While the UK has got its first Indian-origin Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but still there’s a long way to go when it comes to bringing and above all understanding the importance of diversity in the tech startup ecosystem.
To replicate the magic of Silicon Valley’s work culture, which is all about diversity whether it be gender, age, or ethnicity, it will take a while for the UK and Europe to reach that spot – however, it doesn’t mean that efforts are not being made.
So, what is the level of gender and ethnic diversity in UK tech startups? and to what extent have different genders or Black, Asian, and people from underrepresented backgrounds progressed in the tech sector in the UK?
Let’s take an example of the fintech section alone, according to this report by Tech Nation, the majority of people working in UK fintech are White males (55.61%). Following, white females make up 28.4% of fintech employees, while Asian females represent just over 2.5%, and Black females are 1.11% of the sample of fintech employees.
While these figures look very saddening, at the same time it is to be noted that, ethnic diversity in fintech has increased, from 12% Black, Asian, and other underrepresented groups, to 20% in 2021. However, there has not been a uniform increase in the proportion of people across ethnicities, and while this is just the fintech sector, which is one of the hottest industries in the UK tech market, there’s a lot of work to be done across different sectors including mobility, AI, greentech, healthtech and more.
Exploring the UK tech sector and its diverse startups, TFN decided to make a list of tech startups with diverse founders who have secured funding in the recent past and also find out how their companies have progressed.
Founder/s: Alex Michelin, Uma Rajah, Andrew Dunn
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: $10.4M
CapitalRise was co-founded by two directors of London’s premier real estate development companies Finchatton – Andrew and Alex and Uma Rajah, a fintech leader who was the driving force behind launching and developing nine digital lending platforms across consumer, business, and property finance.
The London-based property investment platform CapitalRise was founded with a mission to disrupt the traditional way of making investments in a property by giving investors direct access to real estate investments and also eliminating the middlemen and enabling investors to earn much higher returns ranging from 8% to 12% per year.
The Prime property investment platform has funded developments across London and the Home Counties, valued at over £640m. Further, the firm also secured a new funding line with investment manager Downing LLP.
Founder/s: Deepak Ravindran, Emilie Vanpoperinghe
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: £19M
Oddbox is a provider of fruit and veg box delivery services intended to reduce food waste. It offers weekly subscription plans to users and was founded by Deepak Ravindran and his wife Emilie Vanpoperinghe after a holiday in Portugal and has grown six-fold since then. Further, it has raised £19m in funding across 2020 and 2021.
Founder/s: Mariam Jimoh
Founded year: 2020
Total funding: $3.3M
Oja is an online supermarket that delivers cultural, ethnic, and specialist groceries and products straight to their users’ doorsteps – stuff that is hard to find in the local supermarket.
It was founded by a black female founder, Mariam Jimoh, a Forbes 30 under 30 winner and former founder and director of the WCAN social enterprise for black women. Late last year, Oja raised $3.4 million in pre-seed funding in a round led by LocalGlobe alongside participation from many others.
Founder/s: Amrit Chandan, Carlton Cummins
Founded year: 2016
Total funding: $14M
Aceleron started out as a conversation between Forbes Under 30, Amit, and co-founder, Carlton Cummins. They both worked at a low-carbon vehicle consultancy at the time and shared a passion for electric vehicles. Started as an ‘after work’ project, the Birmingham startup quickly developed a life of its own and has raised £14M in funding so far.
Aceleron has launched the first reusable, repairable, and fully recyclable lithium-ion battery of its kind. Their batteries can provide uninterrupted, reliable power at several different voltages (12v, 24v, 48v) and can be used individually or as a battery bank to power anything from onboard electronic equipment and cooking appliances to supplying backup power.
Founder/s: Joanne Safo, Mark Dennis, Selina Bilton
Founded year: 2021
Total funding: $363k
London-based, microbusiness-focused insurtech Lukango was created to disrupt insurance for the new generation of microbusiness owners and make it more flexible. Lukango puts digital-native customers at the heart of the insurance product experience.
In 2021, the three diverse founders, CEO Joanne Safo, formerly a founding team member for Munich Re’s Digital Partners business, and her fellow co-founders, COO Mark Dennis and Marketing Lead Selina Bilton with decades of experience in insurtech, came together to create Lukango dedicated to the microservices space.
