Meet the woman shaking up the UK start-up scene
Marta Krupinska talks to Business Leader about her career as a tech entrepreneur and plans for the future.
Marta Krupinska has co-founded three companies and lived in four countries. As one of the most influential women in tech, a proud migrant entrepreneur, and an outspoken diversity advocate, she is determined to make waves as the new Head of Google for Start-Ups UK.
From her impressive roster of tech businesses to her plans for her role in Google, Marta tells BLM what makes her tick.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I’ve been in the tech and start-up world for the last twelve years, ever since founding my first company in Krakow, Poland. The UK is the fourth country that I’ve lived in.
I arrived here in 2012 and co-founded Azimo, an online money transfer platform which allows migrants anywhere in Europe to send money home. The business grew to have well over a million customers in 26 countries by the time I stepped down.
I left just over a year ago. Since then, I also founded a new start-up in the fintech space that helps give employees access to their salaries ahead of payday, so they don’t have to borrow money at very high cost.
All of these experiences, especially in the last year, have reminded me how incredible but also how hard and complex it is to start a business from scratch.
This has reignited my passion for supporting entrepreneurs and helping them to succeed in their journey, especially those who come from underrepresented backgrounds and those who want to build companies that bring social impact as well as financial outcomes.
YOU HAVE ALSO RECENTLY STARTED A ROLE AT GOOGLE. WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?
I head up Google for Start-Ups in the UK. It is the part of Google that is looking to support, educate and accelerate the start-up ecosystem.
One of my opportunities in the role is to shake up what the focus for Google for Start-Ups is in the UK.
London is the second Silicon Valley – we have an incredibly robust and rich digital ecosystem in which there is fantastic knowledge, access to funding, and access to talent. We need to keep ensuring everybody In the ecosystem benefits from this.
IN YOUR OPiNION, WHAT ARE THE MAIN BARRIERS THAT FOUNDERS AND ENTREPRENEURS FACE IN THE UK?
The barriers entrepreneurs face are global and not unique to the UK. When you are building a company from scratch, the challenges are broadly similar, whether that’s access to funding and talent or friendly regulation.
The question of access to funding is particularly important, especially for first-time founders who don’t come from backgrounds of privilege. It’s harder for them, through no fault of their own. They can’t call up their mate from Eton and ask for a favour with their first fundraising round.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MIGRANT ENTREPRENEUR IN LONDON?
Going into a new ecosystem is always going to be harder than staying in the one with your network – your parents’ friends, your school mates. But by and large, look where I got to. It’s been wonderful, and it’s clearly possible to survive and thrive as a migrant entrepreneur. I’ve also been incredibly lucky to meet fantastic people along the way, including my co-founders from Azimo, who have helped me with the process.
Having said that, we come back to the same challenge. Access to talent, to networks, to capital. When you’re new to a place, and you don’t have those networks, it’s more difficult.
YOU’VE BEEN NAMED AS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN TECH AND FINTECH. WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE TO ASPIRING FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS?
I really want to believe that there are some universal truths that you would give to both male and female entrepreneurs. This is a very nuanced discussion, and one that I try to avoid answering in one sentence. We could have a whole separate conversation about being a female entrepreneur, about how we’re socialised, how we’re expected to behave a certain way, and the types of challenges that women have to overcome.
For now, I’ll point to the fact that role models are incredibly important. I’m very happy to see that increasingly there are role models we can all look to, and that they can give aspiring female entrepreneurs the hope that they will be able to do the same thing. Through grit and hard work, there are more and more women who have made it, and I hope with them at the helm, we’ll see more women following through.
WHAT DEVELOPMENTS ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT IN THE UK START-UP SCENE CURRENTLY?
I think the social impact theme is incredibly exciting. And I increasingly see investment funds which are interested in working with founders that are trying to solve social problems – even large, established funds which have historically been solely interested in financial returns.
There are funds that want diverse founders, or which invest only in women, or in people of colour. I’m excited that these start-ups are no longer being seen as charity cases – the money-makers, the capitalists, are coming together and saying that they want to invest in diverse, impactful talent.
WHAT IS THE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D LIKE TO GIVE START-UPS?
A first class strategy paired with second class execution will always be inferior to second class strategy paired with first class execution. Especially in a small and nimble company, it’s vital to prove that you can work hard, get your product to market, and find customers. Execution is at the core of everything. Strategy is still important, but you need to go, test, learn – and execute.