The Power of Three
In the last two years, a record number of women have launched new business in the UK. According to government agency Innovate UK over 140,000 all-female-founded companies were created in Britain last year alone.
More broadly, the number of women working in tech has risen by 44% over the last few years and there are now half a million working in tech in the UK.
Clearly, the opportunities women entrepreneurs are growing, but there’s still work to be done. In total, only 20% of new firms in the UK are led by women while in the US only 40% of start-ups have at least one woman in the C-suite or the board of directors.
In the week of International Women’s Day, we wanted to shine a light on three female-led tech businesses which are thriving.
While they vary from healthcare and digital twins and sustainable microchips, all three businesses have a tech for good element in common – aiming to either improve care, increase sustainability, and encourage more inclusive working patterns for employees. This makes us think that by the time the number of female businesses does rise to 50% the planet will be in a far better shape.
Start-up: PCL Health (2018)
Founder: Deepti Atrish, CEO
The idea behind PCL Health, a remote monitoring and tracking ecosystem, came from founder Deepti Atrish’s own life challenges.
She has been living in London for more than two decades and wanted to be able to keep tabs on the health of her India-based mother. When Atrish’s mum later started to display early signs of dementia the entrepreneur developed the idea of creating a connected care solution by using an ecosystem of wearable and IoT devices/sensors that captures health vital signs, physiological data and wellbeing updates and warns family members if there are any alerts.
With a career spanning twenty years, which has included managing a digital agency and as well as founding two other start-ups, Deepti used her experience in enterprise tech to launch PCL Health, with the primary goal of staying in close contact with her mum.
PCL Health’s remote monitoring devices track vital signs and physiological data with a validated clinical scoring system. By wearing a remote monitoring device (usually a smart watch) family and medical teams can access the user’s data to keep track of their health.
The measurements are uploaded onto a digital dashboard, or mobile app, that can be monitored by family members and interpreted by their doctors who can then act on anything unusual. The measurements include heart rate, sleep, temperature, oxygen levels, and they can also log their blood pressure and weight into the app.
Now, Deepti has a technology which provides up to date updates on her mother’s health and wellbeing right on her mobile.
PCL Health is cyber security essential certified business which has been optimised to ensure that its products and services are NHS ready, so that it can interoperate with NHS systems.
The company had its first round of pre-seed funding last year, with lead investor Richard Hargreaves (a former board member of the British Venture Capital Association) as an angel investor, as well as three others with a Medtech investment background.
In the future, PCL Health wants to be more tech-savvy by adding more functionality through smart home items such as Amazon’s Alexa to communicate through.
Her team is also testing a new technology that can be used within the app to track vitals simply by analysing the blood circulation through a mobile phone camera operating in ‘selfie’ mode.
Deepti says that finding funding as a female entrepreneur has been challenging – they generally just seem to receive less in funding. She also adds that sometimes she feels that she doesn’t get taken as seriously as her male counterparts.
Her advice for those who want to start their own business: “Just keep a sharp focus on your dream and then things will start to align. It’s not going to be an easy journey. It is going to be difficult, but don’t give up.”
Start-up: Spinview (2016)
Founders: Linda Wade, CEO; Zoran Grahovac, director.
Spinview creates digital twins of real world spaces. It provides technology that captures the data from the world around us and transforms it visually into actionable, measurable information about any building, physical infrastructure or space.
The technology doesn’t just replicate a visual copy, its measurements accurately contain data (e.g. temperature, humidity, thermal imaging, carbon, emissions and particulate) on the whole health and well-being of the building. This is called ‘visual intelligence’.
“Visual intelligence translates the once complex information, that was only available to technicians and engineers, and enables all users to understand the performance and health of their whole structure in an online environment. This helps optimise the performance of their space and helps them manage and obtain remote access into the space without needing to physically visit it,” Wade explains.
Wade has worked in tech since the early 2000s – her master’s thesis was on the impact that the internet might have on business performance, just as the internet was more prolific force in enterprise.
