Power Pitch UK

UK tech industry's top women entrepreneurs

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Since the beginning of the financial crisis, governments have taken great pains to promote entrepreneurship as a means to create wealth and jobs.

In Dell's "Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index" published in 2013, the U.K. came sixth out of 17 countries in terms of fostering high-potential female entrepreneurship.

The gap between men and women going it alone remains wide, although it is starting to narrow.

Here are some of the British women who took the risk in starting up a technology business and are now reaping the rewards.

By CNBC's Alice Tidey.

Sara Murray (OBE)


Buddi, which develops personal location technology for the health and security markets is Sara Murray's new venture, but she is perhaps more well-known for founding car insurance comparison website, confused.com.

This serial-entrepreneur is a recognized powerhouse in the industry, having won Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2009 Orange National business Awards, but also for sitting on the U.K.'s government Technology Strategy Board. Furthermore, in 2012 she was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal by the Queen for her services to entrepreneurship and innovation.

Junjun Chen


Junjun Chen co-founded HouseTrip.com with her husband, Arnaud Bertrand, after a holiday trip to Edinburgh.

Using their experience in the hospitality sector – both are graduates from the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland – they founded their company in 2010 and since then they have doubled in size each year and have become one of the largest holiday rental websites in the world.

Neither of the co-founders are originally from the U.K. – Junjun is Chinese and Arnaud, French – but Junjun told CNBC that they are committed to London as "it's a great city to start a business, run a business and turn a business into a global brand", adding that they "encourage other entrepreneurs to dive in and start their business here".

Junjun, along with her husband, won a Superstars award at Tech City News' Hall of Fame ceremony on June 17 in London.

Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish

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Back in 2006, these two crafty women founded Notonthehighstreet.com, an e-commerce platform promoting creative and original items.

Success saw them repeatedly outgrow their office space –which started at their kitchen tables – and they are now based, along with their 120 staff, in Richmond, south west London.

Their work has won them a host of awards, including an honor from the Queen.

Kate Hersov and Kim Chilman-Blair


Originally created in New Zealand, Medikidz is an initiative that aims to explain medical information to children through comics.

But the co-founders, Dr. Kate Hersov and Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair, quickly moved their operations to London to expand internationally.

Since its launch in 2009, Medidikz has distributed over two million comic books globally, garnered the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Will.i.am and created a charitable foundation to raise awareness in poorer countries.

Jody Orsborn

The Backscratchers

Originally from the U.S., where she worked for the music industry, Jody Orsborn decided to move to London to study for an MA in Culture, Policy and Management at City University London. There, she she met her future Backscratchers co-founders.

"I don't think our company would exist if it hadn't come out of London", Orsborn told CNBC. "There's something (special) about London, because every industry is here. It doesn't quite work in the same way in any other city - even in New York."

The digital service, which connects companies with freelance or agency talent for creative projects - including advertising, design, film, music and event production – was born in 2012 but Jody kept a foot firmly anchored in the music industry. She is also a judge for the music festival Glastonbury's emerging talent competition.

In June 2014, she won a "Ones to Watch" award from London's Tech City News. "I don't think being a female held me back in any way," she told CNBC, but added that she always had a strong role model in her life - her mother - who had built her own business when Jody was a child.

Elizabeth Varley

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TechHub creates affordable spaces for entrepreneurs to work, meet and collaborate and was born in what is now dubbed Silicon Roundabout, in London.

While the company does not disclose revenues, but it has expanded and opened spaces in Manchester but also in Berlin, Bucharest, Riga and will soon open one in Bangalore, India.

Varley also speaks at industry events and visited David Cameron in Downing Street as an advisor for the Tech City project to discuss the challenges facing U.K. start-ups.

Recognized for her role as a "Connector" at the Tech City News Hall of Fame awards on June 17, Varley told CNBC the main challenge for females in business was attitude.

"We're still in an environment where there is more of an expectation for men to go out and do their own things or not be the primary care-giver to children," she said, adding that women should look for role models they can relate to.

Kathryn Parsons

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Co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded, Kathryn Parsons seeks to bring as many people to "Digital Enlightment" as possible.

Founded in 2011, the Silicon Roundabout tech company offers crash courses in computer programming from coding to data visualization.

Some of its former one-day pupils include staff from well-known multinationals including Publicis, WPP, Google, eBay and Microsoft.

Winner of the 2013 Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award, Parsons is also on a campaign to incorporate coding in U.K. schools' curriculums.

Sarah Wood

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Sarah Wood is one of the co-founders of Unruly, a marketing technology company delivering social video campaigns.

Her work has seen her receive a slew of attention and awards: she was voted U.K. Female Entrepreneur of the Year, and features in Forbes' 2012 10 London-Based Entrepreneurs to Watch ranking.

And if that wasn't enough, she's also an associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge where she teaches an MPhil course in "Mash-Ups, Memes and LOLitics: Online Video Culture and the Screen Media Revolution".

Women's lack of confidence is the "glass ceiling in our culture and economy", Wood told CNBC at the Tech City Hall of Fame Awards ceremony.

"I think too many women count themselves out, they don't recognize their own strength," she added.

London, she added, is "the most significant, creative, productive technology hub in the world" because it absorbs new talent which brings in different cultures and ideas.

Iris Lapinski

Apps for Good

Lapinsky founded Apps for Good, which helps young people create apps through creative learning programs, in 2010 with 47 students at the time. Now, the courses have more than 17,000 students in the U.K. only and the business is looking to expand internationally.

Along the way, her work has been recognized around the world -- in 2013 the company won the Google Global Impact Award judged by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Richard Branson, along with £500,000.

In its first annual Hall of Fame awards on June 17, Tech City News named Lapinsky as one of its "Ones to Watch".

Joanna Shields

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American-British Joanna Shields is as close to tech royalty as you could get. She worked for a good number of the world's tech giants, from Google to AOL and Bebo. Before taking up her role as chair for Tech City and U.K. ambassador for digital industries, she was vice president and managing director of Facebook in EMEA.

Her commitment to everything digital is widely recognized. In 2011, she came first in the Wired 100 ranking, and in 2013 she was named Most Influential Woman in U.K. IT by Computer Weekly before receiving the British Interactive Media Association's Lifetime Achievement Award.