The UK is one of the best-funded tech ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley thanks, in part, to its diversity.
There are more women than ever founding their own tech startups in the UK, defying barriers like the huge gender gap in computer science, the fact that most European firms have all-male founding teams, and that most venture capitalists are men.
We ranked the 33 coolest female founders in the UK, taking into account their careers and the success of their companies.
A side note: some people don’t like all-women lists because it suggests their gender is the primary filter for their achievements. We’ve included many of these women on mixed-gender lists too, but wanted to give them their own ranking.
Additional reporting by James Cook and Edoardo Maggio.
29. Priya Lakhani OBE, founder and CEO of Century Tech
Century Tech provides software to schools that lets them track the performance of individual students, from how they’re doing at homework to where they need to improve.
This is founder Priya Lakhani’s second venture (third, if you count her first business of selling sweets to schoolfriends at the age of 11). She founded an Indian sauce company, Masala & Masala, before moving on to Century Tech in 2014.
Funding: £2.1 million
Number of staff: 21
28. Aneeqa Khan, founder and CEO of Eporta
Eporta is an online marketplace for interior designers, architects, and anyone else who designs buildings for a living.
Khan came up with the concept while at property portal Zoopla, which she helped lead to IPO. She figured there was no marketplace for tradespeople to source furniture, so she left Zoopla to found her own company.
Funding: £3 million
Number of staff: 25
27. Michelle Kennedy, CEO and cofounder of Peanut
Peanut is a dating app for lonely mothers. It connects new mothers who have similar interests and backgrounds.
Cofounder Kennedy left a high-profile job at dating giant Badoo, where she was deputy CEO, to run the startup. You can read more about Peanut in Business Insider’s interview with Michelle Kennedy.
Funding: Not disclosed
26. Louise Broni-Mensah, founder of Shoobs
Shoobs is a YPlan-style event app, which lets you buy tickets for events. The twist is that it’s focused on garage, grime, and urban music. It’s backed by Y Combinator.
Founder Louise Broni-Mensah gave up a career in investment banking to work on Shoobs, drawing on her earlier experiences of managing a hip-hop artist. As she tells it, she went through a gruelling period of being a trader by day, promotor by night. She decided to launch an events startup after struggling to find a decent night out with friends.
Funding: Around £70,000
Number of staff: 5
25. Serena Guen, founder of Suitcase
Serena Guen founded Suitcase magazine, targeted at travellers in 2012, before expanding it to Suitcase Media this year. Suitcase is travel writing for the Airbnb generation, covering places like North Korea, Nicaragua, and festivals.
She started the publication while she was a student, after writing city guides for friends, making her the youngest media proprieters in the world.
Funding: Not disclosed
24. Jenny Griffiths, founder and CEO of Snap Tech
Snap Tech started as Snap Fashion, a shopping site that lets you find items predominently by colour and shape. The company’s now expanded to general visual search, offering tools which publishers and retailers can add to their own sites.
Founder Jenny Griffiths landed on the idea while studying computer science at the University of Bristol. She went on to take on various software engineer roles at bigger firms like defence firm Thales, before jacking it in and becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
Funding: Not disclosed
Number of staff: 12
23. Leah Hutcheon, founder and CEO of Appointedd
Appointedd is an online appointment booking firm, founded in Scotland by Leah Hutcheon and backed by Skyscanner founder Gareth Williams.
Hutcheon has had a varied career — her first job was to dress up as the TV character Mr Blobby on Blackpool Pier. She went onto a sales job at a magazine, eventually working her way up to editor, but then lost her job. She founded her company because she found it tough to book appointments online at her local beauty salon.
Number of staff: 13
22. Emily Forbes, cofounder of Seenit
Seenit is a video app that lets businesses crowdsources footage.
Emily Forbes used to work in video production, and came up with the idea for Seenit while on a shoot. Filming a rhino protest in South Africa, she saw that others were capturing good footage which she could use, rather than running around the protest herself. Crowdsourcing footage and stitching it together was much cheaper than hiring a full production team.
