At Tech Nation we’re creating a national network connecting ambitious digital tech entrepreneurs across the UK.
Whether you’re a founder looking for connections or support, a stakeholder embedded in a local community or are simply interested in what’s going on in a region, our Entrepreneur Engagement Managers (or ‘EEMs’ for short) are on the ground in towns and cities and ready to help.
In this series of articles, we’re telling you more about our EEMs’ roles and views about tech in the country. Here we speak to Elizabeth Corse, our South East Entrepreneur Engagement Manager based in Reading.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I fell into tech. One of my very first jobs was with Quark, where I learned all about graphic design software. I realised I enjoyed learning about tech and particularly explaining it in a non-technical way to others. I had always dreamed of following in my parents’ footsteps and becoming an entrepreneur. That happened when I spent eight years running an edtech business based in Birmingham.
When the company pivoted to become Fluence, a deep-tech AI tech company, that’s when I experienced the challenge of building a digital tech business outside of London. That’s when I recognised the struggle that founders face to access finance and investment outside of the capital.
Being based in the South East and realising that my ‘super-power’ was actually supporting entrepreneurs rather than being one myself, I decided to join Tech Nation where I knew I could help many founders. It’s something I find hugely rewarding and gives me purpose.
What wins have you had since starting? What impact have they made?
In my very first week, I helped Work In Confidence get a place on a DIT (Department for International Trade) trade delegation to Slush, the big tech conference held in Helsinki. It was so rewarding to hear them talk about their experience and understand how much this experience had raised their ambitions for their scaling company.
I have also managed two important roundtables where founders and other local stakeholders were able to feedback about their challenges directly to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports. The first was held at Microsoft and chaired by its CEO Cindy Rose; the second was with the then Secretary of State Rt hon Nicky Morgan. I’m most proud that we had three Rising Stars semi-finalists, two finalists and one winner from this region, as well as we a successful Upscale applicant.
What companies in the region have impressed you?
I meet or talk to exciting companies every single day. Asking to name a few is like asking to choose between children, but my very first meeting was with a female CEO in Oxford when I met with Kirsty Lloyd-Juke of Latent Logic. I was blown away by the work they were doing to accelerate autonomous vehicles by creating a life-like realistic training environment. They have since been bought out by Waymo.
My second meeting was with the ever dynamic Helen Willams, Director of Operations from Vitaccess. Not only are they disrupting the way clinical trials are delivered by collecting real-world information from patients in real-time, but they are also showing how you can be diverse and inclusive in digital tech.
They do this by offering flexibility, being inclusive, removing the gender pay gap, providing mentoring, and building a supportive and open culture. That’s why they have 50% female directors and a whopping 73% female-male staff ratio.
What challenges are founders facing in your region?
In a world of digital tech, there is absolutely no need for everyone to commute from the South East into London when we have so many exciting innovative and mission-led companies on our doorstep.
That said, our proximity to London can make it tricky to recruit local talent, adding to what is already a challenge for founders. I think the region is doing a good job promoting innovation, but there’s a lot more to do to make the local population realise just what opportunities there are close by.
I’d like to see more collaboration between types of companies where startups, scaleups, and multinationals can mix and collaborate together. We see initiatives such as PlusX, a new innovation hub in Brighton or the Curious Lounge, a talent and events hub in the Thames Valley which offers local ecosystems this type of opportunity – but we need to step up support for such initiatives.