Being a Female Founder
What's it like being a Founder?
Chakshu is the Founder of Ignius, a tech start-up based in London. She is passionate about using technology to address real world issues and so gave up her corporate career and plunged head first into the world of technology and electronics. Chakshu lives in London with her partner and two sons who are 9 and 5 years old. She is learning how to play the guitar and in her free time she develops media content for children, primarily preschoolers.
Job title: Founder
Current employer: Ignius
Hours: 40 hours per week on average
How long have you been practising in this field? 2 years.
What’s your job title and location?
I work for Ignius with my co-founder. We are a company that builds wearable devices to keep vulnerable individuals safe. Ignius is an alerting solution that mobilises help in emergencies using digital connectivity and location technology. Our primary target group are women who work in shifts in countries that have high rates of sexual violence but poor public infrastructure, like the police.
I live and work in London but my startup sells globally with a particular focus on India.
What's it like working in your role? What does a typical day look like?
Currently, we’re focusing on building our electronic product so I would meet with the electronics engineer to discuss the progress of the device. I would also interact with potential clients via email to get them on board to buy our product. The activities I need to focus on could change on a daily basis and so a great deal of flexibility is required whilst also staying organised. Other activities that I need to focus on could be website changes or marketing on social media. Also sometimes I could be completing competitive applications for funding for the business.
Generally, my day starts at 7.30 am and I get my two sons ready for school. After dropping them off, I go to my office in London. I look at the technical aspects of our product, proactively contacting companies to see if they would like to be early adopters and also writing to potential collaborators and investors. I leave for home around 4 pm to spend time with family. I may carry on working in the evening after my kids are in bed.
In your current role, what do you spend your time doing?
I spend my time thinking how to make our product better with the limited resources we have and also how to get them in the hands of more people.
I work at a hardware accelerator in London. Hardware means a physical product and the electronic components that go inside it (the body and the parts).The software (is the brain). These are codes that the written and added on the electronics to perform certain functions. So if we take a mobile phone for example, the physical casing and the electronics are the hardware and operating system (ioS/Android) is the software.
Accelerators are work spaces that give you resources such as money, work desk, materials and guidance from business experts (called mentors) to develop your business. A hardware accelerator is a place which would give you a work space to build your physical product. This includes things like machines, laser printers, 3D printers and tools to help you develop your product.
Has anyone ever been surprised when you told them that you were in this role?
People don't necessarily associate women with Technology and when I say I have a technology start-up, they are surprised. I see Technology to be a means to an end and it doesn't have to be daunting. I wanted to address the issue of sexual violence and technology feels like the best way to do it right away. The real solution to the problem is a change in mindsets but that would take a lot of time.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of my job is meeting other start-ups and finding out about their journeys, their ups and downs and the challenges they face.
Are there any specific qualifications you are required to have in your field?
Training in engineering, design or science is helpful but not essential to be able to start your technology related start-up. Typically people who have technology or product startups tend to have a training in industrial design or design engineering, mechanical engineering or electronics engineering. But, it’s the idea itself and the willingness to work on it that is essential! Formal qualification isn’t always mandatory and it could be all informal experience but passion counts.
Tell us more about your career journey - how did you get to where you are today?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Studies and an MBA (Master of Business Administration). I completed my education in India where many of the STEM subjects were compulsory. As a result, I studied mathematics throughout my schooling and quite a bit during higher education. Computer Science related subjects were compulsory and we all learnt to Code! Application of mathematics in subjects such as accounting was key throughout my education.
I then worked as a management consultant in London and decided to shift careers to set-up my current start up. It was daunting at first as I didn't have a qualification in Electronics Engineering but I had the confidence that my experience in consulting would help in bring together the resources required to deliver on our objective.
Along with that, I self-trained to understand the hardware and software. That means researching and reading a lot on the subject! I took baby steps such as searching the topic on the internet and looking for specialist organisations or bodies specialising in the field. I attended events held by these organisations which helped in two ways; learning more about the subject and also meeting people specialising in it to get their help and guidance whilst I was gathering my own knowledge. I was never afraid to say 'I don't know' and ask for help.
Now we have a successful product that was launched in London in July 2018!
Was there anything you liked doing at secondary school that helped you get to this career?
I enjoyed maths and finance related subjects. They didn't directly impact my decision to run a tech company but gave me the confidence that all subjects are accessible and can be learnt. Aptitude is of course not gender specific!
What were your favourite subjects at school?
Engineering Drawing, Economics.
What did you want to be as a child when you 'grew up'?
Can you remember what your parents reactions were to that aspiration?
My dad thought it was a bad career choice solely because he thought architects aren't very successful! I was never discouraged from doing anything just because I was a girl. I think that upbringing has held me in good stead and given me the confidence to do whatever I set my heart to.
Can you remember your parents or teachers wanting or encouraging you to go into a specific career? And was this linked to your gender?
They did suggest certain careers based on what they thought would help me make more money or be successful but my upbringing was gender-neutral so I don’t see my gender as a big part of my personality. I have never thought of myself as a woman or girl, just an individual with equal rights and aspirations to anyone out there.
What do you think are attitudes towards and expectations of women in your sector?
I think as a Founder of a start-up, fundraising has been a challenge as there is some scepticism around women entrepreneurs. We have to prove ourselves a bit more and I try to be better prepared with finances so I come across as knowledgeable. Sometimes there is less trust around a woman's capability compared to men but I believe the tides are turning.
Are there any challenges to working in your field?
Sometimes it’s challenging taking a deep dive in the technical aspects of our product, I sometimes wish I was an electronics engineer. Aside from that, finding funding can be tough and finding the right people/companies to manufacture our product.
What are 3 things you have to like to do your job?
Being my own boss,
Working in an environment where everyone is a creator (we are part of a hardware accelerator)
What advice would you give to young girls who are aspiring to be in your role, or who maybe haven't even considered it as a career?
Don't fall in the trap that is fuelled by media that girls have to be ‘girly’. Think of yourself as an individual first and make career choices based on your interests. Don't be afraid of science and technology and be open to learn it at any stage in your life.
Hours: 40 hours/week
Starting salary: Varies drastically. You can often receive stock or shares in a startup before salary.
Qualifications required: No specific qualifications required.
In 2017, only 17% of startups have a female founder in the UK.
Read Business Insider's 29 coolest female startup founders in the UK.
Fortune.com says female founders got only 2% of Venture Capital dollars in 2017.
One in ten of the fastest growing UK startups have women founders. Read more.
"Don't fall in the trap that is fuelled by media that girls have to be ‘girly’. Think of yourself as an individual first and make career choices based on your interests." - Chakshu
"Formal qualification isn’t always mandatory and it could be all informal experience but passion counts."
Founder Institute: The Founder Institute is the world's premier pre-seed startup accelerator, having helped launch over 3,500 companies across 180+ cities and six continents.
Kickstarter is one of the most well-known crowdfunding platforms, where thousands of entrepreneurs launch their campaigns to gain startup or operational capital.
Startups.co.uk is an online platform that delivers a plethora of tools and resources to help the entrepreneur looking to move from the great idea stage to a viable business.
UP London is part of a global organisation of volunteers that provides support to the London entrepreneurial community.