Inspiring Women in Tech Series #3: Eileen Burbidge, MBE

Eileen Burbidge (@eileentso) has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. “I saw really smart people get nothing but others who hit the jackpot — even though they weren’t that hard-working but because they had timed it right. One of my guiding principles now is that the best you can do is try to increase your exposure to luck and recognise lucky options.”

One can be presented with opportunities, but securing them is another talent altogether. Describing herself as an “accidental venture capitalist”, Ms Burbidge credits her progress with being naturally curious and adventurous, her workaholic tendencies, good communication skills and quick thinking.

Her Chinese parents (her father was an engineer and her mother worked in finance) instilled in her a tough work ethic from an early age. In an article by Ben Rooney, Eileen says that she couldn’t see what the big fuss about Tiger Moms was. She laughs now, but said that she thought that was how everyone was raised. “My parents had this view that they had to work much harder than non-immigrants. They impressed the same view upon us as kids. ‘You are not going to get the breaks when anyone looks at you,’ they would say, ‘so you have to prove that you belong there.’

In the US, for Burbidge, the fact that she was a woman was secondary to the fact that she was ethnically different. “I have had more to prove, and more to overcome, looking Chinese, than I have for being female. I grew up thinking that if I were white, I could do whatever I wanted. I thought white girls had it easy. It never even occurred to me that white girls would say they were disadvantaged.

As one can imagine, Burbidge is passionate about being a great example of how women can thrive in the tech world. She says that women should use the fact that they are a minority to their advantage  – “being conspicuous can be an opportunity to stand out“, and revels in memories about when she has been in meetings as a token female and has ended up flooring the men around the table with her intelligent contributions. She has said many times that being a woman has not been a hinderance to her in this field, and that in fact it is an industry where you can create whoever you want to be behind the computer screen.

Eileen-Burbidge

Burbidge studied computer science at the University of Illinois, “before it was trendy”, and started her career in San Francisco working for a telecoms company. This was the start of the tech boom in Silicon Valley and she rode the tech boom wave, becoming Market Development Manager at Apple Computer. Between 1996 and 2003, Burbidge lived the life, likening the atmosphere in Silicon Valley to Wall Street in the 70’s. She moved across to London in 2004, thinking that gaining international experience would be a good idea, expecting to return to the US after 2 years. Lucky for London, she stayed. “It’s so much more fulfilling to work in tech in the UK because it is earlier in its life cycle and you can shape it more.

Her career path took her to iconic tech companies which were relatively new – Skype, Yahoo and Ambient Sound Investments. She went on to co-found White Bear Yard with Stefan Glaenzer and Robert Dighero, who became her partners at Passion Capital, a leading early-stage technology and internet VC firm, which was launched in 2011.

Apart from working at Passion Captial, Eileen acts as board director for DueDil, Digital Shadows, wireWAX, Lulu and other portfolio companies. When assessing potential startups to invest in, her criteria for possible  are rather interesting: be friendly to the receptionist. Relationships are important. People are your company. How you treat people is vital. Burbidge looks for dedicated individuals who are willing to put in the hours and the passion required to make a success of their ideas.

The London tech scene has exploded, with the digital economy growing a third faster than the UK economy as a whole. Earlier this year, the Tech City cluster of businesses reported that 1.56 million people were employed in digital companies in the UK, with 328,000 of those in London.Digital is already 10 per cent of UK GDP and it is forecast to be 15 per cent in 2017… (It’s) the sector with the greatest job creation compared to the national average and we have 10 times as much venture financing coming into London tech as we had five years ago…. it’s fantastic that the Government has recognised it — economic growth is consistent with its mantra as a government but also in terms of job creation.” 

Listen to Eileen Burbidge being interviewed by TechCrunch here:

Despite the Brexit vote, Burbidge remains positive. The UK, and London “remains the biggest tech centre in Europe and continues to attract the best talent and companies from all over the world. These are attractive factors for any investor and there will be plenty of opportunities for investment in the coming months and years ahead,” she responded to a recent report by the investment database Pitchbook for London & Partners, the promotional body for the London Mayor’s office.

With the passionate-about-tech Eileen Burbidge here as Chair of TechCity UK, as HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech and Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London.our official Tech Ambassador – are we surprised the message for UK’s tech scene’s future is a bright one?

