International Women’s Day – Celebrating female founders

By Fiona Dent

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, marking a call to action for accelerating women’s equality

Today Makerversity showcases some of its remarkable female member and alumni founders. This group have shown amazing resilience and ingenuity, steering their companies to success during the pandemic. Working across diverse practice from ethical AI, software and mobility, art and engineering, bio-materials innovation and sound, to fashion activism, design disruption and beauty, we highlight their achievements.

Maya Pindeus, CEO and Co-Founder, Humanising Autonomy

Maya launched Humanising Autonomy in 2017 with her two Co-Founders Raunaq Bose and Leslie Nooteboom. The company is one of the leading mobility start-ups in the world, winning numerous awards and experiencing rapid growth. Maya has raised significant funding to accelerate the Humanising Autonomy vision with the team now expanded to 30 members. The company uses ethical AI to improve the way vehicles and systems interact with people in any environment fusing behavioural psychology, statistical AI and novel deep learning algorithms to create synergy between people and machines.

In February 2021 Humanising Autonomy’s vision-based Behaviour AI Platform reached 1 billion analysed human behaviours, based on over 200 million people, making it larger than all visual datasets in the industry combined. Since the company’s inception their platform has been deployed in over twenty urban environments, four different continents, encompasses twenty detection type classes (such as cyclists and eScooter users) and a whole range of behaviours relevant to specific applications like mobility and factory robotics. These include everything from awareness and intent, to persons crossing the road. The platform has identified over 22,000 high-risk scenarios. Proprietary behaviour features are gathered from ubiquitous video data to encompass the largest, most diverse dataset of human behaviours available. 

“This year I am super excited to be scaling our inspiring and diverse team to continue building a world in which all machines understand people and operate with a nuanced understanding of human behaviour.”

Find out more about Humanising Autonomy here


Aurelie Fontan, Founder and Co-Founder, Mykko

Aurelie Fontan is the Founder of design studio AURELIE FONTAN. The studio started by implementing holistic circular strategies to bring sustainability and innovation to the Couture sector. Convinced that bio-fabrication and circular design strategies are the future of the fashion industry, the studio is dedicated to pioneering hybrid new technologies and craftsmanship, pushing for change through environmentally-conscious designs. 

In 2020 Aurelie also co-Founded Mykko with fellow bio-designer Ashley Granter. Mykkö started with the idea to materialise vegan and bio-based leather that does not impact the environment but rather contributes to solving the recurrent problem of biodegradability in the fashion industry. Inventing new modes of fabrication adapted to designing with biology and natural processes, the company is developing systems that could allow designers to go beyond simply being “more considerate” towards the environment by providing a material that is suitable for luxury leather goods. The company won many awards and funding in 2020 including :  Innovate UK Sustainable Funding, UKRI 2020, London Mayor’s Entrepreneur Award 2020 and Future Fashion Factory 2020. 

“With all the changes we have witnessed in the past year, I am looking forward to a 2021 sustainability wake-up call that will support our efforts pioneering bio-fabrication for the fashion industry, while growing digital connections will allow for more exciting collaborations.”

Aurelie is completing her in MA Fashion at the RCA and will join InnovationRCA in Autumn to develop her biodesign company.

Find out more about Mykko here


Shruti Grover, Co-Founder, Pattern Project

Shruti co-founded Pattern Project, developing the company with R&D grant funding raised from Innovate UK. Pattern Project radically simplifies the home sewing of sustainable fashion. Its SIY Sew-It-Yourself kits contain pre-cut and annotated fabric sent directly to the customer who sews it at home. The clothes are easy to make, take less time than standard sewing and let the makers have a sense of ownership whilst upgrading their skills. Pattern Project was born from the insight that Gen Y consumers were repurposing secondhand clothes and diverting spend to taking up new making skills such as sewing.

The company also observed a paradigm shift to on-demand, micro and in-country production, reducing waste and carbon footprint. Pattern Project built proprietary hardware, software and a patent-pending fabric annotation system to power its vision. A custom fit UI enables patterns to be adjusted to the wearer in just a few clicks. Video and AR filters help users to sew by replacing confusing and hard-to-follow diagrams. All Fabrics are ethically sourced from partners who Shruti says are kind to the earth and good to their employees. Kits are shipped using zero waste packaging. 

The company has just launched its Kickstarter Waitlist for two new kits which re-imagine everyday underwear as “compostable consumables”. Supporters can sign up to be an early bird backer for the compostable innerwear kits here.

“In 2021 I am most excited about sharing our clean, urban and better-paid approach to the manufacturing of bespoke clothing with the world.”

Find out more about Pattern Project here


Banasa Williams, CEO and Co-Founder, Ksoni

Ksoni means “Earth” in Sanskrit and the Founders’ experiences of tackling plastic waste and its impact on the earth inspired them to start the business. Having worked in health & wellness throughout her career Banasa observed growing numbers of consumers wanted products that made a positive impact on the environment but felt they were lacking in options for their diverse bodies or lifestyles. Having made her own natural shampoos and conditioners, she also wanted to overcome the stigma around eco-friendly products being of lesser quality than their mass produced counterparts. The company has been busy working on new formulations and continuing to develop its plastic-free ethos to packaging over the last few months. The next generation of products and packaging are set to launch this year and Banasa is raising funds to further scale Ksoni’s success.

