Championing a new generation of women founders in the UK and beyond

Read essential insights for women founders on achieving product-market fit, effective go-to-market strategies and sales, and more.

Sarah Finegan

Senior Investment Director
June 12, 2024
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Antler’s exclusive “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs: Building Venture-Scalable Businesses” summit in London brought together top women founders for a dynamic afternoon of thought leadership and discussion through a series of talks, workshops, panels, and networking.

Antler continues to lead from the front through our commitment to providing opportunities for diverse founder talent. This was the largest ever event that Antler has held for women founders globally, with demand outstripping supply—this was a hot ticket! Antler worked in partnership with Google, Albion, Sie Ventures, JV Network, and WVC:E to deliver this energising and inspiring event.

Jed Rose, Partner at Antler, shared his perspective on the changing demographics of the tech ecosystem in the UK and Europe. Susan Lin, Partner at Felix Capital, discussed what she looks for in a VC-backable business. Successful venture-backed founders like Nicole Weder and Dimple Patel shared practical strategies for achieving product-market fit and effective go-to-market strategies and sales.

I was excited to host a panel discussion with four prominent members of the startup community who shared their founding journey, offering insights on the "getting started" phase, early-stage challenges, achieving product-market fit, co-founding dynamics, and lessons learned so far: Alexia de Broglie, co-founder of Your Juno; Lauren Ladd, co-founder of Shareback; Jas Schembri-Stothart, co-founder of Luna; and Mary Lin, co-CEO of Odin

We captured some insights from the afternoon which you can read in detail below.


  • A new wave of women founders are starting businesses
    • Record numbers of new women founders are deciding to build tech startups in the UK and across Europe and the pipeline of women founders in Europe is healthier than ever. 
    • New research shows that a quarter (24%) of founders deciding to build startups in 2023 were women.
  • Insights on European founder demographics
    • The European innovation flywheel is spinning faster and faster—record numbers of founders are entering the market as a result of the downturn and tech layoffs.
    • This new generation of founders is more diverse, and has more technical expertise, than ever before.
  • Insights on VC-backable businesses
    • VC-backed IPOs dominate, strong storytelling and personalised approach are vital for founders, scalable processes enhance service businesses, and branding remains crucial, with Felix Capital soon releasing a brand equity scorecard.
  • Insights on product-market fit
    • Importance of solving genuine problems in entrepreneurship through ongoing feedback loops and understanding product-market fit, focusing on client needs, and achieving success by addressing market demands.
  • Insights on GTM & sales
    • In go-to-market strategies, focus on long-term behaviour change, value-based selling, continuous iteration, incremental targeting, active feedback engagement, re-engaging skeptics, and balancing influencer costs and switching barriers, while recognising feedback imperfections.
  • Insights from the panel discussions
    • The discussion covered getting started, strategies, early challenges, product-market fit, co-founding dynamics, and key lessons. Importance of knowing your product, buyer persona, and the emotional factors in decision-making. Time management, self-learning, finding unique value propositions, learning from others, understanding motivations, prioritising key tasks, and self-care were emphasised as crucial for entrepreneurial success

Watch a replay of the first two sessions and read more insights from each session below. Click here to watch replays of all sessions.

Opening Remarks with Jed Rose, Partner at Antler

Jed Rose shared insights into the changing demographics of tech founders in the UK and Europe, highlighting a tech ecosystem that is stronger than ever despite the downturn. Some key takeaways include:

  • London is Europe’s unicorn founder capital.
  • 43% of UK unicorn founders are from overseas, the highest rate in Europe.
  • McKinsey, Cambridge Consultants, and BCG are the companies whose former employees have built the most British unicorns. Oxford, Cambridge, and Manchester are the universities creating the most British unicorns.
  • The flywheel is spinning faster than ever, and record numbers of British founders are now emerging from tech giants like Amazon and Google and unicorns like Revolut and Deliveroo.
  • This is the most diverse generation of tech founders, with an increase in founders from various origins and genders. Over 35% of Antler's portfolio companies have a female co-founder.

