Where and what next? Actions to bridge the funding gap and empower diversity

Diversity in investment is essential for innovative small businesses to grow. In 2018, research from the UKBAA and British Business Bank suggested 90% of investors were men, with 93% coming from a white ethnic background. Research from Beauhurst also suggested that only 16% of investment deals in 2018 were in female-founded companies. Helen Oldham, Founding Director of NorthInvest will lead this discussion on how empowering diversity can lead to new opportunities across the investment landscape.

Helen Oldham (Chair)

Founding Board Director, NorthInvest

Helen is a Founding Board Director of a highly successful early stage investment connector for tech start-ups;  NorthInvest, a NED, mentor, and Chair of the Trustees for Smart Works Leeds which provides coaching and clothing to unemployed women.

Helen supports entrepreneurs and Northern based SMEs to reach their potential.

Lizzy Hodcroft

Managing Director, Myndr

Most recently winning the Regional Heat for Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Lizzy’s tenacity and ability to work towards a solution are remarkable. Where many young entrepreneurs would see adversity and barriers she sees an opportunity and ways to grow which lead her to appearing on Dragon’s Den and winning the North East Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and 2018 with her first business, The Sweet Beet

Lizzy is a one-woman force of nature: a tsunami of passion and commitment that typifies entrepreneurs. Her enormously ambitious and passionate vision and her proactive stance on Mental Health in entrepreneurs certainly helps to address a subject that is not always pushed into the limelight.

She often speaks of authentic leadership and resilience. Her story shapes a narrative of true entrepreneurship and through that, a path to recovery, self-discovery and enlightenment.

Ravneet Kaur

Research and Disruptive Innovation, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

Ravneet has worked in the Research and Disruptive Innovation department of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult since 2018. She has a broad range of skills and over 10 years of industry experience in the data analysis, project management and business development of energy sector. Before joining ORE Catapult, Ravneet Co-founded Equiwatt and served as Chief Operating Officer of the clean-technology start-up, specialising in smart energy systems.

Ravneet’s current role is largely based around providing assistance to innovators and supply chain business clients to commercialise new technologies, identify funding and access testing services.  This includes writing proposals for competitive public/commercial funding, managing multi-million innovation programmes (accelerator, technology demonstration, etc.) and business development.

Ravneet has won multiple accolades is also past winner of Renewable Energy Association’s Young Renewable Energy Professional Award and in 2020 was elected in the Future List of Northern Power Women 2020. Ravneet is endorsed as an exceptional digital talent migrant by UK government and holds triple masters, MSc International Marketing and PG in Renewable Energy, Enterprise and Management from Newcastle University and an MBA from a prestigious university in India.  In her extra time, Ravneet also voluntary works as an Enterprise Adviser for local schools at NELEP and Founders4School to promote equality diversity and STEM education. She sits on Alumni Advisory Panel for Department of International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Program to support policy development for generating inward investment by attracting more international energy start-ups to the UK.

Jenny Tooth OBE


Jenny is CEO of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade body for angel and early-stage investing, representing over 18,000 investors around the UK. Jenny has over 25 years’ experience of facilitating SMEs’ access to investment, both in the UK and internationally. She ran her own consultancy on access to finance for SMEs, including spending nine years based in Brussels, working closely with the EC. In 2009, Jenny co-founded Angel Capital Group, incorporating London Business Angels, one of the most established and active angel networks in the UK and which was sold to Newable in April 2017.

Jenny is an angel investor and in her role at UKBAA she focuses on building the angel community around the UK and developing an effective and connected ecosystem for the angel and early stage community. She works with Government and major stakeholders and sits on a number of boards in both the public and private sector.  Jenny is also an experienced speaker on angel investing and entrepreneurship both in the UK and internationally. She has an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Jenny was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to small businesses.

Fareeha Usman

EDI Innovation Manager, Dynamo North East

Fareeha is the founder of Being Woman, EDI Innovation Manager Dynamo North East, winner of We are the City Rising star 2020 award for the Charity and non profit category, Finalist of Great British Entrepreneur Award for Good and Trustee YMCA Northumberland!  Being Woman is a registered charity working towards to educate and empower women and wider community with the skills and confidence to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination in the society. She has spread awareness and have developed programmes around mental health and Gender based Violence and has an international presence. She has been actively promoting digital and social inclusion in Northumberland UK through her work and is one of 100 Tech Up Women Programme by Dr Sue Black. She strongly vouch for the promotion of equality and diversity and supports BAME, asylum seekers and refugee women and families. She says, “we are the sheroes of our own life story and sheroes never give up!”

Fareeha has also recently won the North East Entrepreneur for Good award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.