Tech Show: Starling founder talks woman-lead startup struggles and how AI will assist

Founder of Starling Anne Boden revealed to a Keynote Theatre on day one of Tech Show London the struggles she faced in fundraising because she is a woman and how she sees AI could bridge such gaps for female founders.

Talking with BBC Tech Editor Zoe Kleinman, the challenger bank founder explained how being a woman impacted her in pitches with venture capitalists (VC). “I thought I could knock on a door, explain my product and they’d fund me,” explains Boden. Yet this would see the founder go on to speak to over 300 investors and go without funding for two years.

Boden claimed these challenges were largely because of the lack of diversity in the VC board, and the fact she didn’t ‘look’ like a tech-savvy person (despite having a degree in computer science) meant that she was often not seen to be a person who they want to invest in. Currently, only 2% of VC funding goes to female-founded teams.

Since its founding 10 years ago, and having since successfully building the bank to already have half the market share of Barclays, Boden now Chairs a UK government’s Women-led high-growth enterprise taskforce that implements steps to alleviate some of the issues mentioned, like making voluntary quotas for boards to include women.

Yet, where the real change could come from is from this tech revolution the world currently finds itself in. AI, Boden explains, will usher in the new set of companies that dominate our economies, just like how the 2010s saw the solidifying of companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter as titans of the US economy. But AI, as Boden explains, will allow women with ideas, but without experience coding, to enter and build these companies of the future as there are fewer barriers to entry.

Woman make up only 26% of computing roles, yet as CEO of AI chip titan Nvidia Jensen Huang has suggested, AI will make coding redundant as it will allow people without traditional programming knowledge to easily develop complex programs. “We have the opportunity to make this revolution ours,” says Boden. So confident is Boden in AI, she has taken up a course studying it.

While Boden believes this revolution will see society well on its way to Industry 5.0., she acknowledges we’re still five to 10 years away, and so in the meantime, she has compiled some practical advice she has learnt in her recently released book, Female Founders’ Playbook.