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 Featured photograph by Techworld.com

 

 

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Inspiring Women in Tech Series #2: Gemma Godfrey

Gemma Godfrey is a woman who has it all. She’s got fans across the world who hang on her every word across various media platforms for the latest investment advice; great smile, great hair (which has it’s own Twitter account); a husband who is a film producer and a beautiful son, who is a regular star feature in her Instagram posts. Now she also has a FinTech startup called Moo.la, which was (no surprise here) recently named as one of the top ten FinTech companies to watch this year.

Godfrey started out at Goldman Sachs as an intern, worked her way up through the corporate world, working for GAM as a Fund Manager, as Chairman of the Investment Committee at Credo Capital and Head of Investment Strategy for Brooks Macdonald – all the while contributing on Sky Business News, CNBC, the BBC and writing for Huffington Post, The Telegraph and The Times and various other publications. She was also Founder and Editor for The Investment Insight, giving online insight into the how’s, who’s, when’s and why’s of investing for five years. She is Board Advisor to Templars and CLU School of Management.

Godfrey was named among the “savviest” on Wall Street by the Wall Street Journal, the City of London’s “Commentator of the Year”, and most popular Business Influencer on social media in the New York Shorty Awards in 2014.

You can see why she’s popular – just take the topic of her December 2013 TEDxWallStreet talk, entitled How to Kiss. “Today I’m going to teach you to kiss. At work. On TV. In life or death situations. I’m going to show you how. And then when we go our separate ways you’re going to kiss with other people more than you’ve ever done before!”

It was a business talk, of course. Kiss stood for Kiss was Keep It Simple Stupid, by the way.

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Gemma Godfrey speaking at TEDxWallStreet, 13 December, 2013: “How To Kiss”

Watch here : Gemma Godfrey – TEDxWallStreet, 13 Dec 2013

Her advice for tomorrow’s leaders? In an article by Marisa Nadolny in her article, Godfrey’s Law of Success: Follow your Passion, the answer is,“Follow your passion, and success will come more naturally… People try to funnel themselves into what they think is an appropriate place,” she explains, “but it’s better to follow what they’re good at. A lot of people will force themselves to do something they think they should do, with little success.”

One of last week’s StrongJones blogs Inspiring Women in Tech Series #1: Lady Judge buys into Tech Startup featured British and American boardroom lioness, Lady Barbara Judge, CBE, who said that she regretted not having studied maths or science at University, as she felt that she had been playing catchup her whole life. Lucky for Godfrey, her passion was science. “Having a scientific background, you’re used to taking the complicated and complex and presenting it in an accessible way,” says Godfrey. Possibly one of her most valuable skills throughout her career.

Godfrey says it was a “pure love of the subject” that fuelled her interest in physics at a young age. She credits her father with cultivating her scientific curiosity – she holds a degree in Quantum Physics from the University of Leeds.

Selected by the BBC as one of the world’s Top 100 Women, the unstoppable Godfrey was profiled by the Sunday Times on the ascent of women in the boardroom – something that is under the spotlight right now, in the British banking and finance industries.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, was asked by the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Harriett Baldwin, to lead a Review focussing on the representation of women in senior managerial roles in the Financial Services industry. When the Review was released in March this year, it showed that in the UK, “New Financial’s sample of 200 firms active in UK Financial Services showed an average of 23% female representation on Boards, but only 14% on Executive Committees. Only 50% of women, compared to 70% of men believe they have an equal opportunity to advance regardless of their personal characteristics or circumstances.” Pretty appalling stuff.

Courageous women like Gemma Godfrey are pure gold. We couldn’t have a more inspiring person – who literally seems to fizz with eneregy and passion – to shakeup things, and spur on the aspiring FinTech women out there.

“The big thing that motivates me, is this feeling that you want to have an impact, you want to make a difference,” says Gemma, “I’ve always felt like that, wanting to work in smaller teams and be able to actually shape something. … I’ve realised I’ve spent the last few years waiting for somebody else to do this, and I thought I would join them! But there aren’t really that many people out there who’re doing this. This is a great opportunity to do it myself.” @gcgodfrey

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

 

 

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