead, I speak honestly and act instinctively, from my own reasoning and intuition. And my business has been much more successful as a result. Here’s to women in business championing who they are, not who others think they should be!
Alessandra IseneggerFounder & CEO – Linkilaw
Best in Beauty, Health and Wellbeing
Beautystack was founded by Sharmadean Reid MBE in 2017 with the aim of revolutionising the way to book beauty treatments. The platform allows beauty experts to share images of their work, which clients can share, save and even use to book an appointment! With a stylish app built using the very latest technology, Beautystack is one seriously impressive system.
My Beauty Matches & Beauty Matching Engine
Nidhima Kohli founded My Beauty Matches in 2015 after realising that women end up wasting an awful lot of money by buying the wrong beauty products for them. The company aims to reduce this problem by providing personalised recommendations and price comparison tools. My Beauty Matches has grown at a phenomenal rate over the past few years and it is now the biggest beauty website in the world, with over 300,000 products! Nidhima followed up the success of My Beauty Matches with a sister company, Beauty Matching Engine, in 2018.
My biggest challenge as a female founder has been not being taken seriously, especially during my first few years. I still remember the founder of one of the most famous start-ups telling me ‘You can’t run a company based on looks.’ I think that being a female founder has a few advantages though. It can be easier to get press coverage or a spot on a panel because we add diversity. There are also plenty of female founder networks and groups who are really supportive of one another.
Nidhima KohliFounder – My Beauty Matches & Beauty Matching Engine
In the increasingly stressful world we live in, 87 Percent is here to offer some respite to those who are suffering. Co-founder Kate Pljaskovova has made it her aim to create a safe and confidential environment which companies can offer to their employees to allow them to work on their mental health and ensure that they’re feeling as positive as possible at work.
The Inspire Movement
The Inspire Movement is a mental health foundation that encourages its members to be vulnerable. Inspire believes that giving people a space to share their lowest moments will help them to feel like themselves again and to take on life with a new, better perspective. The movement was founded by Nancy Fechnay, the Chief Inspire Officer, who oversees the work of the Inspirers in various cities, including London and New York.
After her difficult and painful journey to motherhood, Lina Chan realised just how far women can be left in the dark when it comes to their reproductive health. After much research and having two girls of her own, Lina set up Adia Health in 2017. Adia’s goal is to empower women by providing them with up-to-date science on every aspect of conception and pregnancy, from nutrition to mental health. With advice from leading experts in fertility, Adia is a vital service for the growing numbers of women who choose to have children later in life.
Founded by Amy Thomson and launched in the UK in October 2018, Moody Month takes period tracking apps to the next level. Offering women a digital space to record and track their emotions, Moody provides a much needed platform for women to reflect on their feelings and focus on their mental health. With insightful articles on women’s health and a vitamin store offering remedies for common mood-maladies, Moody Month is a game changer!
Live Better With
Live Better With is an online shop for individuals living with cancer, and stocks a range of products which aim to make their lives more comfortable. The site suggests products to help ease the difficulties cancer patients may be experiencing, such as hair loss, trouble sleeping, and difficulty exercising. Tamara Rajah founded Live Better With in 2015 and has since helped a huge number of sufferers and their families.
BALANCE is an online wellbeing platform founded by Sophie Scott in 2016. The magazine aims to deliver wonderful content to individuals who are conscious of their own health and the health of the planet. BALANCE also comes in the form of a physical magazine which is distributed across London!
Nell Health was founded by Laura Moore, and gives personalised nutritional and lifestyle insights for its members. Laura wanted to provide people with the knowledge they need to manage their health in a simple, yet effective, way. After completing one of the Nell Health tests, customers will have their health data decoded by the company’s team of experts and be given a guide to help them make the necessary changes to optimise their health.
Alessandra Sollberger founded Evermore Health in 2016. Evermore offers a selection of nutrients to enhance the body and unlock its full potential. This isn’t Alessandra’s first business, and this entrepreneur shows no signs of slowing: she is currently in the process of setting up biotech companies with renowned scientist Jonathan Rothberg!
