- Business Insider has named the 100 most interesting and impactful people who are influencing British tech in 2019.
- Of that list, Business Insider has selected the top 30 female investors, founders, journalists, social media stars, and engineers who made the list.
- The list features entrepreneurs building global startups in the UK, investors who have a keen eye for emerging technologies, as well as journalists, TikTok stars, politicians, and regulators that made a mark.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
This week, Business Insider published the 2019 edition of its UK Tech 100 list – an annual feature celebrating 100 of the most impactful and innovative figures shaping the British technology industry.
From budding entrepreneurs building exciting new startups in London to regulators grappling with how to keep Silicon Valley titans in check, the UK’s tech scene is thriving.
We’re highlighting 30 women who made the list, a rundown of the most influential women in British tech today, such as Starling Bank CEO Anne Boden, whose business goes from strength to strength, to Joanna Bryson, who has been outspoken about ethics and artificial intelligence.
The wider industry still has some work to do. As entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors, women continue to face systemic bias and sexism. Diversity VC, some of whose founders are on this list, found in 2017 that 83% all UK venture capital funding went to startups with no women on their founding teams, among other shocking statistics.
Without further ado, here are the 30 most innovative, interesting, and influential women in UK tech who are changing the narrative.
Editing by Shona Ghosh, Rob Price, and Steven Tweedie. Jake Kanter, Callum Burroughs, Shona Ghosh, and Rob Price contributed reporting.
30. Melinda Roylett, Uber’s new UK chief who’ll have to fight for its licence
Melinda Roylett is Uber’s latest UK boss and its third in seven years, joining the firm from Square. Her predecessor at Uber, Tom Elvidge, left for WeWork.
The UK, and specifically London, is Uber’s biggest market in Europe and has posed multiple regulatory challenges. The city’s transport regulator, Transport for London, revoked Uber’s operating licence in 2017 and begrudgingly handed it back after a court battle.
In September, TfL only granted Uber a two-month licence, meaning the ride-hailing firm is under extreme pressure to show good behaviour around passenger safety, driver checks, and generally towing the line.
Roylett will be going into the job with her eyes open – few could miss the relentless negative headlines that have dogged Uber almost since its inception, or the regulatory battles it faces around the world. As a complete outsider, she has the chance to show UK regulators that the firm has finally turned over a new leaf.
Headcount: 200 (in the UK)
29. ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, taking on Netflix by teaming up with the BBC to make Britbox
The BBC and ITV have a long and tempestuous history of clashes in their battle for TV viewers – but the rise of Netflix has swept the old rivalries aside.
Threatened by the $US130 billion video-streaming gorilla, the two venerable British broadcasters are embracing to launch their own video service, Britbox.
Under the joint stewardship of ITV CEO Carloyn McCall and BBC Director General Tony Hall, Britbox will debut in the UK later this year, charging viewers £5.99 to stream new shows and a back catalogue of classic television from the organisations’ archives.
It’s an unusual commercial partnership for two old foes – and one they first tried to get off the ground more than a decade ago. Back in 2007, when Netflix had just started streaming, they tried to launch online TV venture Project Kangaroo, but it was blocked by regulators at the time.
12 years later, McCall and Hall will be hoping that they aren’t too late to the party.
28. Caroline Plumb, a fintech expert lending a hand to the government on the side
Caroline Plumb is the multi-talented founder and current CEO of Fluidly, a fintech startup that uses AI and financial modelling to forecast companies’ cash flows. Set up in 2016, it raised $US6.2 million in a Series A funding round in November 2018. She is also founder of a tech-focused management consultant, Decidedly (formerly known as Freshminds).
Since 2010, she has also served as the Prime Minister’s business ambassador for professional services, representing the UK’s professional services industries in countries such as France, Brunei and Singapore.
Plumb’s work has been recognised by numerous institutions. In the same year she founded Fluidly, Plumb was awarded an OBE for services to business and charity.
Total amount raised: $US15.5 million Headcount: 11-50Twitter:@cplumb
27. Dr. Jess Wade, the scientist rectifying Wikipedia’s blind spot
Wikipedia is the world’s biggest encyclopaedia, and it has one major flaw – the bulk of its volunteer editors are male.
This is widely acknowledged to be the reason why there are fewer notable women highlighted on Wikipedia. As The Guardian flagged in 2014, Wikipedia’s page on porn actresses was better edited than its page on women writers.
