Futuristic touchscreen interface

Research published last week for the government’s Digital Economy Council showed that the UK Tech industry has, in just seven months, attracted $6.7B (£5.5B) in foreign investment. Reassuring to those who fear that Brexit may already impacting the sector, this is one and half times the average amount raised last year per month. The UK eco-system remains the clear favourite with US and Asian investors by a comfortable margin ($14.6B has been invested in UK tech start-ups since 2013 compared to $6.5B German start-ups and $2.5B in French start-ups).

As the UK tech industry booms with London at its epicentre, we asked the question – how does the sector fare for gender diversity? We had the fantastic opportunity to speak to Simonetta d’Ottaviano, co-founder of Nettoken and get her perspective on women in tech as well as the general tech eco-system in the UK.

IL: Nettoken is a very interesting and topical company, can you describe what you do?

SO: Our mission is to make personal cybersecurity and identity management easy and accessible to everyone with a digital presence. We have built a design-led platform that helps you find and organize all the online accounts that you have signed up to overtime. Most people signed up to no less than 150, but it’s challenging to keep track. As we sign up to new accounts every day, for example to book a flight ticket or pay a bill, Nettoken raises awareness and control over your digital footprint, to best manage it and at the same time keep it secure. All through a unique and user-friendly dashboard.   IL: With LORCA in Here East and Imperial’s new international cybersecurity centre launched last month, the cybersecurity sector is growing fast in the UK. For this sector, what do you think distinguishes the London business eco-system from others?

SO: The dramatic increase of cybercriminal activity that we are witnessing makes cybersecurity a topic that is relevant to all, but London is particularly attentive to this theme thanks to its history and a great network of cyber-experts, from leading security consulting firms to cyber law firms. The recent update in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has also generated a great number of innovative ventures revolving around data privacy and security.

The British government is also active in supporting start-ups like us that work from different angles to contribute in keeping the country digitally secure, through cyber accelerators like the one we have been selected to be part of run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). There are more accelerators focussed on cyber, as you mentioned LORCA, as well as CyLon, which was the first in Europe and is one of our very early supporters. All this makes London a great place to start and grown a business in this space   IL:As a female founder of a tech company, have you found the tech industry (and/or the cybersecurity industry) to be male dominated? 

SO: Me and my co-founders, Ela Neagu and Charlotte Slingsby, were quite used to work with men predominantly, coming from different areas of industrial design and engineering. Female presence in cybersecurity is still particularly low, but is now moving beyond 20% (Cybersecurity Ventures, 2019). At Nettoken we are certainly an unusual case, with three female co-founders, but we know some amazing and inspiring women in the ecosystem including founders, programmers, PR agents, CISOs… we need more!   IL:In that case, how do you think we can encourage more women to consider career paths in the industry?

SO: Cybersecurity used to be all about the technology, but as enterprises as well as individuals become increasingly more exposed to cybercrime, it’s now a sector that greatly benefits from diversity not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of skills, in order to improve the communication and accessibility of it, to reach and protect as many people and businesses as possible. Therefore, whether you have a background in design, coding or marketing, it is an exciting and meaningful space for everyone to work in.

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