Melinda Nicci is the driving force behind Baby2Body, the health and wellness brand for mothers. A mother herself and hugely passionate about women’s health and wellbeing, Melinda founded Baby2Body when she struggled to find reliable advice on working out whilst pregnant with her first child. Baby2Body has grown massively since then and is now a top health and wellbeing coaching app for pregnant women and mothers.
We all have unique challenges that we face with our unique businesses, and as a female with a very female-oriented product, it’s definitely been a unique challenge to pitch my business to so many male investors, who will never be able to experience the problem we’re solving. But that hasn’t stopped us yet, and it surely won’t as we continue to grow. I think if we start pointing to gender as a pro or con in this space it further perpetuates the divide between “entrepreneurs” and “female entrepreneurs”. I will be the first person to champion my female peers who are incredible founders and CEOs, because they are great entrepreneurs, not because they are female entrepreneurs.
Melinda NicciFounder & CEO – Baby2Body
Leaders in Lifestyle, Home and Travel
Borrow My Doggy
Rikke Rosenlund got the idea for Borrow My Doggy after looking after a friend’s dog: the experience made her think that there must be many other people in need of someone trustworthy and reliable to look after their furry companions for a few hours a week. She recognised us as a nation of dog lovers and set up Borrow My Doggy in 2012. Since then, the platform has been allowing like-minded dog lovers to meet and take care of hundreds of pups!
Seen on Screen
Seen On Screen offers the unique opportunity to learn the routines from famous music videos with the very pros who star in them! Founder Bonnie Lister Parsons, herself a professional dancer, aims to give women the joy and confidence that comes from learning to move like a music star. Seen on Screen has been providing a cool spin on dance fitness classes since 2011!
The Hotbed Collective
The Hotbed Collective is an online platform where women can share tips, stories and advice about sex and relationships. Launched as a podcast in 2018 by Anniki Sommerville, Cherry Healey and Lisa Williams, The Hotbed Collective gives women a space to talk frankly and freely, and even have a laugh, about an aspect of life that some may otherwise be reluctant to discuss.
Ashleigh Hinde founded Waldo Contacts in 2017 with the aim of streamlining the process of ordering contact lenses. Waldo provides high-quality contact lenses without the hassle or hefty price tags that often come with other lenses. Ashleigh only founded the company in 2017 but Waldo already ships their lenses throughout the UK, USA, and Europe and they show signs of stopping there!
Brolly was founded by Phoebe Hugh in 2016 and has since been changing the way we view insurance. By using the latest AI technologies, Brolly helps its users to make informed decisions about their various insurance policies and acts as a digital locker to store all of their policies in one place. It cleverly allows you to track your premiums, monitor your spending and always have your documents with you, wherever you are, for whenever you might need them. Pretty handy if you ask us.
After noticing that people’s lives are now busier and more demanding than ever, Gemma Young founded Settled in 2014 to combat an unnecessary additional stress: buying or selling a house! Settled aims to unite buyers and sellers and, as a result, is reducing fall through rates and speeding up the journey to completion. They’re clearly doing something right, as the Settled team have sold £300m worth of homes so far!
For many of us, the path to owning a home we love is weighed down by the stress and expense of building work. Having experienced such difficulties for themselves, MBEs Alex Depledge and Jules Coleman set up Resi, a personalised architectural service, in 2016. Resi combines Alex and Jules’ technological prowess with architectural expertise to deliver a speedier and more personalised experience for homeowners who want to get work done.
Mr & Mrs Smith
Tamara Lohan is half the brains behind luxury travel club Mr & Mrs Smith. She and her husband James founded the club back in 2003, and it has since become synonymous with luxury travel. Mr & Mrs Smith helps holidayers find the finest boutique and luxury hotels, with some of the best in the world on its books!
SUITCASE Magazine & SUITCASE Media
Serena Guen founded SUITCASE Magazine back in 2012 and it has since been the publication that ‘exists to change the way you travel’. The magazine is published quarterly and prides itself on being the first multi-media travel and fashion magazine. Serena also founded SUITCASE Media, which produces digital content for travel companies. To launch a successful magazine in this increasingly digital age is no mean feat, but Serena has certainly done it!
