The UK’s most ambitious companies led by women

| Ava Scott

This year’s International Women’s Day campaign is Balance for Better. Our analysis in The Deal 2018 demonstrated a gender funding gap that has worsened since 2016, highlighting the critical need to support women in business. There’s still a long way to go if the industry is to achieve equity for equity.

Despite these worrying patterns, there are several success stories of female business leaders who have been pioneering new ideas across sectors. From Fintech to Pharma, we’ve handpicked some of the UK’s most disruptive private companies that are led by women.

Top 10 female-founded companies by amount fundraised

Company Total funding received
£426m
£150m
£143m
£81.3m
£79.9m
£49m
£45.1m
£38m
£29.8m

The top three female-founded companies

Hyperoptic

Female founder: Dana Tobak

Sector: Fixed-line, Broadband Provision

Total fundraised: £426m

Hyperoptic operates a super fast fibre-optic broadband network; the founder Dana Tobak, leads the company, which is currently servicing over 100k UK homes. In 2018 alone they fundraised over £250m, backed by major banks such as Barclays, RBS and BNP Paribas,  and were featured in the Fast Track Tech Track 100 high growth list. The previous year, Tobak received a CBE for her work in the UK’s connectivity sector. They top our list of female-founded companies for amount fundraised, having attracted £426m in total since 2011.

Neyber

Female founder: Monica Kalia

Sector: Financial Services

Total fundraised: £150m

Borrowing money can be a necessary and important decision, but also come with risk. Neyber allows employees to borrow from their own salary, whilst learning about financial wellbeing. The company was cofounded by Monica Kalia, an ex-Goldman Sachs employee. Her knowledge of the corporate finance world has assisted Neyber to raise over £149m, including backing from her previous employer. The firm has also been featured in KPMG’s Fintech 100 Leading Innovators for 2017 and 2018. In an interview with JustEntrepreneurs.com, Kalia was vocal about the ‘real danger’ of worsening gender balance over time, which must be tackled partly by encouraging girls to study STEM subjects at all ages.

Starling Bank

Female founder: Anne Boden

Sector: Financial services/challenger bank

Total fundraised: £143m

If you have any interest in the hugely disruptive and fast-moving world of FinTech, you will have heard of Starling Bank, one of the UK’s major challenger banks. Anne Boden, Co-founder and CEO, has helped the mobile-based current account provider to operate over 200k new accounts. The company has secured funds through equity, with £75m raised in February this year, and through grants, attracting £100m from the Capability and Innovation Fund. The digital bank has continued its focus on diversity, as 40% of its board is made up by women.

Special Mentions

PensionBee

Female founder: Romina Savova

Sector: Software-as-a-Service, Financial Services

Valuation: £93.1m

PensionBee allows you to bring all your pension plans into one online account. CEO and Founder, Romina Savova, has led the company through five fundraising rounds since 2015, with the latest securing £8.58m from undisclosed investors. This brings the company’s pre-money valuation to £93.1m.

Pension management is also associated with gender imbalance. According to a report by the House of Commons, the pension gender gap for 2017 neared 40% (defined as the % difference in average gross pension income between men and women in receipt of the State Pension).

KaNDy Therapeutics

Female founder: Mary Kerr

Sector: Pharmaceuticals

Valuation: £89.4m

A start up spearheaded by a woman for women, KaNDy Therapeutics works to discover new ways to reduce the symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes. The Co-Founder and CEO, Dr Mary Kerr, has utilised her PhD in Pharmacology and later corporate experience, such as Senior Vice President with GlaxoSmithKline, to secure KaNDy £25m in equity funding. Backers include Advent Life Sciences and Forbion Capital Partners. The drug they have developed has completed proof-of-concept testing stages, and aims to work with non-hormonal substances to counteract the effects of the menopause.