Workshop #1: Understanding VC-Backable Businesses with Susan Lin, Partner at Felix Capital

Susan Lin shared insights on what it means to be a "VC-backable business". These are businesses that have the potential to attract venture capital investment due to their growth potential and scalability. Some key nuggets of her advice:

  • VC-Backed IPOs: Between 1980 and 2023, 40% of all US IPOs and 60% of tech IPOs were backed by venture capital. This highlights the significant role venture capital plays in fueling the growth and success of tech companies. 
  • The importance of storytelling for founders: Founders need to develop strong storytelling skills to effectively convey their vision and attract investment. Being able to effectively communicate their vision, mission, and value proposition is essential for attracting investors and building a compelling narrative around their business. 
  • Personalised investor emails: Despite advancements in technology, sending personalised emails to investors is still crucial. Susan emphasised the importance of taking the time to send highly targeted emails, as even AI has not sped up this process significantly. 
  • Scalability for service-based businesses: If you have an agency or service-based business, it is advisable to standardise processes to make them scalable. By systematising 95% of the operations and customising the remaining 5% based on specific client needs, businesses can achieve growth and efficiency. 
  • Branding and brand equity: Brand is defined as “the way you show up to the external world”. Felix Capital will soon publish a brand scorecard detailing how they assess brand equity. Branding plays a crucial role in how a business presents itself to the external world. Susan highlighted the importance of brand equity and mentioned Felix Capital's upcoming publication on brand scorecards, which assesses brand equity in detail.

Workshop #2: ​Achieving Product-Market Fit with Nicole Weder, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Accelex 

Nicole Weder reminded us that entrepreneurship is about solving a genuine problem. She emphasised the importance of ongoing feedback loops and, crucially, filtering through them to identify features that are replicable to a broader market segment. Some additional nuggets of Nicole's advice:

Nicole shared her unconventional path to entrepreneurship, leveraging her private equity experience and starting a business driven by the right timing and a strong gut feeling. She identified opportunities to address pain points in the private equity industry with her unique skillset.

  • Achieving product-market fit: Nicole demystified the process, highlighting the necessity of ongoing feedback loops for identifying marketable features.
  • Understanding market needs: Achieving product-market fit involves comprehending both marketing and product requirements.
  • Client focus: Nicole and her team focused on speaking with prospects to identify their top priorities and create solutions that address their problems.
  • Success factors: Success came from focusing on client problems and market on needs, leading to a successful Series A round. Their product history reflects a consistent focus on satisfying market needs.
  • Proof of concept (POC): Nicole and her co-founder bootstrapped a POC by focusing on client needs and leveraging data science, combining their private markets and tech experience.
  • Scaling and strategy: They scaled products and services for clients with a focus on market strategies, shifting focus from product development to providing comprehensive client solutions.

Workshop #3: Go-To-Market & Sales Strategies with Dimple Patel, CEO NatureMetrics, ex-CEO at Trouva 

Dimple Patel captured our attention by stating that in go-to-market strategy, the default assumption should be that nobody cares, and we must prepare a contingency plan. She noted that category-defining companies need to be aware of the behavioural changes they drive and the user inertia they face. It's crucial to always focus on the value being offered, as we are never just selling the product itself.