Dr. Jess Wade has been on a one-woman mission to change this, at least in scientific fields. She has decided to take on the lack of prominent female scientists featured on Wikipedia, creating hundreds of new entries for women who deserve greater fame. Last year, she added 280 new entries.
Professionally, she’s a physicist at Imperial College London studying organic light emitting diodes. But outside of her research, she has authored at least 400 pages on Wikipedia and, in late 2018, raised more than £20,000 to get a copy of “Inferior,” a book about how women are ignored by science, into every UK state school.
26. Ola Sendecka, Django Girls founder and Monzo engineer
Ola Sendecka is a triple threat: Engineer, educational YouTuber, and advocate for getting girls into coding.
Sendecka spun a one-off coding workshop for women into an international charity, Django Girls, in 2014. Five years later and Django Girls runs a network of more than 1,900 volunteers in 90 countries. She later set up her own YouTube channel, Coding is for Girls.
On top of all this, Sendecka took up an engineering job at red-hot (or hot coral) banking app Monzo in the first half of 2019.
25. Carole Cadwalladr, the Cambridge Analytica-breaking journalist keeping the pressure up
The Cambridge Analytica scandal may have been the scoop of 2018, but the fallout has very much continued into this year.
Guardian and Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr wasn’t the first journalist to highlight what Cambridge Analytica was, but she was the first to put a human face on the complex story via her interview with employee-turned-whistleblower Chris Wylie.
She can also be credited for significantly raising public awareness of Facebook’s power to shape people’s opinions, and a consequence of her reporting has been increased media and lawmaker scrutiny of the firm this year.
She has since remained in the spotlight, both through her prolific Twitter account putting pressure on Arron Banks and others connected to the Cambridge Analytica issue, and through a popular Netflix documentary on the saga, “The Great Hack.”
24. The sisters building ‘dark’ kitchens for Uber Eats and Deliveroo
Eccie and Gini Newton are a pair of foodie entrepreneurs whose business is booming thanks to the explosion in new takeaway concepts.
The Newtons run Karma Kitchen, making serviced commercial kitchens available to anyone from bakers running a daily market stall to delivery-only brands which solely serve takeaway food for Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
They have seen a big increase in customers thanks to these Deliveroo and Uber Eats-enabled “virtual restaurants.” Chances are, if you’ve been ordering takeaway from a new restaurant brand in London through an app this year, it might have been made in a Karma Kitchen space.
23. Buzzy Balderton’s Laura Connell
Laura Connell is a relative newcomer to Balderton, a principal at the London-based venture capital firm since the summer of 2018.
Along with partner Daniel Waterhouse, Connell leads Balderton’s interesting new “secondary” fund, which lets the VC firm buy into hot, highly valued tech firms by buying out early shareholders.
Prior to Balderton, her varied career involved a five-year stint at Goldman Sachs and conducting neuroscience research at Imperial College in London.
22. Joy Foster, the woman helping women upskill women
Joy Foster is the founder and managing director of TechPixies, an online learning startup that teaches digital skills to help women return to work or start a business.
Offering courses in social media, digital marketing, and more, Foster’s firm has helped hundreds of women upskill since its inception in 2015. It received £150,000 in female-led funding in March 2019 to fully digitize its social media course, and was named “Startup of the Year” at the 2018 Women in Business awards.
Originally hailing from Colorado, Foster has been widely recognised for her entrepreneurship and advocacy. She now lives in Oxford – where TechPixies is based – speaks three languages, and is currently training for an Ironman race.
21. Check Warner and Lillian Li: cofounders at Diversity VC, which is changing the face of venture capital
Diversity VC does what it says on the tin: It aims to make venture capital more diverse. As well as helping VC firms hire and build more varied teams, the nonprofit – which has five cofounders, including UK-based Check Warner and Lillian Li – conducts original research into the state of the VC industry.
This year, Warner, Li, and their colleagues launched a five-week paid internship for budding venture capitalists, covering VC essentials such as the evaluation of pitches, raising funds, and sourcing founders.
A Diversity VC study published in July 2019 found that just 30% of VC personnel are female. It also found that 63 per cent of British VC firms have no women at all in senior roles.