21. Devika Wood, cofounder and chief medical officer of Vida
Vida matches carers to patients online, in an attempt to solve the “bed blocking” issue crippling the NHS, where patients don’t get sent home because no one’s found them a carer.
Cofounder Devika Wood has a background in human biology and public health, and had a brief stint at Google in 2008. She worked at health appointments startup Babylon for a year, and another medical startup, Medefer. She founded Vida with CEO Naushad Jabir in 2016.
Funding: £1.7 million
Number of staff: 23
20. Paris Petgrave, CEO and cofounder of We Love Work
We Love Work
We Love Work is an online recruitment service which assesses what your workplace culture is like, and whether an employee might be a good fit.
Petgrave has a mixed background of recruitment and computer science, launching her startup in 2015. Aside from running her own company, she also founded Rare Seed Capital, a VC firm that funds founders from diverse backgrounds.
19. Gemma Young, cofounder and CEO of Settled
Young is a former Googler with a background in marketing and sales. She set up her online estate agent startup with her brother Paul in 2013 with the aim of making it easier to sell your house.
Funding: £2.2 million
18. Saasha Celestial-One, COO and cofounder of Olio
Olio is a food-sharing startup that lets you share food with friends and neighbours so it doesn’t go to waste.
If you’re wondering about cofounder Saasha Celestial-One’s unusual surname, it’s because she was raised by hippy parents. She rebelled by going to Morgan Stanley and doing an MBA at Stanford, but has returned somewhat to her roots with this environmentally friendly startup.
Funding: $2.2 million (£1.7 million)
Number of staff: 9
17. Bethany Koby, founder of Technology Will Save Us
Technology Will Save Us sells computing kits for kids, like a DIY synthesiser and a fitness wearable.
Bethany Koby cofounded the company with Daniel Hirschmann. She has a background in graphic design, working with design agency Wolff Olins and residential developers Fabrica before founding her startup.
Funding: £1.2 million
16. Emily Brooke, founder and CEO of Blaze
If you’ve ever used one of London’s bike rental scheme, you will have come across Blaze. The startup makes lights which project the image of a bicycle a few metres in front of the rider, to alert passers-by or vehicles that there’s a cyclist close by. Brooke read Physics at the University of Oxford, and went on to become one of the first people to join the Entrepreneur First scheme for budding startup founders.
Funding: £1.5 million
Number of staff: 13
15. Michelle You, cofounder of Songkick
Songkick is a grandaddy of the London tech startup scene, and lets you track artists for upcoming gigs, then buy tickets.
You is chief product officer at Songkick and sits on the company’s board. She’s credited by cofounder Ian Hogarth with the actual idea of tracking your favourite bands.
Funding: Approximately £50 million
14. Jessi Baker, founder of Provenance
Most people don’t think about where the food they buy in supermarkets come from, and whether it’s ethnically sourced. Provenance uses the blockchain — the technology underpinning bitcoin — to track the origins of food and other goods. In one example, tuna fishermen used Provenance to prove their sustainability credentials.
Founder Jessi Baker set up the company in 2014, after quitting a role in an ad agency. She holds multiple degrees in design engineering, manufacturing engineering, and philosophy.
Funding: £1.2 million
13. Kathryn Parsons, co-CEO and founder of Decoded
Decoded is an adult coding school that will teach you anything from building your own blockchain to creating apps from scratch.
Kathryn Parsons is a linguist rather than coder by background, starting out at creative agency Ogilvy before founding her own agency. She also took Japanese classes from the age of 14 at SOAS.
Number of staff: 77
12. Marta Krupinska, general manager and cofounder of Azimo
Azimo is a money transfer startup, letting you send money internationally more cheaply than with your bank.
Marta Krupinska cofounded the startup with three other founders, and is in an operational role as general manager. Her first venture was a Polish travel site, but she moved to London in 2012, and jumped into the fintech startup from there.
Funding: £31.4 million
Number of staff: 90
11. Tamara Rajah, founder and CEO of Live Better With
Live Better With
Live Better With is an online shop for people with cancer, who may need specialist products if, for example, their skin is sensitive or they struggle to do exercise. The site also lets people gift bundles for friends or relatives with cancers, and the site offers advice and tips. The site’s partnered with the Marie Curie charity, and it serves around 20,000 patients.