  • Behaviour change for go-to-market: Simply telling people you exist is not enough for a successful go-to-market strategy. It may require changing people's behaviour, and the key is to make this behaviour change long term. 
  • Prepare for go-to-market: After finding product-market fit, approach  go-to-market with a pessimistic mindset and be prepared for disappointment. It's important to have realistic expectations and be ready to iterate and refine your strategies. 
  • Value-based selling: Don't lose sight of the value your product creates for clients. Refine your messaging to focus on the specific value proposition that resonates with your target audience. Remember, you are not just selling your product, but the value it brings for the customer.
  • Iteration is key: go-to-market strategy is not a one-and-done approach. It requires constant iteration and adaptation. Each new segment should be approached as a fresh start, and the strategy should be tailored to fit the specific needs and preferences of that segment. 
  • Incremental targeting: When targeting new segments, it's advisable to start incrementally and expand to adjacent segments rather than completely different ones. This allows for a more focused and effective approach, building on existing success. 
  • Feedback and engagement: Feedback is essential for continuous improvement. Set up tracking mechanisms before launching, tag and categorise feedback, create channels for receiving feedback, and actively engage with it. This helps in tightening feedback loops and making necessary adjustments. 
  • Re-engage with sceptics: Don't ignore those who have expressed skepticism or dissatisfaction with your product. Reach out to them, listen to their concerns, and use their feedback to improve your offering. Re-establishing trust and addressing their concerns can lead to valuable insights and potential conversions. 
  • Influencers and switching costs: While influencers can be effective, they can also be expensive. Explore other marketing avenues and consider the impact of switching costs on customer acquisition. If switching costs are a barrier for potential customers, make sure your offering provides enough value to outweigh those costs. 
  • Imperfections of feedback: It's important to acknowledge that feedback will always be imperfect. Not all feedback will be actionable or relevant, but it's still valuable in gaining insights and understanding customer perspectives. Embrace feedback as a learning opportunity rather than seeking perfection. 

“Getting Started as a Founder” panel discussion

This discussion focused on the "getting started" phase, strategies, early-stage challenges, achieving product-market fit, co-founding dynamics, and lessons learned from their founding journeys.

Lauren and Alexia offered contrasting approaches to overcoming imposter syndrome. Lauren focused on identifying her weaknesses and preparing to answer challenging questions. In contrast, Alexia reminded us that our experience is our strength, and past challenges highlight our resilience.

The panellists shared their journeys, emphasising the importance of deeply understanding your product, knowing your buyer persona, and recognising that decision-making is often driven by emotional or reputational factors rather than the product itself. Alexia also spoke candidly about time management in entrepreneurship, stressing the need for ruthless prioritisation to ensure that focusing on the crucial 20% drives 80% of the impact.

  • Seek knowledge and learn independently: Panelists emphasised the importance of self-learning and understanding all aspects of your business. While data points are valuable, wisdom comes from personal experience and understanding. 
    • “I made a list of all the things I wished no one would ask me.” —Lauren
  • Find your unique value proposition: The idea of "throwing spaghetti at the wall" was discussed, meaning trying different approaches and finding what works best for your business. For example, one of the panellists referenced the Calm app that found success with nighttime stories, while Your Juno incentivised the app to attract and retain users. 
  • Learn from others: It's not necessary to reinvent the wheel. If someone else is successfully doing something similar, learn from their strategies and apply them to your own business.
  • Understand people's motivations: Recognise that everyone has a boss or someone to impress. Understanding what motivates people, such as improving their reputation, can help in managing teams and facilitating collaboration. 
  • Prioritise what's important: While building a business is important, it's crucial to remember that some things can wait. It's essential to identify what truly matters and focus on those priorities. 
  • Take a break and prioritise self-care: Lauren mentioned taking a 4-6 week sabbatical to recharge and reflect. It's important to step back and take care of yourself to avoid burnout. 

Ready to turn your vision into reality and build a world-changing company? The next Antler residency in the UK kicks off in September 2024 in London. Apply to our UK residency. Or apply to another Antler residency in 26 other locations around the world.

Sarah Finegan

Senior Investment Director

Sarah is a Senior Director at Antler. Having previously worked with Antler in Berlin, where she was a key part of Antler's operations in DACH and Eastern Europe, Sarah now leads supporting Antler's growing portfolio in the UK. Sarah brings experience from her previous roles in finance, early-stage technology companies, and venture capital, and she is an avid sports fan and world traveller.

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