October is Black History Month in the UK, a nationwide event dedicated to celebrating black history, culture and achievements around the world. 🎉
Throughout the month, we've been shining a spotlight on some of the Black leaders, speakers & entrepreneurs in the UK tech scene who've left their mark on the industry and paved the way for future generations of technical talent. Carry on reading below to learn about a selection of incredible Black trailblazers in tech who will definitely inspire you (and who you need to be following!)
1) Ismail Ahmed, Founder & Chairman of WorldRemit
After fleeing his native Somaliland to escape civil war, Ismail Ahmed became frustrated at the high transaction fees charged by services to send money to his family in East Africa, so he established WorldRemit as a solution.
The cross-border digital payments service hit unicorn status earlier this year, making it the very first black-owned unicorn in the UK. 🦄 The FinTech has made it easier for millions of immigrants to send money home and now operates in over 130 countries. 👏
In 2020, Ismail was ranked No.1 in the UK Powerlist - the UK's most influential people with African or Afro-Caribbean heritage.
2) Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, Co-Founder & CEO of StemettesBy 20 years old, Dr Anne-Marie was one of the youngest to ever receive a Master’s Degree in Mathematics & Computer Science from the University of Oxford. Her experience being one of only 3 girls out of a class of 70 inspired her to set up Stemettes - an organisation committed to inspiring young girls and non-binary people to consider a career in STEM.
Since 2013, their workshops, programmes and events have been attended by over 50,000 young people, with their dedicated team working to address the underrepresentation of females in the tech sector at a grassroots level.
In recognition of her influence and achievements, Dr Anne-Marie was awarded an MBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours for services to young women and STEM sectors and was voted the Most Influential Women in IT in 2020 by Computer Weekly. 🏅
Twin brothers Oliver & Alexander Kent-Braham founded InsurTech Marshmallow along with CTO David Goaté back in 2017. After realising how expensive insurance quotes were for immigrants, they saw that the industry was broken and started on their mission to make insurance faster, more affordable and more inclusive.
Last month, Marshmallow announced an $83m Series B funding round which catapulted them into unicorn status, making them only the second black-owned unicorn in the UK. 🦄
Shifting their focus to sustainability, Marshmallow became the first UK insurer to partner with ClimatePartner on a carbon offsetting programme. The business is supporting projects that work to reduce carbon emissions by protecting biodiversity, reducing pollution and promoting clean energy production, and are offsetting 500 miles of emissions for every policy sold. 🚗💨
After graduating from the London School of Economics, Abadesi wrote for the Financial Times before joining London's tech scene, beginning her career working for companies such as Groupon, Amazon & HotelTonight.
In 2016, she published her careers advice book, 'Dream Big Hustle Hard: A Millennial Woman's Guide to Success in Tech', which shares real-life lessons and tips for navigating and succeeding in the tech world - regardless of your background.
In the same year she Founded her business Hustle Crew - a career advancement community on a mission to make tech more inclusive. Through their workshops, training and member's content, the network helps businesses diversify their hiring, create new habits and foster an inclusive culture.
Alongside being an active keynote speaker, Abadesi also co-hosts the Techish podcast with Michael Berhane, discussing all things tech, pop culture, and life.
Her impact in the tech scene hasn't gone unnoticed and she has been recognised as one of the most influential voices in tech by the likes of Computer Weekly, Tech Nation, Financial Times & Forbes (amongst others!)
5) Ric Lewis, Founding partner of Tristan Capital Partners, Founder & Chairman of the Black Heart Foundation
Okay so Ric Lewis isn't specifically from a tech background, but after listening to him on The High Performance Podcast and hearing his 12 guiding principles for a successful life and business, we had to include him in our trailblazer series - (we've linked it below.)
Ric is a passionate advocate for improving access to quality education for less advantaged children. He founded The Black Heart Foundation last year, which supports initiatives that improve educational benefits to young people and provides them with opportunities they would otherwise be denied.
In 2019 he topped the UK Powerlist, ranking him as the most influential person in the UK with African or Afro-Caribbean heritage.
6) Chi-chi Ekweozor, Founder of Assenty & Organiser of the #FemaleTechFounder meetup series
After spotting an opportunity to provide a solution for a gap in the events market, Software Engineer turned start-up Founder Chi-chi developed Assenty - an audience interaction and live virtual polling tool.
As a female founder looking for advice from other entrepreneurs, Chi-chi started the #FemaleTechFounder meetup. The series of events hosted in Manchester (& virtually) brings aspiring female founders and women in tech together to hear from successful founders within the tech space, sharing their challenges, highlights and biggest lessons learnt.
Chi-chi is also a member of Fund Her North, a collective of over 28 women with combined investment power over £450 million in the North. The group exist to give Northern female entrepreneurs equal access to funding to help them successfully scale their businesses.
You can listen to Chi-chi tell all about Assenty, #FemaleTechFounder and her thoughts on how we need to address the lack of female representation in tech at a grassroots level in The Start-Up Diaries Podcast.
BlackTechFest kicked off last week in style - the virtual three-day festival celebrating the best of Black culture. Bringing together speakers and innovators from the likes of LinkedIn, Google, Facebook & Amazon, there are some brilliant talks to attend over the next few days - for free!
Back in 2016, after feeling frustrated with being one of a few black individuals in tech, Silicon Valley tech executive Dion McKenzie and ex-Googler Ashleigh Ainsley teamed up to create the nonprofit organisation Colorintech.
Colorintech is focused on making the UK the most inclusive tech hub in the world through their programmes, which create access to some of the world’s most innovative companies for ethnic minorities. The organisation has a network of over 30,000, with over 5,000 people having graduated from their programmes.
The pair were shortlisted in the 2020 Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs 2020 - defined as leaders leveraging business smarts to save the world.
8) Tom Foster-Carter, Founder of Lollipop and formerly Co-Founder & COO of Curve
Tom Foster-Carter is no stranger to the unicorns of the UK tech scene. After kicking off his career in FinTech as Founding COO of children's banking app Osper, he teamed up with Shachar Bialick in 2015 to Co-Found the challenger bank, Curve.
After 2 years at Curve - the platform that lets you consolidate all your bank cards into a single card - he made the move over to yet another challenger bank, Monzo.
Earlier this year, Tom announced the launch of Lollipop - the grocery market app dubbed 'the Monzo of supermarkets'. The free app aims to help busy families plan their weekly meals, find menu inspiration and save time by automatically adding all the ingredients into your basket, and sending them to your door.
"1.5 Unicorns 🦄 and I'm not done yet." - watch this space!