Twelve female founders seeking to break into global markets have returned from an exploratory mission to London, rating the trip as a huge success.
The group travelled on a Startup Catalyst mission, which takes entrepreneurs to tech hotspots around the world to explore international opportunities for growth.
Led by Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp, this was the second female founders’ mission to London, following the success of the first mission in 2018.
The mission coincided with one of the city’s premier annual events, London Tech Week, and presented the women with a variety of learning and networking events.
Female founders heard from investors about expectations for investment; traps to avoid, such as relinquishing too much of your company for investment too early; tips, such as sending a follow-up email to an investor no more than 20 minutes after meeting with them; and grants available to Australian businesses wanting to set up a base in London.
Leanne Kemp, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, addresses the Female Founders. Image: Supplied
Participants took part in exclusive tours of tech giants Google and Facebook, attended events at the Australian High Commission, and heard from leading investors and capital brokers over the course of a week.
Various Australian state governments sponsored spaces on the trip for their local entrepreneurs, including a notable contingent from Queensland (Advance Queensland) and Western Australia.
The Female Founders meet with Deepbridge Capital Managing Partner, Ian Warwick. Image: Supplied
For Brisbane-based Inndox co-founder Trish Mackie-Smith, the mission was the trip of a lifetime.
“To be taken on a curated business trip dedicated to introducing female founders to the London start-up eco-system, and to be exposed to the real possibility of running a global business, this was a chance to make international long-term business connections, learn from globally successful founders, bond with other like-minded female entrepreneurs in the cohort, and meet with potential investors," she said.
“I’ve come away with a changed mindset. I’m now confident that my business has the capability of becoming a global business and can be taken seriously by investors, partners and customers overseas.”
The Female Founders at the Australian High Commission. Image: Supplied
Siobahn Whitehead , co-founder of Passport 360, said the personal growth aspect could not be understated.
“This trip has given me the confidence in my business again. I was going through a lot of doubt before the trip, but now I feel encouraged by what we have built so far and where we can take the business," she said.
“I’ve also learned a lot about seeking investment and have connected with people who are able to advise and encourage me to take this next step. I also realised that the costs involved with expanding into a new country are high.”
Kym Atkins of WA-based Volte said her fashion start-up made great headway on the mission.
“We are actively looking to expand into new markets, including to the UK and Europe," Atkins said.
"The mission allowed us to deep dive on our expansion strategy and meet other like-minded start-ups."
Female Founders attend a special session at Google. Image: Supplied
Prior to attending the London mission, Indi Tansey, co-founder of Codebots, said she was “quite intimidated” by the UK tech market.
“Physically going there and participating in the program helped make it real and feel achievable," she said.
“It has given me confidence knowing that when we are ready to scale, there is support here and in London to make it happen."
For Sharine Duran, founder of Adzurra, the lasting value of the trip was in the friendships established over the week.
“The Female Founders mission to London connected me to a group of ambitious and driven females who are on the same journey as me and can understand the highs and lows of a start-up," she said.
"The best thing we received is the supportive network that lasts after the trip".
One of the most valuable learnings for Julia Khalyavko, co-founder of Smart Soil, was to “stop being intimidated by everything you are not and embracing everything you are.”
She said that she felt she had a few strikes against her going into the trip.
“I’m young, I’m a woman, I’m not technical, and I’m not Australian – those were four things that were creating stigma in my head for God knows how long.
“This week brought each of those points out into the open – I was one of the youngest, I was still a woman, I was still not technical, and I was still not Australian.
“And no one cared.
“And no-one tried to act against it even once.”
Startup Catalyst runs regular missions to start-up hotspots around the world. You can learn more here.
Roulla Yiacoumi travelled on the Startup Catalyst Female Founders Mission to London with the twelve Australian participants. Look for the Female Founders Profile Series commencing on Information Age later this month.