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Women on Top in Tech – Anne Boden, CEO/Founder of Starling Bank



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is my interview with Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank. Prior to Starling, she was Chief Operating Officer of Allied Irish Banks Plc and Head of EMEA, Global Transaction Banking across 34 countries for RBS and ABN AMRO. She has more than 30 years experience in banking, having begun her career at Lloyds Bank, before moving on to Standard Chartered Bank and then UBS in Zurich. She was recently recognized as one of the Global Power Women in FinTech.


What makes you do what you do?

I love the chance to create and innovate in an industry that’s ripe for disruption. I also love the people – everyone around me has a passion for change and the skills to do it. This is absolutely one of the best things about building Starling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

The hard way – by working hard and taking chances. Whilst some may say that I have worked in Financial Services all my career, I have worked in Technology, Sales, P&L roles across Retail, Investment and Corporate Banking as well as a stint in insurance. I have also worked in many countries and led the team across international regions. What was really important to me was always staying curious, always staying in touch with the latest innovations.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics) 

I was ideally suited to starting a fintech bank – I was up-to-date in what technology offered and customers demanded having spent thirty years in banking – starting at 21 on a graduate scheme as a computer programmer and working my way up to becoming COO and CIO at some of the world’s biggest international banks. I also spent time in the fintech startup scene before starting Starling.

Starling was born of necessity. After the financial crisis, the world had changed. People had changed. But banking had not. Starling is a whole new way for people to understand and look after their money – we’re fully mobile, provide unparalleled tools and insights into everyday spend, and have the customer at the heart of everything we do. I wanted to be part of the solution for finance. And this is exactly what we’re doing at Starling.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?

Not really – there is a distinct lack of role models for women who start banks. However, many years ago I was a mentee of the FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Scheme, where senior woman are mentored by a Chairman of a FTSE 100 Company. This gave me invaluable experience that really enabled me to push my career forward at the time.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?

Tell people to get on and make their own careers and chances. The perfect career is out there for everyone – but you need to be ambitious and not wait in line for opportunities. Every year of your career is important and you need to fill it with challenge and excitement.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Conscious bias has been largely eliminated in modern say business but unconscious is still here. Men and women have unconscious bias and in most cases, it makes it harder for women to reach their potential. I have been quoted as saying that “women are either described as too soft or too hard and never quite right”. One day this will not be true but we are still in a position where women’s performance in the workplace is more harshly judged by their achievements whilst men can still rise based on their unproven potential.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?

Resilience. Leadership is about being there for people and doing all you can to enable the team to do a good job. It is all about evening out the stresses and strains for the team.

Advice for others?

We are launching a bank like no other. I can only do this because I have a diverse team in all sorts of ways. I enjoy their company, their intellect, and their support.  Leadership is a social activity and if you don’t enjoy the company of your team then either you or they are in the wrong job.

To learn more about Starling Bank, please see

I am a huge fan and cheerleader of Women Leaders — If you know of an AMAZING Woman Founder, CEO, Leader in Tech or you are one yourself — Write me here.
AMPLIFY Conscious Business Leadership with me.


Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

This article was produced by Tech Dominator. see more.

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Women on Top in Tech – Dr. Sanna Gaspard, Founder and CEO of Rubitection



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dr. Sanna Gaspard is the Founder and CEO of Rubitection, a medical device start-up developing a diagnostic tool for early stage pressure detection, assessment, and management. She is an Entrepreneur, inventor, and biomedical engineer with a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, healthcare and medical devices. She has received recognition and awards including being selected as a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards(’13), a semi-finalist for the Big C competition (’14), a finalist for the Mass Challenge Business accelerator in Boston, and taking 1st place at the 3 Rivers Investment Venture Fair’s Technology showcase (‘11). Her vision is to make the Rubitect Assessment System the global standard solution for early bedsore detection and management.

What makes you do what you do? 
I am driven to have impact and improve healthcare as I have a strong drive to problem solve, comes up with new ideas, and see them come to life.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I first focused on getting the educational background and then I pursued the goals I have for myself. I got my PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in medical device development. Having the educational background is important as a woman and minority to assist people in taking your seriously.  After completing my PhD, I focused on bringing my invention for a medical device for early bedsore detection and prevention called the Rubitect Assessment System to market to help save lives and improve care.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I started my startup, Rubitection , because I felt it was the best way to bring the technology to market. I knew that if I did not try to commercialize the technology, it would not make it to the doctors and nurses. I also have confidence that I could manage developing the technology since I had taken classes on entrepreneurship and had my PhD in biomedical engineering with a specialization in medical devices.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
No, I don’t have a specific mentor in my field. I am looking for one at the moment. However, I do look up to Steve Jobs and Oprah as examples of how one can start with nothing and work their way up and build a successful, global, and reputable business and brand.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?  
I first try to find people who have fundamental technical or work experience to be competent to complete the work. I then evaluate the person for intangible skills like independent thinking, reliability, leadership, resilience, organizational skills, strong work ethic, open mindedness/flexibility, and good communication skills.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why? 
I consciously make an effort as a minority woman in tech, I intimately understand the need to promote diversity within my business and outside my business. I first hire the best people for the job and also make a point to hire women and minorities qualified for the position.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?  
It takes resilience, vision, being a team player, an ability to inspire others and delegate work, knowing your weakness, and knowing when to put your business or yourself first.

Advice for others?
My advice to others is to take calculated risks, pursue every opportunity, surround yourself with supporters, build your team with smart dedicated people, and stay focused on your vision. I am striving to implement this advice myself as I work towards commercializing my technology for early bedsore detection, grow my team, and recruit clinical partners to address an $11 billion US healthcare problem which affects millions around the world.

If anyone is interested in learning more about our work or company, please contact us at [email protected].

To learn more about Dr. Sanna Gaspard, CEO of Rubitection visit:

If you’d like to get in touch with Dr. Sanna Gaspard, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Rubitection, please click here.

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