The biggest barrier to being a female founder has been not being taken seriously. When I tell people what I do, they often think it’s just a hobby, and don’t understand that I am a businesswoman and that SUITCASE is a serious business. I would say that the support from other female founders is the main advantage. It is simply amazing! I have a few little groups that meet up every month or so for dinner. They were particularly supportive when I was fundraising last year, helping with introductions, sharing what they’d learned and cheering me on from the sidelines.
Founder & CEO – SUITCASE Magazine and SUITCASE Media
Food, Glorious Food
After experiencing a wellness revelation, Ophelia Froud was dismayed by the difficulty of finding authentic and exciting plant-based eateries. To tackle this, she created Glowcation, a platform for those in search of a healthy meal without the struggle of finding where to get one. Ophelia’s company has really taken off since its founding in 2016, with an international community of bloggers who are making living and eating well easier for all!
Olio is a food sharing app which aims to reduce food waste by letting individuals and local shops share their food with friends and neighbours. It was founded in 2015 by Saasha Celestial-One and Tessa Cook, and has since allowed 1,172,532 portions of food to be shared instead of wasted!
My co-founder Tessa and I have at times found it more difficult to convey our mission and vision for OLIO to male investors. To some extent this is understandable, as women are still the primary decision makers with regard to food in the majority of households, and thus make up 2/3rds of our user base. However, it would be great to see more diversity in the investor community, to more closely reflect the diversity of society at large. Most investors are acutely aware of the underrepresentation of female founded startups in their portfolios, and are actively looking to address this. So, it can be an advantage to be a female founder in terms of getting an initial meeting. As an all-female founder team, Tessa and I have had a great response from the press, who embraced our story as ‘two mums on a mission to save the planet.
Founder – Olio
Eating at work has come a long way since the days of the supermarket meal deal: from team breakfasts to lunch meetings, food makes the working day a little more bearable! However, food from local restaurants, especially in The City, can be incredibly expensive. Noticing this, Riya Grover and Lyz Swanton founded Feedr, an online platform that allows companies to order healthy food options at a reasonable price, in 2015. The site takes into account your location, company size and budget to offer you the best options for your team.
Provenance is a digital platform that lets companies share the details of their production processes with consumers. Provenance was founded in 2014 by Jessi Baker, and its mission is to improve our understanding of where the food we buy comes from. Provenance is making the supply chain more transparent and empowering consumers to make more informed decisions about what to buy.
Top in Tech
Emily Brooke founded Beryl, the maker of laser lights for bicycles, in 2012. However, these lights haven’t been used for just any bikes: they now feature on the Santander Bikes that are all over London! Emily has been awarded an MBE for her contribution to the community through her revolutionising of urban cycling and if that doesn’t earn her a place on this list then we don’t know what does!
It seems as though 2012 was the year for female founders; it was also when Karoline Gross founded Smartzer, and as a result, made the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Smartzer makes videos clickable and therefore allows brands to drive sales and capture analytics directly through the use of video.
Kiroku believe that less time should be spent on admin when it could be spent on doing your job! We completely agree! As a result, Hannah Burrow co-founded Kiroku to help Dentists spend less time writing up patient notes and instead let a voice-enabled, AI-powered, dental assistant write the notes for them.
Century Tech is a forward-thinking teaching and learning platform which creates learning pathways for students and allows teachers to track their pupil’s progress, efficiently mark their work, and identify where they need to improve. It was founded by Priya Lakhani in 2014 and has worked towards revolutionising the way in which students learn and how teachers engage with their work.
In our increasingly digital world, we often find that in order to obtain a new job role or expand a business we need more of an understanding of technology – enter Decoded. Decoded is an accessible coding school that provides a range of teaching on everything from creating your own app to programming. Decoded founder Kathryn Parsons believes that technology is for everyone, and therefore everyone should have the opportunity to learn the skills and reap the benefits.
Dreamstake Ventures was founded by Marina Atarova with the purpose of investing capital and expertise into technology start-ups to accelerate their progress to series A. Dreamstake has recognised the power and importance of technology and its ability to help certain sectors progress. Dreamstake identifies the best technology start-ups across Europe and helps them to commercialise their ideas.
