International Women’s Day returns tomorrow, igniting conversation with this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity. To mark the occasion, we’re celebrating a handful of the inspiring women who have raised investment for their tech ventures in the South West.

Data shows that women are less likely to raise investment than their male counterparts, making these achievements all the more worth recognising. The determinism of these tech CEOs and founders is paving the way for a different future; we’re super proud to be surrounded by such an empowering group of women. 

Take a look at this non-exhaustive list of women who have raised investment. From fintech to femtech, their investment journeys are reshaping the narrative whilst illustrating what we’ll be missing out on if access to funding doesn’t adopt an equitable approach.

Dr. Carolyn Porter - CytoSeek

Science Creates member, CytoSeek is on a mission to use cell membrane augmentation tech to unlock the potential of next generation advanced therapies. CytoSeek spun out of the University of Bristol and in 2019 closed a seed round of just over £1M to apply its technology to the field of immuno-oncology, and more recently the team raised £3.5m, led by Science Creates.

The startup is now engaged in proof of principle studies for multiple product candidates and is seeking to enhance cell therapies against solid tumours. Solid tumours account for the majority of deaths from cancer and are notoriously difficult to treat, even with existing immune cell therapies, because the tumour suppresses immune cells’ ability to kill cancer cells. CytoSeek’s technology is designed to not only help target the immune cells to the solid tumour, but also to improve their cancer cell-killing ability.

Carolyn explains, “Our ambition is to get our technology into cancer patients who are currently underserved by existing treatments and work with partners to make their cell therapies better.”

Dr. Chen Mao Davies - LatchAid

LatchAid is a Bristol-based startup seeking to revolutionise breastfeeding and early parenthood support through its innovative app. Founder Dr. Chen Mao Davies has now successfully raised £1.8m to expedite her mission.

LatchAid is a pioneering app that uses cutting-edge interactive technology and 3D avatars to help expectant and new mothers intuitively learn breastfeeding skills. The app also connects mothers to close-knit peer-to-peer support groups, live experts who can provide 1-2-1 advice and an empathetic, AI-powered virtual supporter chatbot – all to provide personalised expertise and companionship, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The SETsquared Bristol business initially took home a Women in Innovation award & £50k grant from Innovate UK in 2021 and announced raising £1m from investors in March 2022.

Dana Lattouf - Tickitto

Tickitto aims at helping travellers save time when booking tickets during their travels whilst also helping the leisure industry and travel companies to build external collaboration capabilities to scale their reach. Founding the company landed Dana a place at the Female Founders Cohort at Google for Startups Resident. 

Based on Dana’s personal experiences as a passionate traveller, Tickitto is a platform which aims to give travellers access to not only book flights, but also buy tickets to local events by offering configurable front-end interfaces.

Seedcamp was the leader of Tickitto’s pre-seed round that managed to secure them more than £500k. The company then announced securing an impressive £3.25m in equity fundraising to further scale up its engineering team and expand. Having partnered with some of the biggest names in the world of entertainment, tour, and activities it’s been an exciting journey to watch.

Georgia Stewart - Tumelo

Georgia co-founded Tumelo in 2018, based on her passion for sustainable investing. Tumelo delivers software that aims at helping investment firms improve their client engagement. It does this by providing transparency to retail and pension investors, whilst empowering them to ensure their funds are allocated responsibly.

In 2020, Tumelo joined forces with Legal & General Investment Management in a partnership that gave members of one of the largest funds managers in the world the chance to have a say in some of the social and environmental issues related to the companies they own. In 2020, Tumelo also received a £1m investment. 

Most excitingly, Georgia and the team announced their biggest raise to date, totaling $19mThe investment will further enhance the platform to enable more investors to exercise their shareholder rights and extend Tumelo’s outreach across the UK. It will also support Tumelo’s expansion into the US, Australia and additional market segments, following strong demand.

Jenny Button - Emm Technology

Emm, a UK-based biotech startup, is bringing a first-of-its-kind biowearable menstrual cup to market that has the potential to revolutionise female health research and outcomes.

Founded in 2020 by Jenny Button, Emm has already successfully secured more than $1m in pre-seed funding as well as a partnership with the University of Cambridge and is officially a Google For Startups alumnus. Big things are set to come as the waitlist for consumers is now open as the product enters the next phase of Beta testing.

Jenny tells us with the launch of Emm they’re looking to solve two problems: “The lack of personalised data and insights when it comes to female health and the lack of innovation when it comes to menstrual products.”

The data Emm captures – automatically syncing with its proprietary smartphone app – will provide a clear, accurate, record of any reproductive health irregularities or issues people may experience. This information will prove crucial in providing a comprehensive and data-led medical history, improving the path to diagnosis and treatment. 