“I’m excited to discover what post pandemic health & beauty habits people will continue with as we start to emerge from lockdown. We’ve seen all kinds of changes over the last year, from DIY haircuts to an increase in natural hairstyles, to the emergence of “maskne”. Businesses like ours are making all kinds of predictions right now but ultimately we don’t know for sure. So I’m excited to wade through the unknown this year, hopefully with the opportunity to have these conversations with our community in person!”

Find out more about Ksoni here


Imriel Morgan, Founder and CEO, Content is Queen

Imriel launched Content is Queen in 2018, a podcast marketing agency and storytelling club made up of women, people of colour and LGBTQIA people who wish to connect, create, and collaborate using audio and podcasting. Content is Queen produces, distributes and elevates high-quality stories and ensures they reach the audiences that need them. The company works with members and clients to upgrade the listener experience through access to their production facilities, members’ studio, producer network and one-to-one surgeries and workshops.

Content is Queen has experienced exponential growth of over 1,000%, rapidly accelerating its network over the last year. They have recently partnered with Audible to launch a “Micro-grants for podcasters” programme which received an overwhelming response. The initiative has clearly validated the huge rise in popularity that podcasting is seeing, with many people showing a burning desire to share their stories.

“Our community has grown so much during the pandemic, and it’s been such a privilege to meet and speak with some many podcasters who want to grow their podcasts. What I’m most looking forward to is supporting our Micro-grant applicants with the development of their podcasts. We had over 500 applications, and there are so many great ideas that I’m super excited about breathing life into.”

Find out more about Content is Queen here


Nassia Inglessis, Founder, Studio Ini

Studio INI was founded in 2015 between Athens and London by engineer and artist Nassia Inglessis as an experimental studio that couples scientific research with public engagement. The studio creates human-actuated installations that belong to what Nassia calls an “augmented materiality.” She coined this term to study matter in the context of cognition and to seamlessly connect our physical built environment with human perception and response. She steps away from digital simulations into material augmentations instead, which address our need for transformation and evolution.

Employing automation, computation, and digital tools the studio crafts traditional matter into kinetic installations of architectural scale that expand the materials’ and structures’ capacity to transform; Nassia erects walls and spaces that elastically flex, deconstruct, and reconstruct, as a physical megaphone to the visitors’ movements. Her entirely human-actuated creations do not prescribe form and function, allowing people to stretch the limits of her work further, sometimes in completely unexpected ways. Nassia’s work has travelled the world, from London and New York to India and the Middle East. Dance collaborations often feature in her pieces and she has collaborated with the Akram Kahn Company and choreographer Damani Pompei.

“Living in the pandemic has accelerated our understanding of how fundamental touch is to us and how unnatural  a disembodied and isolated living is. It has been an accelerated glimpse into a dystopian future that we may have been heading towards all along. With this new found urgency, we are emerging to what is to me the most exciting time to draw new realities for an embodied existence that celebrates touch from human to human and human to nature;  a time where we unbuild isolating static boundaries and rigid shelters to instead architect space for seamlessly connected ecosystems where distinctions of woman and man, human and living, natural and urban are irrelevant; ecosystems designed within the intelligent models of nature and their ability to replenish. In Studio INI we research and create to serve these new realities and 2021 offers us a blank canvas for a tactile norm”

Find out more about Studio Ini here


Rhiannon Buckley, Founder, Etikette

Rhiannon launched Etikette during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Having started her career as a fast fashion designer she was acutely aware that people and the planet were being left behind in the rush to mass manufacture trend-based clothing. She set out to create a fashion brand rooted in sustainability from the ground up. One that operates upon a foundation of kindness – to the planet, to its customers, to its future employees, and to all who encounter it.

Etikette manufactures only in small batches, promoting an ethos of considered fashion acquisition, encouraging pieces to be loved, reworn and passed on, rather than the endemic single use of garments. Etikette pays enormous attention to details meaning there is less waste and unnecessary surplus stock created. All items are manufactured in the UK, further reducing their carbon footprint. The brand collaborates with small sample studios and independent seamstresses.

The company launched with its first signature item, the Commuter Jacket, addressing the search for the elusive All-In-One coat. The design has amalgamated a number of outerwear-staples to create a simple, elegant and versatile solution: a coat that is equally at home on the tube and in the country. Importantly it is designed to transcend the seasonal, trend-thirsty business model of fast-fashion, built to stand the test of time, both in construction and style. 

“In 2021 I’d say I’m mostly excited to bring Etikette into more of a normal world as it becomes safer to do so. After launching in lockdown, I’m looking forward to having a less remote approach to business. I can’t wait to engage with customers and see our pieces as part of normal life as opposed to just online and via social media. It’s going to be amazing to bring the brand to life in the real world.”

Find out more about Etikette here


Browse all Makerversity members here

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Fiona Dent
Posted By Fiona Dent