12 female-led tech startups join Plexiglass accelerator programme
- New cohort includes innovative start-ups such as Safe & The City, Dual Good Health, and Grow Up
- 80 start-ups applied to inaugural programme, from sectors including AI, VR, data analytics, cyber security, fashtech, fintech, healthtech & agtech
- Scheme spearheaded by Plexal’s CEO Claire Cockerton to tackle lack of diversity in tech
Plexal, the East London Innovation Centre located on the fast-growing Here East tech campus, today announces the cohort for its first-ever Plexiglass accelerator programme, in partnership with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Barclays Eagle Labs, which will support and enable 12 female-led tech startups to grow their businesses. The selected start-ups are all women-founded/run businesses focused on innovative technology including AI, VR, fashtech (fashion tech), fintech, healthtech & agtech (agricultural tech).
Startups joining the programme include Dual Good Health, founded by Anna Stoilova, which uses virtual reality to train more people on how to save lives; Safe and the City, founded by Jillian Kowalchuk, a mobile app that uses AI, data analytics, and a smart city approach to build a navigation system that allows users to rate and alert which paths are the safest to take; and GrowUp Urban Farms, co-founded by Kate Hofman, which uses agtech to lower the environmental impact of agriculture by building and operating vertical farms that take unused urban space and use it to grow produce and connect them to local market.
Plexiglass was conceived as a way of arming women in business with the connections and support they need to succeed, as well as celebrating diversity in the tech industry; something that still needs improving. Latest figures from Chartered Institute of IT found that only 17% of UK IT specialists are female, 8% are disabled, and 21% are over 50. Each of the 12 companies selected for Plexiglass is London-based, with 42% situated in East London, not far from Plexal’s base at Here East in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Around half of the start-ups joining the programme are currently pre-revenue and have launched within the past two years.
During the eight-week programme, each start-up will receive free workspace at Plexal, which was designed as a mini-city, with its own high street, town hall, indoor park and Makers’ Yard. Plexal was founded by Claire Cockerton and clients of specialist real estate investment advisory company Delancey, and it is carefully curating a community of start-ups working in areas likes fintech, healthtech, cybersecurity the Internet of Things, AR, VR, AI and more.
Start-ups on the programme will also receive mentoring from the likes of Barclays (who are supporting the programme through their Eagle Labs initiative) and access to the Plexal and wider Here East community, which includes academic institutions such as UCL and London College of Fashion. The programme includes pitch training, founder fundamentals, go-to-market strategy, financing options, legal services and exit valuation. The start-ups will be able to meet fellow founders and clients from the big businesses that visit Plexal regularly and the eight-week programme will culminate with a pitch event to be attended by large corporations and prospective investors.
2018 Plexiglass cohort:
- Safe and the City – founded by Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe & The City addresses the epidemic of women and girls made to feel disempowered and unsafe while walking. The everyday app helps users safely navigate & report experiences along their walk to create a safer community for everyone.
- Weekender – founded by Bianca Packham, Weekender is a local travel agent and best friend rolled-into-one. The travel tech start-up uses messaging apps and home assistant technology to learn users’ likes and dislikes and recommend where, when and how they will explore or travel next and what to do when they get there.
- MBDesign Tech – founded by Maya Bonkowski, MBDesign Tech aims to improve the efficiencies of data processing to create a convenient, reproducible, and scalable workflow that can be deployed across many different data problems.
- Neurocreate – founded by Shama Rahman, Neurocreate combines neurofeedback and artificial intelligence to increase human cognition to achieve peak performance and relieve stress.
- Healthy Games – founded by Hope Caton, Healthy Games harnesses the power of games to make getting healthy more fun. She plans to relaunch its ground-breaking game Cigbreak, which helps people quit smoking with their medically proven behaviour changes.
- Wondary – founded by Claire Trachet, Wondary is an integrated platform to save, organise and share everything about your trips. They’re building a unique and proprietary dataset to develop recommendations using behavioural sciences.
- PaidUp – founded by Afra Khan, PaidUp is a mobile app that enables SMEs around the world to crowdfund microloans from their customers.
- Rainchq – founded by Davinia Tomlinson, Rainchq promotes greater financial inclusion for women through the delivery of bespoke financial advice and a digital platform offering investment management solutions designed to help women achieve their life goals and plan for later life.
- Dual Good Health – founded by Anna Stoilova, Dual Good Health created Redo Reality, a VR app for life supporting training to help reduce costs, improve quality of training and increase engagement so more people know how to provide emergency medical help.
- GrowUp Urban Farms – founded by Kate Hofman, GrowUp Urban Farms uses a combination of Controlled Environment Production and Aquaponics to grow fresh produce and fish with less environmental impact than traditional agriculture, in a year-round production system.
- Solely Original – founded by Iris Anson, Solely Original uses high-tech digital software to create perfectly fitted and stylish shoes at an affordable price.
- Prim & Clover – co-founded by Stacia Bedford and Luciana Riquet, Prim & Clover are dedicated to giving modern brides the ultimate VIP wedding dress shopping experience, all from the comfort of their own home.
Claire Cockerton, Plexal founder & CEO said: “We are very excited to be able to help these amazing women pursue their entrepreneurial visions. When we launched Plexiglass, we were originally going to offer ten places; however, the high quality of the entries meant the judges decided to award 12, which is a reflection of the incredible female talent out there. As we enter the 4th industrial revolution we need a diverse technology sector to make the most of the massive opportunities in front of us, which is why programmes like Plexiglass are so important.”
Lyn Garner, Chief Executive of London Legacy Development Corporation added: “Plexiglass is a fantastic example of the opportunities for local people in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – a result of the exciting innovation and collaboration taking place here. This part of the city is fast becoming a hotbed for London’s emerging industries, and this scheme is a great way to develop pathways into tech for local female entrepreneurs.”