Tamara Rajah founded the startup in 2015. Before that, she was part of the McKinsey mafia that went on to build Entrepreneur First, the UK-based pre-seed development programme for technical founders.
Total amount raised: £1.95 million
9. Jade Harwood, cofounder of Wool and the Gang
Wool and the Gang
Wool and the Gang is the female-founded, online haberdashery turned knitting community sensation. The site sells knitting patterns and kit, but has turned into something much bigger and sociable. There are more than 2,000 members of the “gang” who gather together to knit at knitting parties.
Jade Harwood cofounded the site with Aurelie Popper after the pair studied at fashion college Central Saint Martins in London. Her interest in sustainable rather than fast fashion and knitting led to Wool and the Gang.
Funding: £3.6 million
8. Brynne Kennedy, founder and CEO of Move Guides
Move Guides helps companies relocate their staff to other parts of the world, mainly through its online management platform.
Kennedy spent several years in corporate finance, before ditching the banking sector and taking an MBA in entrepreneurial management. She’s part of Founders’ Pledge, meaning she’ll give at least 2% of any Move Guide exit proceeds she gets to charity.
Funding: £21 million
Number of staff: 130
7. Leanne Kemp, founder and CEO of Everledger
Everledger has come up with an interesting way to reduce diamond theft.
It uses the blockchain, the technology which underpins bitcoin transactions, to create a public register of diamonds. It records their particular characteristics, making it more difficult to pawn stolen gems. Almost 900,000 diamonds have been registered to the platform already.
Kemp is pretty well-qualified to be tackling diamond crime — she holds degrees in criminology and cybercrime, and accounting, and is a registered gem consultant.
Total amount raised: $1.6 million (£1.2 million)
6. Amber Atherton, founder of Rubric
Rubric is an app which comes up with the perfect captions for Instagram. It identifies what’s happening in your picture, and comes up with song lyrics or slang to caption it.
It was founded by Amber Atherton, the serial entrepreneur and “Made in Chelsea” star. Atherton released the app through her startup, Zyper, and has also founded a jewellery business called My Flash Trash. She has apparently sold her wares directly to Kate Middleton.
Funding: Not disclosed
5. Samantha Payne, COO and cofounder of Open Bionics
Open Bionics develops affordable prosthetics for amputees using 3D printing technology.
Cofounder Samantha Payne is a former journalist, now handling marketing and operations for Open Bionics. She cofounded the startup with roboticist Joel Gibbard.
Funding: Approximately £1 million
4. Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank
Anne Boden is the CEO of UK fintech startup Starling Bank, which is building a new, digital-only way to use your bank account. The company is currently building a digital current account that’s tied to an app, allowing you to see all of your spending.
Boden has a career in the banking industry and is now one of the UK’s leading fintech CEOs. Starling Bank recently received its full banking licence, which clears the way for the launch of its full product.
Funding: £55 million
3. Melissa Morris, CEO and cofounder of Network Locum
Network Locum makes it easier for locum doctors, who move around from practice to practice, to book where they’re going to work next.
Morris comes from a finance and management consultancy background, with various stints at McKinsey and as an NHS analyst. She founded Network Locum in 2011.
Funding: £10 million
2. Rikke Rosenlund, founder of BorrowMyDoggy
BorrowMyDoggy is an app which, well, lets you dogsit someone else’s pet for a short period of time. It’s a popular app for people who love dogs, but who might not be able to keep one full-time.
Founder Rikke Rosenlund hit on the idea while looking after a friend’s dog in 2012, realising that dog owners could benefit from not having to leave their pets in a kennel. She ditched a lengthy career in banking to found BorrowMyDoggy.
Funding: £2.5 million
Number of staff: 16
1. Cherry Freeman, cofounder and director of LoveCrafts
LoveCrafts is a marketplace for craft products, focused on knitting and crochet. The company raised £26 million in funding earlier this year.
Cofounder Cherry Freeman has a background in operations and consultancy — she was previously an adviser at ILK Partners.
Total amount raised: £44.4 million