Konstantina Psoma - Kaedim

Kaedim is a deep tech startup developing AI technology that aims at simplifying the process of creating high quality 3D assets for games, films and other productions. In December 2020 they successfully raised their substantial pre-seed round.

Co-founder and CEO of Kaedim, Konstantina tells us, “It is important to show that success (most of the time) does not come easily. From my own experience, women are underrepresented in the (deep) tech industry as founders but also as investors. During a 6 month fundraise process of continuous meetings with new angels and VCs I only met one female investor for both the gaming and deep tech industries.

“Being a female tech founder under 25 has definitely its challenges and I need to make a conscious effort to take bitter and nonsupporting comments with a pinch of salt. I want to see more young females stepping up, following their dreams, noticing opportunities and claiming them. And I want to help them do that.”

Mehrnaz Tajmir - Greener

Mehrnaz Tajmir founded Greener in 2019 with co-founder Dan Yates to help hospitality businesses owners make positive steps towards creating a greener future. The cleantech company of 3 has created a matchmaking platform that helps you curate a genuinely sustainable food & drink business.

The team successfully raised £142k in pre-seed funding last May, followed by a bridge round with £113k of venture capital funding from SFC Capital to take their algorithmic matchmaking platform live and advance their mission of making sustainability accessible and affordable for small businesses.

Mehrnaz tells us, “Ultimately, sustainability cannot be improved in isolation, whether by a single firm or a single person. Sustainability is about building better supply chains and working with the right partners. But finding those partners is actually really hard if you don’t know what you’re looking for, and knowing where to start – especially after a year like this – is daunting. That’s where we decided we can help.”

Mel Bound - This Mum Runs

In 2015, Mel founded This Mum Runs, which aims at helping Mums around the world to adopt a healthier lifestyle and build a community simultaneously. This Mum Runs offers award-winning coaching programmes and a fast-growing apparel brand that is revolutionizing the female fitness market. Mel’s successful ventures have helped her earn a significant amount of awards and recognitions, in 2018 she was one of the 100 global leaders that joined Facebook Community Leadership Fellow program.

The success of This Mum Runs has also come with interest from investors. In 2018 the Bristol Private Equity Club acquired a 12% stake for £156k. In late 2019, they secured almost £100k in fundraising in exchange for a 3% stake, which set the value of the company (at the time) at almost £3m.

Molly Allington and Sian Fussell - Albotherm

Albotherm, a University of Bristol spin-out company developing passive cooling technologies to reduce energy usage in Agriculture and the Building (Construction / Architecture) sector, successfully completed a £370k ($500k) seed funding round in 2021.

Albotherm is led by two female founders, Molly Allington (CEO) and Dr Sian Fussell (CTO). Molly tells us, “We are thrilled to have closed our first funding round and to have secured the right advisors to support us as we grow. The support of Dr. Ben Miles and the whole Spin Up Science Ventures (SUSV) team has been instrumental in our success so far and will be an integral part of our mission to reduce carbon emissions and improve food security globally.”

Nikki Hawkes - Stratiphy

Founded at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Stratiphy is a SETsquared-backed startup that crowdfunded in 2021 to democratise personalised investment strategies. Nikki Hawkes and her co-founder Daniel Gold celebrated raising over their £200k target in less than 2 hours after launching the crowdfunding campaign to the public.

Nikki tells us, “Raising money through crowdfunding is both terrifying and thrilling. It’s been so valuable to help us grow a community of early adopters and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the raise.”

Stratiphy is an investment app that lets you build trading strategies according to your risk profile, industry preferences, and sustainability criteria. It enables the user to visualise the historic performance of their selection and gives clear instructions on what to buy and sell. You can create multiple strategies and run scenarios without any coding, using real-time market data as well as environmental, social and governance ratings (ESG) to compare companies.

Samantha Seaton - Moneyhub

Moneyhub, the market leading Open Finance, Open Data, and payments platform, has announced that it has secured an impressive total of £55 million in funding this year, obtainted by a combination of investors and debt.

The overall investment will support the acceleration of the ongoing development of Moneyhub’s solutions and expedite the internationalisation of its highly scalable and border agnostic technology.

Samantha joined Moneyhub Enterprise as CEO in 2016. During this time she has raised substantial investment for the company. She tells us, “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to lead Moneyhub and to be at the forefront of the Open Finance and Open Banking revolution.

“Being a female CEO in the Fintech sector is very gratifying. I would urge young women looking to enter this sphere to focus on what they want to achieve and absolutely go for it. If you’re really passionate about it, you’re already in a great position.

“At Moneyhub, we regularly discuss gender and potential inequalities in the workplace and we’ve been taking steps to make sure our environment is as accessible, open and flexible for all. For example, all our leave provisions at Moneyhub are gender neutral, to support families in their care decisions and particularly women who often have to shoulder the majority of care in these situations.”