Early roles include digitising corporate’s physical assets for trading and publishing platforms and Wade has always been interested in digital transformation.
Over the last few years, as the amount of data coming through devices and the IoT has increased, Wade has made it her quest to find visual solutions for businesses, so everyone that needs it can understand it.
She says: “We’d seen the concept of Google Street View really early on and thought about how that is an amazingly powerful tool for just communicating what a space looks like.”
“We can now combine that with multiple sources of information from the real world and put it on “steroids” – with all the data that you need, delivered in one common, easy-to-understand visual format that is useable and accessible by anyone that needs it.”
Spinview claims to make information accessible and manageable which it achieves through drag and drop technology. Firms can take Spinview’s file, containing all the heavy coding and databases and systems, and view it on their computer or even a VR headset.
Deployments include a project with Transport for London to help technicians and engineers working on the London Underground to understand and read data streams and access their environments from the safety of their office.
This involves creating a complex multi-sensor capture device and placing it on a train, letting that train drive through the underground and capturing multiple sets of information on the assets and physical infrastructure.
The device can also be used by TfL for sustainability purposes – to capture environmental emissions and the health of the air in the underground space, aiding their drive toward zero carbon emissions.
The data is then automated onto a platform that translates it into a visual, three-dimensional copy that people and machines can understand.
According to Wade, she was partly motivated to set up her own business because of the flexible working patterns it has allowed her (bearing in mind, this was before the pandemic).
“Part of the appeal was to change the status quo and viewpoint of how we are ‘supposed’ to work. Consequently, the essence of 9 to 5 and office location doesn’t exist at Spinview – we embrace the right to flexible working, and we do not need to conform to traditional working practices …We can do both – have a successful career and a family. We do not need to choose.”
Start-up: Cambridge GaN Devices (2016)
Founders: Dr Giorgia Longobardi, CEO; Professor Florin Udrea
CGD designs, develops, and commercialises energy-efficient gallium nitride-based (GaN) power devices, with the goal to make electronics more sustainable. Giorgia Longobardi and her colleague, Florin Udrea founded the firm in 2016 after10 years of research into gallium nitride based (GaN) technology at Cambridge University.
CGD claims that GaN technology is more power efficient than the silicon chip: over the last few years, their engineers have been developing GaN transistors that are over 100 times faster, lose five to 10 times less power, and are four-times smaller than current silicon equivalents.
It is the firm’s mission to make greener electronics possible by replacing silicon chips, found in almost every electronic device, with GaN technology.
CGD has been involved in several projects, including GaN Next, a €10.3 million Europe-wide initiative developed through a group of 13 partners, and led by CGD.
When CGD won the project, it had more partners than employees and the company has had to expand quickly. In terms of its IP portfolio, it has made 36 patent applications, including its proprietary ICeGaN technology.
Currently, the firm is in the process of developing a range of energy-efficient GaN-based power devices using its ICeGaN technology and is looking to deploy it in several key market segments such as consumer electronics, lighting, data centres, telecoms, solar and automotive electric and hybrid electric vehicles.
CGD has also recently announced an Innovate UK project with the goal of developing a product for the automotive market, and there is also IceData – a project which is looking to develop and commercialise a GaN-based chip for use in data centre server power supplies.
This aims to boost the efficiency of data centre server power supplies to more than 97 % – which should contribute to the saving of more than eight megatons of CO2 emissions annually by 2030.
The GaN-based transistors can provide other power-saving benefits, such as decreasing the amount of power needed for typically power-hungry data centres.
Sustainability is a core tenet of CGD, and it aims to continue to lower power losses in the electronic power industry to benefit a wide community of customers and end-users.
Last year, CGD raised $9.5 million in Series A funding. Longobardi says that CGD will continue to invest heavily in research and development across the various markets.
The company aims to become a market leader in GaN power integrated circuits, and it’s confident that efficient power electronics is a key piece of the puzzle for the world to reach its net-zero targets.
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