20. Nicola Mendelsohn, tasked with holding down the fort for Facebook in Britain
Nicola Mendelsohn is the head honcho for Facebook’s operations in the UK, helping steer the social network through turbulent times, including the ongoing fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In June 2019, Facebook announced it would open a third office in London – this one making room for 500 employees, with 20% focused on AI. Mendelsohn, 47, also got some positive personal news at the end of 2018, with her blood cancer going into remission.
19. Cherry Freeman, the LoveCrafts cofounder now sourcing deals at Hiro Capital
Cherry Freeman is the cofounder of LoveCrafts, a community for knitting and craft enthusiasts.
Meanwhile, Freeman has stepped back from LoveCrafts and is now eyeing new ventures, cofounding investment firm Hiro Capital in January 2019 – focusing on finding games, esports opportunities, and digital sports startups to turbo-charge with extra cash.
18. Sophie Hill has created a luxury online boutique that exists entirely on messaging apps
Sophie Hill launched Threads Styling in 2009 after working as a buyer for Arcadia Group. It was initially a personal shopping service, where customers could connect with shoppers by message. It has since evolved to become a social media and chat-based shopping platform.
In a recent interview with The Times, Hill explained that she initially set up the business as a way to help wealthy people travelling through London to shop more easily; it has since spread to New York and Hong Kong.
The idea is that customers can flick through stylised pictures of designer products on Instagram or Snapchat and then swipe to connect with a personal shopper who can either arrange for the sale and delivery of the item or help them to find something else.
Last year, Threads raised $US20 million to aid its global expansion. The company opened offices in New York and Hong Kong in 2018.
Total amount raised: $US20 million Headcount: 140
17. Jay Hunt, spending Apple’s billions on British TV shows
2019 was the year that Apple finally got into TV.
At a glitzy announcement event in March, CEO Tim Cook welcomed mega-stars including Jennifer Aniston and Oprah Winfrey to the stage as he unveiled a raft of original content for Apple’s newly christened subscription video-streaming service, Apple TV Plus.
In the audience was Jay Hunt, the former director or programmes at Channel 4 who is responsible for spearheading Apple TV Plus projects in the UK. Much of her work remains under wraps ahead of the service’s planned November launch, but she has commissioned the BBC to make a series about the last days of the dinosaurs, directed by Jon Favreau.
Hunt made a rare public appearance in June 2019, when she told a House of Lords committee that Apple’s investment in the UK will be “meaningful.”
16. The lab-grown diamond jewellers, Jessica Warch and Sidney Neuhaus
Jessica Warch and Sidney Neuhaus both come from diamond-trading families in Antwerp and wanted to get into the family business – but disliked the industry’s “old-fashioned, old-minded” way of doing things.
Having studied in London and worked at other fast-growing UK startups Appear Here and Threads, the two childhood friends decided to strike out on their own and launch Kimai, an online shopping site for lab-grown diamonds. The pair hustled to get themselves noticed and, after a lot of cold emails, managed to get onto Meghan Markle’s radar.
The royal was seen wearing a pair of lab-grown diamonds from Kimai in January this year, and now the pair have big plans to relaunch their site and boost their brand as interest in lab-grown diamonds grows.
15. Carolina Brochado, SoftBank tech’s freshest voice
Carolina Brochado is a venture capital investor at SoftBank’s Vision Fund, and one of the few investors it has recruited not from Deutsche Bank but the European VC community.
She specialises in marketplaces and financial startups among other areas and her appointment is good news for European startups hoping for a look into SoftBank’s billions.
Brochado was previously a partner at European venture capital firm Atomico, announcing her departure in December 2018 before jumping ship to SoftBank. While there, she invested in Spanish logistics firm OnTruck and peer-to-peer lending marketplace Fat Llama.
14. Eileen Burbidge, the Monzo backer with fingers in every pie
Eileen Burbidge is general partner at Passion Capital, with investments in dozens of early-stage startups including neo-bank Monzo.
Apart from the full-time job of investing, Burbidge juggles several other high-profile roles with aplomb.
She serves as the UK Treasury’s special envoy for fintech, and is a tech ambassador for the Mayor of London. She sits on the board of Tech City and is regularly spotted doing punditry at 5am on the BBC, suggesting the secret to her success is never getting any shut-eye.
13. The woman making Snapchat popular in new markets
Claire Valoti is Snap’s international VP overseeing every market outside of the US where Snapchat operates. She’s one of the most senior executives at the ephemeral photo-sharing app and an ad-industry veteran, joining in 2015 after working at Facebook.