Samantha Payne - Open Bionics

In 2014, Sammy co-founded Open Bionics and has ever since served as the CEO. Her leadership and determination has earned her several international awards, including being named in the Top 25 Women in Robotics you need to know by Robohub and a pitching competition she attended with co-founder and CEO Joel Gibbard in which they won second place and £180,000.

Open Bionics is an award-winning startup that aims at building and developing the next generation of bionic limbs that “turn disabilities into superpowers”. Their designs are not only innovative and aesthetic but also affordable. They developed the first ever 3D printed bionic arm that was officially medically approved. The 3D printing technology used by Open Bionics allowed them to sell the arm at one third of the cost of traditionally manufactured equivalents.

Besides several awards, Open Bionics has also gained several funding opportunities. In 2019 they closed a successful round that helped them gain £4.55m, with a further £1.59m announced in 2022. Also, Sammy is now officially a TechSPARK board member.

Sarah Bolt - Forth

Healthtech startup Forth was founded in 2016 by CEO & co-founder, Sarah Bolt, with an ambition to help users optimise their health through biomarker tracking. The Chepstow-based healthtech firm prepared to capitalise on the growth in the female science and technology market when it announced a further £1.6m funding in 2021 to support the launch of its ground-breaking female health product.

In 2020, Sarah won Health & Wellbeing Entrepreneur of the Year for Wales at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and was a finalist for the Natwest everywoman Award. When we spoke to Sarah about Forth’s journey back in 2019, she told us the most challenging part of being a startup is, “Investment…..investment……investment. It’s a nightmare.”

Commenting on her raise, Sarah says, “Today, more and more people are realising that understanding and measuring your body’s biochemistry is key for a long and healthy life.

“For women in particular, gaining a unique insight into how their hormone levels fluctuate throughout their unique cycle can give women the support they have been lacking and help to close the gender health gap.”

Stephanie Campbell - OKKO Health

Founded in 2018 by Stephanie, OKKO Health has developed a range of sight monitoring apps focussing on the monitoring of macular degeneration. Macular disease is the leading cause of sight loss in developed nations. It affects over 1.5 million people in the UK alone. OKKO’s apps provide patients with the ability to self-monitor their condition through a simple interactive smartphone game.

Played regularly, the game can inform clinicians, and patients, of changes in visual acuity, sensitivity to contrast, distortion, and colour vision. These data points become cues for clinical intervention.

It is no surprise that OKKO has gained attention from investors and leading pharmaceutical companies. In 2019, OKKO received a £225K investment from Bristol Private Equity Club (BPEC), one of the most active investors in the South West, who followed on in OKKO’s Winter 2020 raise (£900k total). Furthermore, OKKO was selected as one of Bayer’s ‘G4A ophthalmology companies’ which also gave them access to further funding through an extensive loan.

Most recently, Stephanie announced OKKO had secured a £2m pre-seed round to support the launch of its eye health monitoring app in Germany.

OKKO was also featured as one of the main contributors to the success of SETsquared raising 10% of total investment in the South West in 2021.

Tania Boler - Elvie

Founded in 2013 by Tania Boler, Elvie, the revolutionary global health and lifestyle brand developing iconic products for women, raised a £58m ($80m) investment in 2021. The business opened its tech and product hub in Bristol in 2019 and has since seen hyper-growth within the company. 

Tania says, “Elvie has already revolutionised every category it has entered – but we know that we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible for women’s tech. This further investment, alongside the wealth of expertise our new Board members bring, place Elvie in pole position to capitalise on the $50 billion femtech opportunity – and that’s only the beginning. We won’t stop until we have fulfilled our ambition to create the go-to destination for women’s health at all life-stages.”

Dr. Ying Lia Li - Zero Point Motion

Zero Point Motion, a Bristol-based fabless silicon chip company, is set to change the way we sense motion by using photonics. In March 2022, founder and CEO Ying Lia Li celebrated closing a seed round of £2.58m to pave way for new navigation and motion sensing chips. 

Led by Foresight-Williams Technology with Verve Ventures and u‑blox (SIX:UBXN), the investment has gone towards a state-of-the-art lab in Bristol and a major recruitment drive to accelerate R&D of their photonic inertial sensor chips.

Lia sees cavity optomechanics as a natural evolution for the $15Bn inertial sensing market. She explains, “With the proven capability to detect motion smaller than the size of a single electron, cavity optomechanical sensing has already had extraordinary benefits for fundamental physics research. Now, we are harnessing this power to improve the inertial sensing devices we’ve come to rely on, bringing untold new potential to drones, VR/AR, indoor navigation and imaging stabilisation.”

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Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.