Favourites in Family
Created in 2017 by Laura Farnsworth, Sitster offers a free, practical way for parents to keep their social lives from becoming nonexistent. The app allows mums and dads to organise babysitting amongst their social circle, saving themselves and their friends money and making a night out less of an ordeal. Sitster sounds like the perfect solution for parents who want a night out without breaking the bank!
Horrified by the use of child labour in the clothing industry, Jane Fellner became determined to combat the UK’s fast-fashion culture and cut down on clothing waste. After struggling to recycle her baby son’s clothes, she founded Loopster, an online retailer for parents to sell and buy second-hand clothing, in 2017. Loopster enables parents to resell and recycle their children’s old clothes and save money whilst saving the planet!
With online dating and dating apps ever present, Michelle Kennedy identified a new and unique market which could benefit from this type of communication: new mums. Peanut recognises that being pregnant and on maternity leave can be a daunting and sometimes lonely period in a woman’s life. In an attempt to combat this, Peanut allows like-minded mums to connect with each other via the app and makes it easy for them to meet up. Michelle co-founded Peanut only a few years ago in 2016 but the app has already grown massively and helped many mums and mums-to-be in need!
Koru Kids aims to revolutionise childcare in London; it’s three main focuses are high-quality childcare, at affordable prices, whilst still being convenient for working parents (mostly mothers). Rachel Carrell founded Koru Kids in 2016 after she experienced the difficulties of finding childcare to fit her lifestyle. Koru Kids has been changing the face of childcare ever since!
The greatest challenge I faced was being pregnant whilst fundraising — and then giving birth in the middle of the fundraise! It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! There are advantages to being a founder and a mum, though — spending time with my kids always puts everything else in perspective, and morning cuddles with my baby is my favourite part of the day!
Founder – Koru Kids
More Amazing Companies!
Devika Wood founded Vida after experiencing the importance of caring first hand. Whilst living with and caring for her grandmother, Devika saw the detrimental impact of her grandmother’s inconsistent caring schedule as she was passed from carer to carer sent to her by social services. As a result, Devika made it her mission to establish a company that could improve the care industry by adopting a clinical approach and empowering carers and clients. Vida offers help and support to families who are caring for sick or elderly family members at home and aims to promote health and wellness.
Spark Inside was founded by Baillie Aaron in 2012. It’s a hugely inspiring company that works with prisoners and young offenders to help them find their ‘spark inside’ – a passion which they can work towards, something that is more attractive than returning to a life of crime upon their release. To date Spark Inside has worked with over 1,000 prisoners and prison officers.
Smartup Visuals is made up of a pretty cool all-female team with founders Kristina Naruseviciute and Lina Navickaite at its helm. The quirky illustration and design agency work with their clients to bring their ideas to life and provide them with great visual content. The team is especially passionate about future technologies, business trends and unique subject matter!
Mean Mail, the brainchild of Vicky Simmons, offers greeting cards with a twist. Claiming to “tell the truth,” these cards may seem cutting at first, but they fit Vicky’s desire for an unconventional way to express love and good wishes to a tee. We think Vicky’s cards are a brilliant way to let the less affectionate amongst us know how much they’re cared about!
Founded in 2014 by Emily Forbes, Seenit is a digital platform where individuals can upload original film footage for their favourite brands and companies to use. Emily came up with the idea of a footage sharing platform after realising that the accessibility of mobile phones has made the power to record and publicise current events open to everyone. Seenit gives consumers and companies the opportunity to collaborate and create content with an impact.
About Time Magazine
About Time Magazine is a truly unique online publication with a food and lifestyle focus. They aim to reveal ‘everything it’s about time you tried in London and beyond’! It was founded by Angelica Malin in 2014 and has been growing ever since!
Launched in 2013, Shoobs is a ticket-buying site that also offers sales management to event organisers. Founder Louise Broni-Mensah started Shoobs as a side project, but it didn’t take long for her to discover the site’s potential and decide to make the jump to working on it full time. Providing tickets to some of the most unique and exciting events that urban nightlife has to offer, Shoobs has rapidly become a go-to ticketing vendor!