The London-based exec’s role is now increasingly important as the US reaches internet saturation, and firms like Snap increase their focus on emerging markets.
Snap opened its first India office in August 2019, and released a redesigned version of its Android app in part to better appeal to these promising new markets.
12. Pavan Singh, one half of a hugely popular TikTok duo
Pavan Singh has found unexpected fame on viral video app TikTok with her husband Amardeep (aka “Magic”) Singh. The couple show off their respective skills as a magician and henna artist.
While YouTube has become notorious for rewarding inflated personalities and inflammatory content, TikTok’s most famous stars are best known for their skills, be it dancing, lip-syncing, or, in the London-born duo’s case, magic tricks and henna.
Pavan makes soothing, inspiring footage of beautiful henna designs, while “Magic” Singh makes eye-popping videos showing off his capabilities as a card sharp or illusionist.
11. Dr. Sandra Wachter, the academic holding AI to account
Dr. Sandra Wachter was made associate professor at Oxford University in May 2019, where she is a part of the Oxford Internet Institute. She specialises in the intersections between AI, ethics, and law, and has done extensive work on making algorithms easier to scrutinize for bias.
Her work on “counterfactual explanations,” i.e. statements which reveal which criteria algorithms are picking up on to make decisions, was picked up by Google in September 2018 and worked into its “What If” analysis tool.
10. Nicky Morgan, the politician who will (try to) regulate the internet
Away from the Brexit storm ripping through British politics, in July 2019 Conservative MP Nicky Morgan stepped into one of the most quietly important jobs in Cabinet: Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Why? The UK’s Conservative government has set about regulating the internet with a suite of new laws that promise to be among the most comprehensive in the world. This includes sweeping powers to fine social media firms billions if they fail to deal with toxic content, like hate speech.
Alongside this initiative, Morgan will have a part to play in wildly ambitious (and much-delayed) plans to age-block porn in the UK, and the Treasury’s ambitions to introduce big new taxes on the revenues of tech firms.
Culture secretaries don’t tend to stick around for long, but Morgan has a chance to shape the internet for years to come.
9. Sonali De Rycker, one of London’s top investors
Sonali De Rycker is a London-based venture capitalist at Accel Partners, where she’s worked since 2008. De Rycker also sits on the boards of several tech firms, including Monzo, the UK-based neobank.
Since joining Accel, the Mumbai-born VC has tended to focus her investments on fintech companies, enterprise software firms and the consumer internet space. She’s been an early backer of several successful European startups, including Spotify and online ticket marketplace Seatwave.
In October 2018, De Rycker led an £85 million ($US104 million) Series E fundraise for Monzo. Despite posting net losses of £47.2 million ($US58 million) for the year ending February 2019, Monzo’s valuation has since grown to £2 billion ($US2.6 billion) after its Series F fundraise in June.
8. Joanna Bryson, the member of Google’s disastrous AI ethics council who gave the company a piece of her mind
Joanna Bryson is an associate professor in computer scientist at the University of Bath who this year found herself at the centre of a drama about Google’s botched AI ethics board.
In March 2019, Google set up an ethics council to address public concerns about the use of machine learning and facial recognition. Bryson was appointed to the council.
But the council didn’t last long. Employees lashed out against the inclusion of another board member, Kay Coles James, a conservative think-thank head with a history of anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
Google killed the group off less than a week after announcing it, and Bryson expressed her displeasure in a series of tweets. “I thought there were enough smart people at Google that there must be some process for either communicating or improving decisions,” she wrote.
7. Carol Kane, one of the masterminds behind the UK’s hottest fast fashion store
Carol Kane, along with business partner Mahmud Kamani, is a cofounder of Boohoo, the UK’s hottest fast fashion retailer that counts Asos, Primark, and Zara as its main competitors.
Since launching in 2006, the company has grown to become a $US3.2 billion company with over 3,000 employees at its headquarters in Manchester, and acquired five other brands including California’s Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing. In the past five years, it has more than tripled its customer base.
In its most recent earnings results, Boohoo announced that it hit £1 billion ($US1.23 billion) in sales for the first time between August 2018 and 2019.
Total amount raised: £50 million ($US61.2 million)Headcount: 2,188
6. Poppy Gustafsson, the UK-based Darktrace co-CEO steering the company out of the shadow of Mike Lynch
Poppy Gustafsson is the co-chief executive of British cybersecurity startup Darktrace, running the company with US-based Nicole Eagan.