Recently, Lukango also closed a £275k pre-seed round from the former CEO of British insurance firm Bupa and board member of Admiral Group Evelyn Bourke among others.
Founder/s: Georgina Kirby, Rayna Patel
Founded year: 2018
Total funding: $8.5M
Working in hospitals for almost a decade, Dr. Rayna Patel learned from her first-hand experience that cancer patients often feel unsupported by the healthcare system, and needed a way to easily access trusted information to better use of the limited time they get with their doctors – and receive effective treatment. When she met data scientist Georgina Kirby, she realised how digital technology can help, and their companionship led to the launch of London-based startup Vinehealth – an app that allows cancer patients to track their symptoms, manage their medications, and understand their care, putting them back in control of their treatment.
Back in December last year, Vinehealth raised $5.5 million in seed funding led by London-based VC Talis Capital, with participation from previous investors Chris Smith-led Playfair Capital, US healthtech venture capital firm Ascension, and a number of angels.
Founder/s: Alistair Thomson, Andrew Mayowa Ologunebi
Founded year: 2021
Total funding: $4M+
Established by one of the few funded black founders in the UK tech, LottieLab owes a lot to his teenage hobby. He began coding and animating before he was a teenager, and before starting a career with household names in UX and design roles. Leaving his career behind and using his savings, he applied to Entrepreneur First where he met co-founder Thomson, and they immediately hit it off. Realising there was no tool to create Lottie animations, they set out to create one.
And thus, LottieLab, a London-based motion design, and collaboration platform was born which also got $4 million seed funding recently, led by early-stage VC firm Point Nine, and participants including 20VC, Entrepreneur First, and more prominent founders.
Founder/s: Guillemette Dejean, Mursal Hedayat
Founded year: 2016
Total funding: $2.3M
Co-founded by Mursal Hedayat MBE, an Afghan refugee, and was later joined by co-founder and Y Combinator alumna Guillemette Dejean – Chatterbox is based in London and Lisbon. While, it started out as an online language learning school to help Syrian refugees earn a living by teaching Arabic to professionals looking to improve their language skills but has now grown to encompass other refugee and marginalised groups with a proven track record of increasing team cultural intelligence, morale, and engagement.
The startup’s trained professionals are successfully working with Unilever, PwC and the British Red Cross.
The online language-learning platform also recently secured £1.5 million in a pre-seed round led by GMG Ventures with investment from Phil Libin’s All Turtles.
Founder/s: Arun Shanmuganathan, Sean West, Steve Heitkamp
Founded year: 2020
Total funding: $1.8M+
Founded by three diverse co-founders, firstly Heitkamp who brought experience from the innovative data analytics giant, Palantir. West, who worked with many top CEOs, consulting on risk, and Shanmuganathan, a mathematician, previously worked in the computer science faculty at the African Leadership University – legal tech, Hence is a unique AI-powered platform that aims to bring transparency and productivity to professional services, by providing results of the right lawyer for the right matter.
The Kigali- and London-based startup landed $1.8 million in investment from high-profile angel investors and institutions, including serial investor Daglar Cizmeci, Nate Dalton’s Daybreak Partners, and Broad Creek Capital.
Founder/s: Christopher Lass, Emily Chan
Founded year: 2022
Total funding: €3M+
Lilo, a London-based female-cofounded fractional property ownership platform is for those who want to invest and experience the most sought-after properties in European cities. The company offers its community exclusive access to carefully curated properties across top-tier European cities such as Barcelona, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Berlin.
A few months back, Lilo secured a €3 million pre-seed funding round led by 468 Capital, with participation from Presight Capital and select angel investors.
Tech can still do more to power diverse talent
While there has been a slow rise, with these numbers, we all can see that tech startups with diverse founders tend to receive lesser amounts of funding. Several reports have pointed out that female founders received less capital and also Black male founders received lesser. As per CB Insights’ global list of “40 of the Best VC Bets of all Time.” All of the 40 companies’ 92 founders were male, almost all white or Asia.
On the contrary, we have some great examples from the tech industry where diverse founders have given some commendable growth and brands. Calendly’s Tope Awotona is Nigerian American; Sendgrid’s Isaac Saldana is Latinx; and Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe Herd is the second-youngest woman to take a company public. Then why not invest more in diversity? After all, diversity always pays and gets the best result. Something to think about.