The firm was born out of investment firm Invoke Capital, the investment vehicle set up by British tech entrepreneur and Autonomy founder Mike Lynch. Gustafsson and Eagan were both executives at Autonomy, a software firm which was bought by HP in 2011 in a blockbuster acquisition. They then went to Invoke Capital.
Darktrace doesn’t especially like to talk about the Autonomy connection, since Lynch is currently going through a $US5 billion fraud trial in the UK and facing criminal charges in the US over the HP acquisition.
The company may never shake the association but it has hit some milestones to be proud of over the last year. The company hit unicorn status in 2018. And the firm disclosed healthy growth with a revenue jump of 93% in 2018 to £59.4 million ($US78 million).
Total amount raised: $US230 million Headcount: 1000Previous rank: 60Twitter:@PoppyGustafsson
5. Lila Ibrahim, DeepMind’s first-ever COO
Although DeepMind is ten years old, it was lacking a COO until last year.
Lila Ibrahim was hired on in April 2018 to help CEO Demis Hassabis mastermind the company’s next phase of growth. Questions have swirled about how the research-heavy DeepMind will turn a profit for Google in the long-run after being acquired in 2014, and this year some hints came out of how DeepMind could plug into Alphabet’s operations more broadly. In July, DeepMind researchers collaborated with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, to help make its cars smarter.
Ibrahim, the former COO of Coursera, will also be leading the company’s move out of Google’s London HQ and into its own building in 2020.
4. Anne Boden, expanding Starling Bank into Europe
Anne Boden is CEO of challenger bank Starling Bank which is fast closing in on one million users as London continues to be a major hub of fintech.
Having spent decades working for a number of banks in a variety of capacities, Boden led the charge to disrupt the financial system in 2014 and has since had major success with Starling despite having no VC funding. In September 2019, it launched a new online banking portal to help support small and medium businesses.
The CEO’s expertise comes from her time at Royal Bank of Scotland, ABN Amro, UBS, Standard Chartered, Lloyds, and Allied Irish Banks in a variety of roles, making the Welsh entrepreneur one of the more storied and experienced of London’s manifold disruptors.
3. Tania Boler, the female-focused product firebrand with a global perspective
Tania Boler is the outspoken cofounder and CEO of Elvie, a startup selling female-friendly medical devices for women that raised $US42 million in April 2019.
Her firm currently sells two main products. One is a silent, wearable breast pump that lets women pump any time, anywhere, and which Elvie claims is a world first. The other is a pelvic floor trainer and app that’s currently used by the NHS.
When the fundraise was announced, Boler told Business Insider she set up Elvie out of “a sense of anger” at the poor-quality “femtech” she encountered during her previous work as a women’s health campaigner. That work included a five-year stint as a director at Marie Stopes International, plus two years as a team leader for UNESCO’s HIV prevention programme.
Total funding amount: $US53.8 million Headcount: 51-100
2. Ophelia Brown, the highly focused young investor who set up her own fund
Ophelia Brown is making waves in the UK venture capital scene after raising $US85 million in March 2019 to launch a new tech venture capital firm, Blossom Capital.
Brown is something of a young star in European venture capital, having risen through the ranks at Index Ventures and then become general partner at LocalGlobe before setting up her own shop.
She and her team have plucked out a number of interesting bets for Blossom, including travel startup Duffel, AI firm Spell.AI, and peer-to-peer sharing marketplace Fat Llama.
Total amount raised: $US85 million Headcount: 5Twitter:@ophelia_brown
1. Maria Raga, the boss of London’s trendiest marketplace that’s helping teens to get rich
Maria Raga took over the reins at Depop in 2016 and has since grown the company at a rapid rate, helping to make it the must-have shopping app for teens across the world.
Best described as a mix of Instagram and eBay, Depop is an easy way to buy and sell anything from clothing, shoes, and accessories to furniture and concert tickets directly from your phone.
With a fresh $US62 million in the bank after a June 2019 funding round, Raga is down massively ramping up growth in the US. The plan is to scale “further and faster” in the States, and build a platform that finds and develops the fashion stars and trends of the future, she said in a recent conversation with Business Insider.
Total amount raised: $US105.6 million Headcount: 196Twitter:@MRaga_Depop
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